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Mazelan Anuar

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Long before the advent of modern communications and transportation systems, merchants in 19th-century Singapore relied on the humble newspaper to track shipping arrivals and departures. As the movement of cargo, people and mail was key to the island’s rise as a maritime port, the Singapore Chronicle‘s chief task was to disseminate commercial information and news.

The journal Cermin Mata Bagi Segala Orang Yang Menuntut Pengetahuan is among the earliest Malay serial publications existing today. Translated literally as An “Eye Glass for All Who Seek Knowledge”, it was one of the most ambitious and voluminous of all 19th-century missionary journals printed in Malaya. Seven issues of Cermin Mata in Jawi – the modified Arab script used to write the Malay language – were produced as quarterly publications beginning from April 1858. Each issue contains 100 pages and comes with elaborate, coloured frontispieces and chapter headings. The man behind Cermin Mata was Reverend Benjamin Keasberry, a Protestant missionary who moved to Singapore in 1837 when he saw the potential for doing missionary work among the Malays while assisting at the Mission Press. Established by Christian missionaries in 1823, Mission Press is the first printing press established in Singapore. The press was specifically set up to print Christian literature that had been translated into various languages for distribution throughout the region. When the London Missionary Society ceased operations in Singapore in 1846, Keasberry decided…

Written in the 14th century and set during the last days of China’s Han dynasty and the tumultuous Three Kingdoms period (circa AD 220–280), the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a well-known Chinese classic of epic proportions and a cast of thousands. In the late 1800s, a Baba Malay version of this classic was published in Singapore – making this popular tale more accessible to the Peranakan (Straits-born Chinese) community. Titled as Chrita Dahulu-kala, Namanya Sam Kok, Atau, Tiga Negri Ber-prang: Siok, Gwi, Sama Gor di Jaman “Han Teow” (henceforth referred to as Sam Kok), the series consists of 30 volumes translated from Chinese to Baba Malay. The translation was done by Chan Kim Boon, an administrator at law firm Aitken & Rodyk, with the help of two other people, Chia Ann Siang and Tan Kheam Hock. Published between 1892 and 1896 by Kim Sek Chye Press, the entire series totalled some 4,622 pages, and a single volume was sold at a $1 each. Sam Kok is most likely the earliest complete Malay translation of Romance…