Exhibition of rare documents, books at university library

Among labels such as ‘Malayalam journals,’ ‘English journals,’ ‘Rare books,’ and ‘Old Malayalam newspapers’ stood a slightly longer one that instantly caught the attention of visitors to the exhibition of Kerala University Library’s prized collection of rare documents and books, organised here as part of the National Library Week Celebrations 2012.

It read, ‘The first book printed in Malayalam.’ A delicate-looking hard-bound book stood proudly beneath this title and upon the black cover with gold embosses read ‘Samkshepa Vedartham by Kariyattil Mar Ousep,’ published in 1772 in Malayalam script.

Fragile parchments fell loose from the spine of the age-old book, one of the star attractions of this exhibition. The first-floor reference section where these 200-odd documents were on display filled with the warm, musty scent of parchments and books with yellowing pages that looked like they would crumble to bits at the slightest touch. Around 110 journals and a few old newspapers were on display, plus 44 rare documents which left their ‘concealed’ existence in the reference section. Large volumes of the ‘Constitution of India’ and Census also featured, along with a massive guide to Michelangelo’s artwork.

Most of these gems have already been digitalised and are available for viewing only within the college network, says Beena S., Assistant Librarian. Over six lakh pages have already been converted, through the Library Digitising and Archiving Software, a process which was outsourced and done by the Centre for Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT).

The show was one part of the function on Tuesday afternoon, that saw literary critic P.K. Rajasekharan being issued the first Eminent Scholar Membership of the library. University Pro-Vice Chancellor J. Prabhash inaugurated the programme and released the latest issue of the Kerala Index. Syndicate Member P. Mohanachandran Nair received the first copy.