* I am now told that the Steve Borgia Collection (Miscellany, September 7) also has a Columbian printing press dating to the 1830s and that it is in his INDeco Hotel Swamimalai. Restored by a mechanic in Kumbakonam and its ornateness still wearing its original paint, the press is in working condition, I am informed. George Clymer, whom I had referred to last week, was a Philadelphia mechanic who was building wooden presses when he developed the Columbian as an iron hard press in 1813. When he found no buyers for the Columbian at $400 a piece, he moved to England in 1818 and soon found buyers clamouring for the Columbian. The Columbians came out to India in the early 1830s and found homes in British missionary printing houses.
* After reading newspaper reports about the release of a coffee table book called Looking for P. James, G. Francis wonders who P. James is and, if he doesn’t exist, what is the significance of the title. I’m surprised that Francis has not at one time seen all those small metal advertisements hammered into tree trunks and, later, messages scrawled on walls all around town, naming P. James and listing his telephone numbers. It was those advertisements that attracted amateur photographer Darren Burnham to photograph the off-beat during his five years in Madras. And those pictures are now the heart of the book published by Global Adjustments. At the recent release of the book, P. James, booted, suited and bowler-hatted, was presented, and he pulled a rabbit out of a hat and magically linked two loose pieces of string into inter-locking circles. Pandian James, who introduced himself as being a third generation magician, also informed the audience of the string of Masters’ degrees he has. But his rather unique citywide advertising appears to have done more for him than all those degrees. As for Burnham, he says, “P. James is symbolic of the many mysteries that face a newcomer to Chennai” and it’s those offbeat mysteries that Burnham has tried to capture in his photographs.