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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.

In the early 1950s, two young Malayan undergraduates, Wang Gungwu and Beda Lim, bonded over their shared love for English poetry. They spent hours poring over the classic literary works of Shakespeare, W. H. Auden and T. S. Eliot, and in the process were inspired to create their own unique brand of literature. Just 19 years old at the time, Wang was inspired to create literary works that were distinctly Malayan in character. Pulse, the first known collection of English poems by a Malayan, was the culmination of his early literary efforts. Lim helped Wang publish his maiden poetry collection, and the year of its publication, 1950, has been hailed by prominent Singaporean writers like Edwin Thumboo as the defining moment Singaporean/Malayan poetry took root. Reflecting its origins as an amateur varsity production, Pulse – a modest 16-page booklet – is stapled together with a cover that is adorned with a hand-drawn illustration of the first poem, “To Tigerland”. The cover design depicts a floral wreath lying on the ground beside sheaves of lallang and…

A publication dating back to the mid-1800s provides a glimpse into pre-war Singapore – the people who lived there during this period and their livelihoods. Apart from the newspapers, The Straits Times Almanack, Calendar and Directory was one of the most useful sources of information about people at the time as it contained the names of the principal residents in Singapore and their professions. Published annually from 1846, the almanack is also a record of the development of trade and commerce in Singapore. Included in the almanack are the full names, official titles and designations of people working in the government departments, various professions as well as in companies and organisations that had made significant contributions to Singapore. These include the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company for shipping and Singapore Institution (now Raffles Institution) for education. The almanack begins with a calendar of daily events and the lunar calendar for different ethnic groups – Jews, Muslims, Turks and Chinese – and their major holidays. It…