MPH



The MPH story spans more than 100 years of printing, publishing and retail bookselling. Known variously as Malaysia Publishing House, Malaya Publishing House and, prior to that, Methodist Publishing House, the history of MPH can be traced back to 1890. It began as Amelia Bishop Press in 1890, and was renamed American Mission Press three years later.1

History
Reverend William G. Shellabear, a missionary and former army officer, started Amelia Bishop Press (named after a financial donor from Boston, United States) in December 1890 to publish materials for the Methodist mission.2 The press published tracts, dictionaries and translations. Located in a shophouse at the junction of Selegie Road and Sophia Road, the press expanded rapidly; besides staff increase, it began publishing in 12 languages.3 The lack of space in the shophouse and its distance from the business city centre, however, resulted in the move to a rented large upper room in the back alley of 28 Raffles Place in 1893. At the same time, the press was renamed American Mission Press, as it was felt that the previous name did not link clearly enough with the mission.4

In 1906, the press was renamed again – this time to Methodist Publishing House. Then, in April 1908, the organisation moved to a new three-storey red-brick and plaster building at the junction of Armenian Street and Stamford Road. The new premises included a bookshop with its own printing department. Its close proximity to many schools led to an increase in book sales. The press was so commercially successful that its original role of printing solely for the missions became overshadowed.5 It was subsequently sold to Malaya Publishing House Limited, which officially took over Methodist Publishing House on 1 February 1928.6

There was great activity in wholesale and retail bookselling, and therefore plenty of work for the printing department, which had expanded into printing general-knowledge and educational books. Between 1928 and 1947, with managing director Frank Cooper Sands at the helm, MPH continued as a prosperous and profitable concern.7

With the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963 following the exit of Singapore from the federation, Malaya Publishing House changed its name to Malaysia Publishing House.8 Although the organisation went through various name changes, to the staff and the general public, it had long been better known simply as MPH. In 1968, the registered name of the company was officially changed to MPH Limited.9

The organisation went through financial difficulties in the early 1970s, but was rescued by Jack Chia Holdings. In 1972, the name of the parent company became Jack Chia-MPH, and Jack Chia was appointed its chairman and managing director.10

MPH Building
In 2002, MPH Limited sold the MPH Building and it ceased to be the flagship store.11 Built in 1908 by architectural firm Swan and Maclaren, the Edwardian-style building was gazetted for conservation on 1 December 2003.12 It is currently leased to the Singapore Management University and houses SMU Labs, where the SMU-X programme, which promotes collaboration and experiential learning, takes place.13 The structure remains a prominent landmark in the area.14



Author

Vernon Cornelius Takahama



References
1. Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. [inside bookcover], vii. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT); Ee, J. (2002, August 23). MPH writes its epilogue. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Death of Malay scholar. (1947, January 21). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 16–18, 21–22. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT); Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore and Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 118. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG)
3. Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore and Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 118. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG); Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 19–20. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
4. Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 21–22. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
5. Sng, B. E. K. (2003). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819–2002. Singapore: Bible Society of Singapore and Graduates’ Christian Fellowship, p. 118. (Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG); Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 31, 37–38. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
6. Malaya Publishing House, Limited. (1928, February 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 19; Business transfer. (1928, January 21). Malaya Tribune, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 42–45, 52. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
8. Lau, A. (2005, May 24). A rich insight into Malaysia’s birth. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, p. 89. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
9. Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 95–96. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
10. Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH. Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH, pp. 95–97, 109. (Call no.: R 338.7610705095957 HUT)
11. Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])
12. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (2016, July 28). Conservation: Armenian Street/Loke Yew Street/Former CHIJ/St Gregory’s Place/Stamford Road/North Bridge Road. Retrieved 2016, December 2 from Urban Redevelopment Authority website: https://www.ura.gov.sg/uol/conservation/conservation-xml.aspx?id=ASLYS
13. Singapore Management University. (n.d.). What is SMU-X. Retrieved from Singapore Management University website: http://x.smu.edu.sg/
14. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 363. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA]); Ee, J. (2002, August 23). MPH writes its epilogue. The Business Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
Booksellers and bookselling--Singapore
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Communication and media
Business enterprises
Publishers and publishing--Singapore