Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Thomas Stephens: Asiatic Society, Mumbai, and XCHR, Porvorim

Yesterday I was in Fort, Mumbai, and took the chance to visit the Asiatic Society of Bombay (formerly the Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay Chapter) and the Public Library adjacent to it.

In both libraries I found A.K. Priolkar's, The Printing Press in India, with its English translation of J.H. da Cunha Rivara's History of the Konkani language. Unfortunately, and very disappointingly, Theophilus Lobo, who translated this essay from the original Portuguese, thought it fit not to reproduce the essay in its entirety. So while the Censures and Licences are mentioned, the complete texts of these - and J.L. Saldanha says he got these texts from da Cunha Rivara's essays - are not given. Which is a real pity. Now we will have to find the Portuguese original. Which I suppose should be either at the Heras Institute, St Xavier's College, Mumbai, or else at the Xavier Centre of Historical Research, Porvorim, or at the Central Library, Panjim.

The Public Library is very easy of access. I signed my name and address in the register at the entrance, and then went to look at the card catalogue. I found Priolkar's book, together with some others, which I should have taken down, but did not. I requested for the book, and had to wait a bit. It came after a while, and then I had to submit an Identity document, sign a request for photocopies, after which they simply handed over the book to me and said I could go out and get the copies done myself. Amazing.

The Asiatic Society was another thing. They were also very kind, but their rules are much stricter. One has to be either a member, or else take a day membership at the cost of Rs 75, if one is to look at a book / journal and make copies. So I accessed their card catalog, found the same Priolkar book, met the office, was directed to the Librarian, a very gracious lady called Dewanji Madam. Dewanji Madam was very helpful; through the clerks the book was found, and I had a look at it. (This was while I was waiting for the same book at the Public Library.) They have a limit of 25 pp copies per journal / book. I filled in a form, paid my Rs 75/-, and then the book was handed over to a peon who waited till he collected other photocopy requests, before going out to get the copies done. (I believe the inhouse machine is out of order.) All this took a while. But it was a learning experience. I found that one of the gentlemen in the office was a Catholic, called Donald. He told me life membership used to be Rs 3000; now it is Rs 15,000. He also told me that Mr Bernard Andrade, one of the clerks at the Shrine Office, was a life member. More interestingly, I asked Mrs Dewan about possible MS of the Khristapurana. I told her that Mr Jerome A. Saldanha had displayed one such MS way back in 1903 or so, and did they keep records of lectures at the Society? She said it was unlikely, but that there was a catalogue of MS, and I would have to apply to the Secretary for special permission to access that.

At any rate, I got 25 pp of the da Cunha Rivara text copied through the Asiatic Society, and the rest through the Public Library.

Da Cunha Rivara clearly states that he was unfortunate not to be able to see any of the printed editions of the KP; he said he saw only MS, but does not give any further information about these. From the mention of an MS indicating interpolations by Fr Pascoal Gomes da Faria, dated 1722, there arises the possibility that one of the MS he saw was related to the one at the Central Library, Panjim, which is clearly dated 1722, and is a copy of the 3rd edition of the KP (1654).

In the meantime, the Director of the Xavier Centre for Historical Research, Porvorim, replied to my e-mail query, saying that they do not possess any MS of the KP. He says that "some books of [Mariano] Saldanha's collection were donated to the XCHR".


  1. A historian, sushila Sawant-Mendes (doing her PhD currently and working at a college in Goa) posted these comments in respose to a forward of your post, which I sent to Goa-Research-Net [http://groups.yahoo.com/group/goa-research-net]:

    Fredrick I found Cunha Rivara's,'History of the Konkani Language' in the Public Library at Evora,Portugal.A.K Priolkar's.'The Printing Press in India' is in the library of the Goa Historical Archives.
    Sushila Mendes


  2. Thanks for that, Frederick. The director of the Xavier Centre told me that they do have a copy of Cunha Rivara's Ensaio, and I am in the process of obtaining a copy of that.