With a collection of 55,000 books, he could be one of the top collectors of classical Tamil works in the country. "A visit to Colombo in Sri Lanka in 1982 has inspired me to collect old books," he says.

Among the bibliophiles of the country, he could be one of the top collectors of classical Tamil works.

The 54-year-old S.N. Lakshmanan of Pandukudi near Thiruvadanai has a huge collection of books which are around 200-years-old.

The first edition of “Sathurakarathi” (Tamil dictionary), written by Veeramamunivar and published in 1824, is the oldest of his collection. As many as 55 old dictionaries published in the first half of 18th century are among his collection.

Also adorning his private library are the second edition of “Aththisudi”, written by Saravana Perumal Aiyar in 1832, “Tholkappiam” published by Malavai Mahalingaiyar and “Thandalayansathagam' published in 1838 by the same author.

He also has a collection of English rhymes that were printed in 1810 in London.

“A visit to Colombo in Sri Lanka in 1982 has inspired me to collect old books. I bought a “Kalithogai' written by C.V. Damodaran Pillai. The book was published in 1887. The author in his introduction had stated that Tamil is more than 15000 years old. It has not only ignited my love for the language but also made me scout for the oldest Tamil books,” says Mr. Lakshmanan.

He says he has a collection of 55000 books. Besides this, he has hundreds of weekly, monthly and quarterly magazines.

Many handwritten weeklies, monthlies, textbooks of schools and colleges in 1920's, 30's and 40's are among the collection.

The library, located on the first floor of his new house at Karaikudi, has a separate section for books on independent struggle by Mahatma Gandhi, Subash Chandra Bose and Bharathiar. Many of them had been proscribed by the British rule. Mr. Lakshmanan also has a special feature published by TheHindu on the occasion of its diamond jubilee.

“I have spent half of my earning on old books. I want to translate my collection as a Centre of Reference of Tamil,” he says. He is planning to visit Coimbatore to know more about Tamil. He can be contacted at 9442985055.

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