Early Survey of the Malay World

The rapid transmission of colonial knowledge on the Malay world can be attributed to the advent of modern printing technology. Singapore emerged as an important centre of Malay publishing in the 19th and 20th centuries. 1917, in particular, marked a watershed moment with a boom in the production of Malay texts. The works printed and published in Singapore were both intended for the local and regional audience, and written for a variety of subjects. These works were written in Malay - both in jawi and romanised script as the Malay language was the lingua franca of the region. Print technology also facilitated the construction and dissemination of colonial knowledge about Malay life, customs and language. Furthermore, Christian missionaries used the printing press to proselytise, publishing many texts in Malay. Singapore's prominence in the publishing sphere could be attributed to a few key factors, not least due to its strategic place in the international commercial shipping routes which made it favourable as a site to disseminate information.

They Who Write is a joint project by the Malay Heritage Centre (MHC) and the National Library Board (NLB) which examines the invisible role of the scribe (penyalin) and the process of copying by hand on the cusp of the shift to mass production via printing presses. This interpretive exhibition features commissioned illustrations of excerpts from 19th century literature, a selection of manuscripts and lithographs from NLB's Rare Materials Collection and a virtual library. It will run from 2 November 2012 at MHC and thereafter at NLB from end of March 2013.

The following is a recommended reading list should you wish to learn more about the early depictions of the Malay World: