Calcutta School-Book Society, Calcutta, 1817

কলকাতা স্কুল-বুক সোসাইটি, ১৮১৭

The thriving desire among the Bengali communities for learning English and western sciences marked the beginning of the 19th century Bengal with the establishment of Fort William College in 1800 by Marquis Wellesley. For Bengali Hindus, in particular, the urge for English education was so desperate that they went to establish institutions at their own cost. It was largely because of the fact that English was the language of the Rulers, and their language brought many occupational and professional advantages. This trend of thoughts led to the founding of the Hindu College and the Oriental Seminary in early part of 19th century. Further move toward educational progress was taken place with the establishment of a School Book Society in Calcutta in 1817. [See Salauddin Ahmed]

The want of elementary books in Bengali and Hindustani languages had for some time been experienced at Fort William College. An establishment of an independent Institution to take charge of such business was being considered in the light of existing trend of thoughts. Presumably, some enthusiast within the circle of Fort William College, like a David Hare, might have actually initiated the idea and helped in forming an association for careful inquiry and deliberation on the subject.
The association set up for this purpose led to a more extended meeting in the month of May 1817, at the College of Fort William, when some preliminary rules were framed for the Institution, proposed to be established under the name of the Calcutta Book Society. A provisional Committee was appointed, with Sir Cecil Beadon, Esq as its President, and eight Members, namely D. Elliott, W Gordon Young, W. N Leer, J Wanger, H Woodrow, Kalikrishna Bahadur, Kashiprasad Ghosh, and Ramgopal Ghosh. The Bank of Bengal was the Treasurer. The Committee was formed: to take measure for making its purpose known to public; to procure it pecuniary support of all classes of the community; and to gather ‘the aid of labours and advice of learned men’. On receiving the report of the Provisional Committee, the School Book Society was finally organized and ‘instituted’ on the 4th July of 1817 with a set of operative statements of objectives, such as,
That the Institution was to be denominated ‘The Calcutta School-Book Society’;
That the Society was to manage preparation, publication, and cheap or gratuitous supply of works useful to Schools and Seminaries of learning;
That the Society was not to furnish religious books but free to supply of moral tracts non-interfering with religious sentiments of anyone;
That the Society was to furnish books of school instructions in English and Asiatic languages; and more.
The remaining objectives defined the constitution of the Society, delineated the rights and privileges of its members, ‘who may be of whatever nation, subscribing any sum annually to the funds of the Society’, and allowed formation of School-Book Associations auxiliary to the Society for the benefit of obtaining school books worth full amount of their annual subscriptions at cost price. [See Provisional Committee Report]

‘The Calcutta School-Book Society, in fact, was the first institution of its kind, which was sponsored by a number of public spirited individuals belonging to different religious denominations and situations.’ Thus the first managing committee of the Society for the year 1817-18 included orthodox Hindus like Pundit Mrityunjay Vidyalankar, Radhakanta Deb, Ramkamal Sen and Tarinicharan Mitra. The Muslim members of the Committee were Maulvi Aminullah, Maulvi Karam Hussain, Maulvi Abdul Wahid and Maulvi Abdul Hamid. The missionaries and churchmen were represented by William Carey and the Rev. J. Parson and the Rev. T. Tomason; while among the officials were W.B. Bayley, who was elected President of the Society, Sir Edward Hyde East and J H Harrington. The two Indian secretaries of the Society were Tarinicharan Mitra and Maulvi Abdul Wahid. The Society was patronized and subscribed to by the Governor-General Lord Hastings and his wife and many English officials and businessmen and also by a considerable number of Hindu and Muslim zamindars and merchants. Even the orthodox Hindu and Muslim communities were so much enthused over the prospect of English education that they unhesitatingly joined hands with the Christian missionaries and Britishers in developing the Society. [See Charles Lushington]

Shortly, it became clear that the objectives of the Society could not be advanced proficiently unless a sufficient number of schools was there to utilize Society’s publications. Hence the Calcutta School Society came into existence in September 1818 to set up elementary schools and support those already existed. [See puronokolkata]
The Second Annual General Meeting of the Calcutta School Book Society was held on September 21, 1819 at the Town Hall, Calcutta with the Honourable Chief Justice W.B. Bayley as the Chairman. It was reported that last year an amount of Rs. 5290 as donation and Rs 2935 as subscription were collected by the Society. During its initial four years, the Society produced and distributed as many as 126446 copies useful works in different languages without financial support of the Government. However, an annual Government Grant of Rs.7000 was made available from 1821 onward. On the motion of Rev. Dr. Carey it was ‘Resolved unanimously, that the special thanks of this meeting be presented to the Native gentlemen, whether in or out of the Committee, for their seasonable and zealous exertions in the various departments of the Society’s undertakings, without whose valuable cooperation the numerous works described in report could never have been accomplished.’
In July 1830, the Society obtained permission to reprint books published by the London Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The same year, Calcutta Christian Observer openly admired the Society as a ‘truly valuable Institution’ while reviewing its 10th Annual Report, and reported that the copies issued from the depository within the given period, 1832-33, amounted to 26,380. Of these no fewer than 14,792 were books in the English language. They also noted with some pleasure the decrease in the demand for books in the Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian languages, being the spoken language of no one. [See Calcutta Christian Observer. V.3]
The Society gained its importance on two grounds: Preparation of School Books, and Procurement of School Books. “The elementary Class-Books in English which are used in the Government Schools were for the most part compiled under the direction of the Calcutta School Book Society. They consist of a series of English Headers, and of Treatises on Arithmetic, Geography and History. It does not appear that any difficulty whatever was experienced by the Society in procuring books. The Branch Depositories of the Calcutta School Book Society in every part of the country supplied all the ordinary Class-Books; and such other books as were required could easily be procured in Calcutta or direct from England”.
In regard to Vernacular Class Books, James Kerr reported, “The preparation of classbooks in the Vernacular languages, was one of the first objects that engaged the attention of the friends of Native Education. Long before the re-organization of the Educational Committee in 1835, the Calcutta School Book Society had commenced its useful labours, and had published and brought into circulation many thousands of class books. The Society still exists, and has only relaxed in its efforts, because a large number of books, all those are most useful for the purpose of a good elementary education, have now been prepared.” [See James Kerr]

Much later, the Calcutta School-Book Society and the Vernacular Literature Society was amalgamated on the 22nd April. The stock of books of the Vernacular Literature Society was taken over next October. The current address of the Society was no.9 Government Place East. The Society’s Depository was removed from Lower Circular Road to 12 Lal Bazar next month.
As it was amply verified, by the old records and reviews available today, that the Calcutta School-Book-Society admirably served the purpose for which it was started.

The above colored acquaint painted by James Baillie Fraser in 1826 depicts the Town Hall of Calcutta, erected in 1813, where most of the meetings of the Calcutta School-Book Society took place.

General Assembly’s Institution, Calcutta, 1830


জেনেরেল অয়াসেম্বলি’স ইন্সটিট্যুশন, কলকাতা, ১৮৩০
The college founder, Rev. Alexander Duff, was the first missionary to India from the Church of Scotland. His idea was to set up an institution which linked western education with Christian mission and the eventual progress of the people. Years later,   Duff committed himself to building education institutions aiming at academic excellence along with social awareness and character building.

Duff opened his first school in a house located at upper Chitpur Road in the Jorasanko neighborhood of Calcutta. Feringhi Kamal Bose, an affluent Hindu, made the house available. The school soon expanded into a missionary college, known as the General Assembly’s Institution that was founded by Duff and his fellow Scottish missionaries with the help of Raja Rammohan Roy, the illustrious social reformer in 1830. In 1834, Duff returned to Britain broken in health. During that sojourn, he succeeded in securing the approval of his church for his educational plans and in arousing much interest in the work of missions in India. In 1836, the Calcutta institution was moved to Gorachand Bysack’s house in the Garanhata neighborhood. On 23 February 1837, Mr. MacFarlon, the Chief Magistrate of Calcutta, laid the foundation stone for a new building belonging to the mission itself. John Gray designed the building while Capt. John Thomson supervised the construction, both of the British East India Company. The construction of the building was completed in 1839. In 1840, Duff returned to India. At the Disruption of 1843, he sided with the Free Church and gave up the college buildings, with all their effects. With unabated resolve he set to work to provide a new institution, later known as the Free Church Institution. After the unification of the Church of Scotland in 1929, these two institutions – General Assembly’s Institution and the Free Church Institution later merged to form the Scottish Churches College. Duff had the support of Sir James Outram, Sir Henry Lawrence, and the encouragement of seeing a new band of converts, including several young men born of high caste. In 1844, governor-general Viscount Hardinge opened government appointments to all who had studied in institutions similar to Duff’s institution. In the same year, Duff co-founded the Calcutta Review, of which he served as editor from 1845 to 1849.

It is important to mention hereabout the equation of Duff with the Derozians – the Young Bengal group of radical Bengali free thinkers emerging from Hindu College – named after their firebrand teacher, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809 – 1831). The Young Bengal Movement peripherally included Christians such as Reverend Alexander Duff, and his students like Lal Behari Dey (1824–1892), who went on to renounce Hinduism. Because of their irreconcilable westernized stand, these argumentative scholars of Duff’s college were branded as ডেঁপো – a Bengali ascription coined after the name of Duff. Latter-day inheritors of the legacy of the Young Bengal Movement include scholars like Brajendra Nath Seal (1864–1938), who went on to be one of the leading theologians and thinkers of the Brahmo Samaj. Duff regarded the Derozians as rootless egoistic sophists with no ultimate care save for their own interests.. From their ranks, however, he hoped would come the leaders of the new India. But first they must replace their volatile skepticism with a more securely based commitment, that in Duff’s view, could only be adherence to Christianity. See

Several important Indian figures were products of Duff’s Institutions. Most notably, Rev. Lal Behari Dey, who wrote two books (Folk Tales of Bengal and Bengal Peasant Life) that were widely distributed among Indian schools, and Krishna Mohan Banerjee, who became registrar at the University of Calcutta and later became a co-founder of the Indian National Congress. Through the years a long line of illustrious personalities have been educated in these hallowed halls of learning. The splendorous architecture of the College including its magnificent prayer hall is eloquent testimony to its timeless heritage and the pioneering vision of its founding fathers. See

St Xavier’s College and the Collagiate School, Calcutta, 1860


সেন্ট জেভিয়ার্স কলেজ এবং স্কুল, কলকাতা, ১৮৬০

A quarter of a century before the the Belgian Jesuits set up the present St Xavier’s College in 1860, an international group of Jesuits commissioned by the English Jesuit Province landed in Calcutta to look after the interests of the Catholics. The team was headed by Dr Robert St Leger. The College of St Francis Xavier was opened at Moorghyhatta by Fr Chadwick, an English Jesuit in 1834. Next year, the college was shifted to 3 Park Street, and thereafter to 22 Chowringhee, where the Indian Museum now stands, to accommodate increasing number of students. Incidentally, the same year Mgr Carew took the charge of the affairs of the Catholic Church. In 1846, due to the feud between the Jesuits and Mgr Carew, the College was closed and the Jesuits left for their home shores.
At the demise of Mgr Carew in 1855, Mgr Olliffe took charge as the new bishop. Being an admirer of the Jesuits, he with the active support of some of his prominent associates, appealed the Belgian Jesuits to come to Calcutta to look after the education of the Catholic community! Click to See More
In response to the appeal of the English Jesuits, a host of seven Belgian Jesuits under the leadership of Henri Joseph Depelchin, SJ, then only 37, arrived at Calcutta in November 1859, . Within a fortnight, Depelchin announced in the newspapers that College of St. Francis Xavier would be opening on 6 January 1860. A prospectus, designed by a Brother Koppes, S.J., had already been published and distributed. The College opened eight days later than planned, with Father Jean Devos, S.J., as its first Rector. Within weeks, The college was moved to 30 Park Street where the Sans Souci theatre was located, before 1843, when a fire broke out, leaving nothing but ashes.sansSouci-theatre
[The Sans Souci Theatre of Calcutta. c.1840. One of the earliest known examples of a daguerreotype picture taken in Calcutta, which has survived only as a reproduction]
This address where the present day college campus stands tall, is an amalgamation of numbers 10 and 11 of Park Street. Premise number 11, was bought for Rs 45,000.00, by Fr. Depelchin. These funds were made possible with the generous donations of the Anglo-Indians and with help from the home Province of Belgium. The very first class had as few as 40 students. Later, in 1862, the college was affiliated to the Calcutta University. Soon, for the expansion work in terms of class rooms and facilities, the authority felt the need for development funds. They appealed to the public of Calcutta in newspapers for generous assistance and was responded with magnanimity by well wishers of the city in 1864. Besides Father Depelchin, S.J., and his assistant, Brother Koppes, S.J., the architect of the new school, went around personally collecting funds. The present imposing 5 storied building was built in an interval of 6 years, from 1934 to 1940 at a cost of Rs 9 lakhs, which was collected partly from the public of Calcutta, assistance from Belgium, and the huge rental received from the American army that occupied the building during the Second World War. See Evan Cotton. Calcutta, Old and New
The Goethals library, which is located above the College Chapel, houses some of the oldest periodicals, journals and books. The treasures were inherited, in 1908, by the Jesuit Fathers from the then Archbishop of Calcutta, Paul Goethals, S.J. Today, the treasures are well preserved and the library has become a spot of historical significance.