Tapati Bharadwaj

Tapati Bharadwaj


Early imperial print in Calcutta (1780-1820).

Till as recently as two hundred years ago, India was a manuscript culture; meaning that the printed text did not exist. When the transition took place from a manuscript culture to a print one, it seems to have taken place easelessly, implying that the shift was made without much murmurs and complaints from at least the native, elite sections of society.

We can only imagine how the print informed landscape in Calcutta would have changed in the last two decades of the eighteenth century; presses, paper, books, magazines and other print paraphernalia would have arrived as cargo in the ships from England, they would be carted across and stored somewhere and then subsequently bought by printers and booksellers.

A multi-lingual, hetero-glossic realm of print emerged - where printed texts in Indian languages created a print-induced public realm, and co-existed alongside English texts.