Malay and Chinese Readers in Nineteenth-Century Singapore

In 1878, the President of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Archdeacon Hose, noted ‘a not too keen appetite for reading’ among the Malay population in Singapore, concluding that with the advent of printed books ‘manuscripts (never very numerous) are likely to be less prized, and more rarely copied; and many will be lost forever, unless an effort is made to discover them’ (Hose 1878: 9). Hose’s comment, delivered in his inaugural address to the Society, shows no awareness of the existence of Malay owned and run manuscript collections or lending libraries. Nor does Hose seem aware that there was a substantial vernacular press and print culture in Singapore at the time, with some calling it a ‘cultural centre of the Malayo-Muslim world in Southeast Asia’ (Turnbull 2009: 11). Ian Proudfoot has noted that from the 1840s, 85% of books in Malay were printed in Singapore, primarily in order to escape Dutch censorship. In the 1890s this amounted to an average of 50,000 books each year (Proudfoot 1993: 7, 50). Perusing the pages of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society’s journal suggests that, despite their own frequent use of literate Malay copyists and local tutors, Europeans in the Malay world persistently downplayed local literacy and interest in manuscripts, books, and reading. Indeed, in his second address to the Society in 1879, Hose argues that despite some advances in knowledge, Malay people in Singapore ‘have very few books’ and that the acquisition of books ‘must be done for them, probably for another generation at least’ until they are taught to ‘value their own literature’ (Hose 1879: xxi).

That Hose’s comments exclude a centuries’ old tradition of manuscript circulation and ‘oral-literate’ or ‘literate-aware’ readers in the Malay world almost goes without saying (Sweeney 1998). Yet any study of reading in a colonial context must consider the ways in which vernacular cultures of resilience or resistance interacted and competed with colonial systems and structures knowledge-formation. In his discussion of Pascale Casanova’s concept of a ‘world republic of letters’, David Carter argues for the importance of acknowledging the distinction between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ understandings of the dynamics of the literary field: one is built around ideas of community and sociability, of shared interests and values; the other around hierarchies of power, competition, and symbolic violence (Carter 2012: 85). Carter’s point has particular resonance in the context of colonial literary production and consumption, as we seek to understand the uneven distribution of literary and other forms of capital across linguistic, racial, spatial, and temporal lines. At the same time, as Wei Chai Dimock and Laurence Buell have pointed out, reading and writing can also destabilise colonial hierarchies and legacies in complex, unpredictable, and productive ways. These kinds of ‘reversible hierarchies’ or ‘heterarchies’, as they call them (Dimock and Buell 2007: 4), are evident in colonial Singapore in the persistence of Malay and Chinese lending libraries and bookshops, vernacular presses, and scriptural cultures, as well as in the Anglophone writings of the late nineteenth-century Straits Chinese community in the Blackwood’s inspired Straits Chinese Magazine (est. 1897).

While it is possible to conceive of Singapore as something of a locus or nodal point in nineteenth-century Southeast Asia, partly because it was a publishing hub for Malay texts and partly because of its entrepôt status, an examination of Malay and Chinese reading practices in Singapore inevitably involves looking at the wider Malay world. As Mark Ravinder Frost has pointed out, diasporic affiliations, religious beliefs (from Islam to Buddhism), and other local power structures ‘created a degree of interconnection’ in the Malay Archipelago and beyond that has long challenged binary oppositions of centre and periphery, and has instead led to sustained examinations of regional and inter-regional networks (Frost 2005: 29-30). These networks include Nanyang (or Southern Ocean) Chinese cultures; Peranakan, Baba or Straits Chinese (local-born Chinese in the Malay world); totok (or sojourning) Chinese diasporas (who usually returned to mainland China); and Jawi Pecan or Jawi Peranakan (Malays of mixed Indian-Arab and Malay ancestry). These groups were transcultural diasporas in a number of ways: first, they had links to overseas Chinese and Malay mainland communities; second, they were intermediaries for the European settler populations; and third, they themselves intermingled in hybrid ‘creolised’ communities. Moreover, as Ronit Ricci reminds us, the literary history of the Malay world is a multi-lingual one. If in Singapore the main audience for books and manuscripts were English, Chinese, and Malay readers, other languages remained important for historical and religious reasons; for example, Arabic, Javanese, Sinhala, and Tamil. Thinking about reading in the Malay world therefore involves thinking beyond conventional spatial, temporal, linguistic, and historical categorisations in ways that might prove paradigmatic for imperial and colonial studies more generally (Ricci 2016: 1447, 1449).

Malay and Chinese Literacy in Colonial Singapore

Few studies of the history of reading in Singapore exist. Those that do are dominated by examinations of the Singapore Library (est. 1844) and its successor, the Raffles Library and Museum (est. 1874) (see Luyt 2008 and 2009). The exclusion of Malay and Chinese readers from these libraries appears, from the available records, to have been almost total in the mid to late nineteenth century. Of the original proprietors of the Singapore Library, only two were non-European: Frommurze Sorabjee, a Parsee Indian merchant and prominent Freemason, who arrive in Singapore from India in 1840, and a Mr Arabjee, an Armenian merchant in Batavia. While Malay and Chinese school children at the Singapore Institution Free School technically had access to the Singapore Library, the kinds of books authorized for their use was limited to primers and grammars. For those Malay and Chinese readers who were literate in their native languages, the nearly exclusive provision of English-language (and some other European-language) books in both the Singapore and Raffles Libraries suggests that the number of non-European users was kept to a minimum. Subscription costs also kept out most of the Malay and Chinese populations. The Raffles Library annual reports suggest that from 1875 there was a very small number of Asian subscribers, comprised mainly of well-known Eurasian and Chinese personalities. Despite the fact that the Chinese population made up the largest ethnic group in late nineteenth-century Singapore (61% in 1901), by 1904 there was only a relatively small number of Chinese and Malay subscribers to the Raffles Library: 72% of subscribers were British and 81% were European (British, Dutch, German etc.). The other 19% consisted mainly of Asians (predominantly Chinese but also Eurasians, Malays, Tamils, and Hindus).

Some scholars have suggested that the exclusion of Malay and Chinese readers from the Singapore and Raffles Libraries is unsurprising, arguing that the Malays of the Straits Settlement were largely illiterate in the nineteenth century, and that English was not high on the list of priorities for impoverished Chinese and Malay immigrants to Singapore (Koh Tai Ann 1993: 120). Others have suggested that low literacy among Chinese and Malay populations was compounded by cultures used to oral and visual entertainment, such as ballads, songs, tales, prayer books etc. As Holger Warnk has pointed out, the aural-oral-visual culture of the Malay world meant that even manuscripts were often menemotechnical instruments that were read aloud to a group in the form of reading majlis (Warnk 2009: 7). In addition, Tan Chin Kwang has suggested that there was virtually no Malay or Chinese middle class in the nineteenth-century Straits Settlements (Tan Chin Kwang 1986: 100). While Chinese communities were more open to an English-language education, there was only a very small professional class of Chinese in Singapore: most Chinese immigrants to the Straits were either contract labourers (in mining sites or plantations) or voluntary immigrants (in the domestic, commercial, industrial and agricultural fields).

There is no doubt that literacy rates in the Straits in the nineteenth century were low. Even by 1921, literacy rates in Singapore were only 36.6% for all languages and 8.3% for English (Nathan 1922: 322, 332). Compounding the lack of English-language literacy was the fact that Malay and Chinese children were often taught in vernacular schools in the nineteenth century. As Frost points out, Chinese temples in Singapore functioned as focal spaces for socializing, entertainment, employment, and dialect-based education (Frost 2003: 43). Malay children were also often taught in vernacular schools. In his famous autobiography Hikayat Abdullah (1853), the Malay writer, copyist, and printer Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir describes a school in Kampong Pali, Malacca, where about 200 boys and girls were taught by his paternal grandmother. Some learned to read the Koran, ‘some were writing, some were learning the Malay language and how to write it, just as they wished’, although Abdullah notes that his fellow Malays had more of an interest in learning Arabic than their own language or English (Abdullah 1970: 102). Malay children were also taught in their own homes, in sarau, or in the residences of Muslim religious scholars. While studying the Quar’an they were sometimes taught to write and read Jawi (Arabic letters), although a Muslim bias against reading hikayat, syair, and other traditional Malay forms of verse and fiction existed from at least the seventeenth century onward. Jan van der Putten has noted, for example, the continued strong resistance to the ‘secularisation of public discourse’ in the form of a Muslim religious print industry in Singapore at the end of the nineteenth century (Putten 2006).

The fears of both the Chinese and Malay communities towards religious conversion has been cited as another reason for low levels of English-language literacy in the Malay world. The Singapore Free School (est. 1835) initially taught classes in English, Malay, Tamil, and Hokkien, but the reports of the school repeatedly note the lack of attendance by Malay students. Missionary schools, set up in Singapore in Telok Belanga and Kampung Gelam in 1856, faced similar problems. Rev. Benjamin Keasberry taught Malay students at his missionary school in English and Malay, as well as instructing them in the art of printing and book-binding. As these different approaches suggest, British and other European educators in Singapore were themselves torn between the promotion of a vernacular education and an English-language philosophy, although (spurred on by the threat of the Dutch and Islamic cultures of neighbouring Malay states) this debate was eventually resolved in favour of English-language education. The establishment of ‘branch’ and then ‘government’ schools with increasing levels of centralization began from 1867 onwards. While it was for many years assumed that Chinese and Malay women were less literate even than their male counterparts, Mulaika Hijjas has persuasively argued that women’s literacy in the nineteenth-century Malay world was not confined to aristocratic circles or to memorized recitation, demonstrating that women engaged with written literature as writers, readers, teachers, and copyists (Hijjas 2010). The Singapore Institution Free School set up a girl’s school in 1844 (although it is unclear if any of the girls were Malay or Chinese).

More recently, some scholars have argued for existence of a small (but significant) nascent middle class in the Malayo-Muslim world of the nineteenth-century Straits Settlements, largely made up of Malays on Indian descent (DKK) and Malays of Arabic descent (DKA), who were literate, engaged in trade, and were often employed by colonial authorities as clerks, translators, teachers, minor colonial officials, and munsyi (Malay language tutors for Europeans officials and merchants). They were also the teachers in Malay schools, set up Malay presses, and ran the early Malay newspapers and magazines. Munsyi Abdullah noted that out of 6 petition writers in Malacca, four were Malaccan-born Tamils, and only two were Malays. Of these two, one was of Indian descent. Abdullah himself was DKK and DKA. These two ethnic groups of Malays were especially important for the development of literacy and literate cultures in Singapore, as was a small elite group of English, Chinese, and Malay-speaking Straits Chinese. As Van der Putten has pointed out, commercial trading centres such as Singapore encouraged literacy via contracts, administrative work, title deeds, and other forms of communication (Putten 2006). Similarly, Frost has noted that the earliest Chinese literati in the Straits were usually merchants, businessmen, and shopkeepers who pursued publishing as a side-line to their main commercial ventures (Frost 2003: 49). In 1852, the Straits administration began naturalizing Chinese who qualified as permanent residents based on money, property, and proficiency in English, effectively boosting English-language education among the Chinese population in Singapore.

Printed Books for Malay Readers

Ian Proudfoot and Claudine Salmon have worked hard to dispel the idea that print came to displace manuscript as the dominant media for textual productions in the nineteenth-century Malay and Chinese worlds, rightly focusing on the dualism of Malay and Chinese cultures, the combination of typography and lithography in printed texts, and the persistence of reading aloud and manuscript circulation. As Proudfoot points out in relation to Malay readers, the ‘skill of the private, silent encoding and decoding of written text’ was very different to the education provided in a Quar’an school and led to the development of new styles of printed prose. At the same time, however, newspapers and books continued to be enjoyed by group audiences in practice because of persistent manuscript reading habits and ‘low functional literacy and disposable incomes’ (Proudfoot :17, 18).

Francesca Orsini has pointed to the importance of lithography as a means of developing indigenous writers and readers. While lithography is marginal to the history of printing in Europe, it was crucial to the spread of printing and publishing in the Malay Archipelago, North India, and Egypt for a number of reasons: first, it was a cheap technology in comparison to printing with movable type or letterpress; second, it used flexible technologies that enabled multiscript printing; and third, it made printed books look familiar to manuscript readers, and maintained the distinctiveness and beauty of the copyists’ handwriting (Orisini 2016: 6-7). By the late nineteenth century the scale of printing of Malay texts meant that letterpress was more economical but early Malay printed books tended to be in lithographic form.

Proudfoot has noted three publishing streams of Malay books: 1. European presses (mission, government, commercial); 2. Baba Chinese publishers; and 3. Muslim Malay publishers. In relation to European presses, it has been argued that the publication of these texts was more for the purpose of assisting Christian missionaries to learn the Malay language than it was to foster reading among local communities (Siti Hawa Haji Salleh 2002: 152). Certainly, British presses were not very effective at reaching local audiences, and their texts were difficult for Malay readers to read of understand because of clumsy Jawi typefaces or alienating Rumi (Roman script). This was noted by bewildered Munysi Abdullah in Hikayat Abdullah:

The letters and the form of the words were proper Malay but the style of writing was not. Furthermore, words were used in impossible places, or put together in impossible combinations. Therefore I found I could not understand the real meaning of the book. It all sounded very clumsy to my ear, and I was inclined to say “This is a book of the white man, and I do not know the white man’s language.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                      (Abdullah 1970: 106)

Abdullah’s own collaborations with Keasberry include both translations and original works. His first effort was Hikayat Galilah dan Daminah, a translation of a Hindu animal fable, published in the form of a manual lithograph by Mission Press in 1835. He followed it up with his own original publications in the 1840s and 50s: Hikayat Abadullah and Kisan Pelayaren Abdullah. The American missionary and publisher Alfred North noted that Abdullah’s work was aimed ‘to improve the minds of the people [Malays]’ but at the same time, to provide European readers with ‘whatever Europeans would like to be informed of, which would naturally be concealed from their observation’. Abdullah had also tried ‘to introduce many of the everyday phrases or idioms of the people; so that the book is also a storehouse for the student of the language’ (quoted in Putten 2006: 417).

In Abdullah and Keasberry’s hands lithography was more successful and responsive to local inclinations. As Proudfoot notes, these books were ‘the first printed books which could be comfortably read by literate Malays’ (Proudfoot 1993: 14). Yet as Van der Putten points out, proselytization publications for Malay and Chinese readers began before Abdullah’s involvement: for example, the English-language quarterly the Indo-Chinese Gleaner published by the Anglo-Chinese Press in Malacca in 1817 (Putten 2006: 410). This journal contained items of literature and history, descriptions of local customs, and reports from neighbouring missions (Putten 2006: 410-411). Similar topics were covered by the bi-lingual English-Malay magazine Bustan Arifin printed by Claudius Thomsen in 1821-22. These publications were intended both for Malays and for Europeans. In Singapore, lithographed educational magazines for Malay readers were published by Keasberry from the late 40s until the late 50s: Taman Pŭngatauan (Garden of Knowledge, 1848-1852), Pŭngutib Segala Remah Pŭngatauan (Collector of Grains of Knowledge, 1852-1854?), and Cermin Mata (the eyeglass, 1858- 1859).  The first Malay newspaper, Jawi Peranakan, was printed from 1876-1895.

Proudfoot has argued that Christian mission printing ‘does not necessarily tell us very much about the demand for literary material or its consumption’ because such presses were relatively immune ‘from the need to meet the expectations of a commercial audience’. He rightly notes that ‘mission and government presses were capitalized and subsidized in order that they might innovate. Their purpose was to lead their audience, or to even create an audience’ of literate imperial subjects (both in Malay and English) (Proudfoot 1993: 8, 11). This project was taken up more forcefully by Richard Wilkinson and William Shellabear in the early twentieth century, both of whom sought to support vernacular education by editing and translating works into Malay and English while also assisting local populations in developing various forms of imperial literacy.

Malay and Chinese Lending Libraries

Malay people literate in their native language almost certainly had their own circulating libraries or taman bacaan from the mid-century onwards. Scholars of Malay book history have noted that lending libraries tended to develop in the late eighteenth century in Palembang, Batavia, and other towns with fairly large communities of Muslim Peranakan (Chambert-Loir 1991; Kratz 1977). In some communities, manuscripts were owned by courts or important families but lent out free of charge to readers. The increasing commercialization and monetization of manuscript culture in the nineteenth century meant that lending libraries renting out manuscripts and lithographed books for a fee became more prevalent.

It is difficult to know the size of most of these lending libraries because few manuscript keepers prepared a list or catalogue of books but the biggest known library of this type (77 manuscripts) was managed by the Fadii family in Batavia in the second half of the nineteenth century (Chambert-Loir 1984). Explanations provided by copyists in mid nineteenth-century manuscripts note that manuscripts were not lent for long periods of time (usually 4-5 days) and that the fee was usually ten cents per day. Fines and prohibitions were common place, prohibiting the late return of manuscripts, and urging that they were not to be read in the proximity of children, while lying down, near an oil lamp, or while chewing betel. Even when the manuscripts were published rather than handwritten, the publisher usually included a note similar to the ones above, reminding readers that the difficulties faced by publishers were similar to those of a copyist (Chamber-Loir 1984: 55). Manuscripts stocked included the most popular Malay language genres, such as kitab or reference books, hikayats or prose romances, and in particular syair or versified romances—that ‘easy reading for which the public clamoured’ (Proudfoot 1993: 29).

Although, to my knowledge, there are currently no published studies on Malay lending libraries in Singapore, it is difficult to imagine that such libraries did not exist in the thriving print world of nineteenth-century Singapore, where there were relatively high numbers of Peranakan Malay booksellers and copyists. There is similarly little information about the history of Chinese lending libraries in Singapore (Salmon 1987: 250). That there were lending libraries is made clear by the Chinese author Tan Teck Soon in the Straits Chinese Magazine. Referring to Singapore, he notes in an article on Chinese literature in 1897 that ‘[t]he circulating library is an established institution among [the Chinese] and for a small fee any who has acquired the taste may revel in the delights of Chinese Belles Lettres’ (Tan Teck Soon 1987: 63-4). By the early twentieth century, numerous itinerant libraries run by Chinese book stores were all over the city on street corners and elsewhere. Moreover, Teuku Iskandar notes that a number of manuscripts from Malay lending libraries use the address ‘Baba dan Nyonya’, which suggests that the Chinese were among the readers and borrowers of Malay manuscripts (Iskander 1981).

Tan Teck Soon argues in his Straits Chinese Magazine article that while the Chinese inhabitants of the Straits could not readily be associated with ‘literature or literary achievements of any kind so intensely absorbed do they all appear with their sordid surroundings’ it would nonetheless ‘be unnatural to suppose they have no appreciation whatever of the creations of the imagination’. He notes the existence of popular drama, professional story-tellers, and circulating libraries, maintaining that ‘the best products of the Chinese mind’ should replace this popular literature and entertainment (Soon 1897: 63-4). By the end of the century, Tan Teck Soon and others had set up literary and philosophical societies in Singapore including the Celestial Reasoning Association (est. 1882); the Chinese Christian Association (est. 1889); the library of the CCA (est. 1893); and the Straits Philosophical Society (est. 1893). Periodicals written in Chinese, English, and Romanized Malay—such as the multilingual and culturally hybrid Straits Chinese Magazine—similarly helped to negotiate a place for Asians reading and ‘writing in English in the colonial public sphere of the Straits Settlements’ as the twentieth century progressed, and were heavily focused on the accumulation of cultural capital for elite Chinese and Malay populations (Holden 2009: 58).

Works Cited

 Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir. The Hikayat Abdullah: An Annotated Translation. Trans. A. H. Hill. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Carter, David. ‘Modernising Anglocentrism: Desiderata and Literary Time’, Republic of Letters: Literary Communities in Australia. Ed. Peter Kirkpatrick and Robert Dixon. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2012. Pp. 85-98.

Chambert-Loir, Henri. ‘Malay Literature in the Nineteenth Century: The Fadii Connection’. In Variation, Transformation and Meaning. Studies on Indonesian Literatures in Honour of A. Teeuw. Ed. J. J. Ras and S. O. Robson.  Leiden: KITLV Press, 1991. Pp. 87-114.

–‘Muhammad Bakir: A Batavian Scribe and Author in the Nineteenth Century’. Review of Indonesian and Malayan Affairs 18 (1984): 44-71.

Dimock, Wai Chee, and Buell, Lawrence. ‘Introduction: Planet and America, Set and Subset’. In Shades of the Planet: American Literature as World Literature. Ed. Wai Chee Dimock and Lawrence Buell. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Pp. 1-16.

Frost, Mark Ravinder. ‘Emporium in imperio: Nanyang Networks and the Straits Chinese in Singapore, 1819-1914.  Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 36 (2005): 29-36.

–‘Transcultural Diaspora: The Straits Chinese in Singapore 1819-1918’. ARI Working Paper No.10. August 2003:

Hijjas, Mulaika. ‘Not Just Fryers of Bannans and Sweet Potatoes: Literate and Literary Women in the Nineteenth-Century Malay World’. Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 41.1 (2010): 153-172.

Holden, Phillip. ‘Communities and Conceptual Limits: Exploring Malaysian Literature in English’. Asiatic 3.2 (2009): 54-68.

Hose, Archdeacon. ‘Address of the President of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society’. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (JSBRAS) 1 (1878): 9.

–‘Address of the President of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society’. JSBRAS 4 (1879): xxi.

Iskander, Teuku. ‘Some Manuscripts Formerly Belonging to Jakarta Lending Libraries’. In Papers on Indonesian Language and Literatures. Ed. Nigel Phillips and Khaidir Anwar, Cahier d’Archipel no. 13. London: Indonesian Etymological Project, 1981. Pp. 145-152.

Koh Tai Ann. ‘Literature in English by Chinese in Malaya/ Malaysia and Singapore: Its Origins and Development’. In Chinese Adaptation and Diversity: Essays on Society and Literature in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Ed. Leo Suryadinata. Singapore: Singapore University Press: 1993. Pp. 120-168l.

Kratz, E. U. ‘Running a Lending Library in Palembang in 1886 A. D.’. Indonesia Circle 14 (1977): 3-12.

Luyt, Brendan. ‘Centres of Calculation and Unruly Colonists: The Colonial Library in Singapore and its Users, 1874-1900’. Journal of Documentation 64.3 (2008): 386-396.

–‘The Importance of Fiction to the Raffles Library, Singapore, During the Long Nineteenth-Century’. Library & Information History 25.2 (2009): 117-31.

Nathan, J. E. The Census in British Malaya 1921. London: Waterlow & Sons, 1922.

Orsini, Francesca. ‘Introduction’. In The History of the Book in South Asia. Ed. Francesa Orsini. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016. Pp.

Proudfoot, Ian. Early Malay Printed Books: A Provisional Account of Materials Published in the Singapore-Malaysia Area up to 1920. Kuala Lumpur: Academy of Malay Studies, University of Malay, 1993.

Putten, Jan van der. A’bdullah Munsyi and the Missionaries’. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land-en Volkenkunde (BKI) 162-4 (2006): 407-440.

Ricci, Ronit. ‘Thoughts on Writing Literary History: the Case of the Sri Lankan Malays’. PMLA 131.5 (2016): 1444-1451

Salmon, Claudine, ‘Malay Translations of Chinese Fiction in Indonesia’. In Literary Migrations: Traditional Chinese Fiction in Asia (17th-20th Centuries). Ed. Claudine Salmon, Beijing: International Culture Publishing Corporation, 1987. Pp. 248-276.

Siti Hawa Haji Salleh,. Kesusasteraan Melayu abad kesembilan-belas. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 2002.

Sweeney, Amin. A Full Hearing. Orality and Literacy in the Malay World. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988.

Tan Chin Kwang. ‘The “Missing Link” in Modern Malay Literary History: A Study of the Influence of Social and Educational Backgrounds on Literary Development’. Archipel 31 (1986): 97-115.

Tan Teck Soon. ‘Some Genuine Chinese Authors’. The Straits Chinese Magazine 1.2 (1897): 63-4.

Turnbull, C. M.  A History of Modern Singapore, 1819-2005. Singapore: NUS Press, 2009.

Warnk, Holger. ‘Searching for Seeds to Rest in Libraries: European Collecting Habits towards Malay books and Manuscripts in the Nineteenth Century’. Frankfurt Working Papers on East Asia 1/2009.




Porscha Fermanis is Professor of Romantic Literature at University College Dublin. Her research interests include global Romanticisms and colonial book history; Romantic historicism and the philosophy of history; the relationship between Enlightenment and Romanticism; and the work of John Keats. Her current research for the SouthHem project focuses on literary appreciation and the history of reading in the Straits Settlements.


Image: Wealthy Malays: Ten People Posed, Singapore c1890. Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection No. 183. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LOT 11356-6, LC-USZ62-97967.

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