Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Early Printing Presses

Printing presses started functioning in Kerala in the 17th century. They were set up in places like Kochi, Kollam, Vaippikkotta, and Ambazhakkad, a place near Chalakudy. The matter printed in all these presses were Christian religious literature.

In 1602, Jesuits established a Syrian press at Vaippikkotta located near Chendamangalam in Ernakulam district. It is said that Christian religious material was printed there, but they were not in Malayalam. However, samples of none of those books have survived. It is the same story with the printing presses of Kochi, Kollam, and Ambazhakkad.

C. M. S. Press in Kottayam, established by the English missionary Rev. Benjamin Bailey, is the first press in Kerala where Malayalam books were printed. Bailey played a crucial role in developing the Malayalam script also.

In 1820, the London Missionary Society (LMS), an evangelical missionary group, established a printing press in Nagercoil, a town in the present-day state of Tamil Nadu in India. (Nagercoil was a part of the State of Travancore in those days.) They set up printing press in Neyyoor (Tamil Nadu) in 1829, and another one in Kollam (Kerala) in 1840. Tamil books were printed in all these centres.

A Government printing press started functioning in Thiruvananthapuram in 1836, during the reign of Maharaja Swathi Thirunal. Later, in 1865, the city got a lithographic press also. In 1842, the Basel Mission established a press in Mangalore, a city in the present-day state of Karnataka. Some of the Malayalam works of Dr. Hermann Gundert were printed there. In 1844, Mannanathu Chavara Kuriakose Elias Achan (1805-1871) of Kottayam, also known as Chavarayachan, established the St. Joseph’s Press.

A printing press was set up on October 23, 1945, at Illikkunnu Bungalow, which was the residence of Hermann Gundert, located near the town of Thalassery. This lithographic press was the first printing press in North Kerala. The first Malayalam newspaper Rajyasamacharam, which was published mainly for Christian religious propagation, was printed there. It was first published in 1847 June. Printing of another newspaper, Paschimodayam, also started there in October 1847.

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