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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…

The early Indian Muslims who settled in Singapore in the 1800s brought with them a varied heritage: their skills as shopkeepers and office workers, their unique customs and beliefs, and a tradition of devout poetry. Indeed, their religious faith was a key source of solace for these transplanted Muslims from the southern part of India, who often expressed their piety in the form of verse. One particularly notable poet among them was Muhammad Abdul Kadir Pulavar, whose Islamic religious poetry collection, Munajathu Thirattu, is the oldest Tamil book held by the National Library. Published by J. Paton, Government Printer, in 1872, the book comprises a total of 55 poems and songs in praise of Muslim saints and the Prophet Muhammad. The verses are written in simple Tamil, richly overlaid with Persian and Arabic words, and are appended with tunes and rhythms. They are divided into six genres: introductory poems in praise of the author (four poems); Munajathu Pathikam (four songs); Thanippaakkal (12 poems); Thanippathangal (30 songs); Sindhu, a lyrical form of Tamil (two poems); and Chitirak…