The Sadharan Brahmo Samaj may not be what it once was but it still runs one of Kolkata’s oldest libraries that continues to enlighten its readers with 25,000 rare tomes, journals, manuscripts and paintings dating back to the 19th century. With most of the treasure trove in dire need of preservation and restoration, a modernisation drive has been undertaken by the Samaj authorities during 2015.
Luminaries of the Bengal Renaissance like Shibnath Shastri, Anandamohan Bose, Nilratan Sarkar, Umesh Chandra Dutta, P C Mahalnobis, Dr Jagadish Chandra Bose, P C Roy and Bipin Chandra Pal contributed to the rare pile of books over the years. But many of these have grown brittle over time.
“The whole process of modernization including digitization of the books has begun but it is an expensive process and we could not do it as quickly as we wanted to for paucity of funds. As for restoration of paintings, three out of 19 have been completed and we plan to get three more restored in 2015”, Biswajit Roy, Library Secretary told Millennium Post.
A portrait of Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore, has been recently restored by art collector and restoration expert Ganesh Pratap Singh.
“The paintings are of great historical value since they throw light on some of the most gifted and inspiring personalities of the Bengal Renaissance”, says Singh, who recently displayed some of Rammohun Roy’s original letters in the library. Important journals, some of them a mirror of the times, include Tattabodhini, Tattakoumudi, The Indian Messenger, Bharati, Probashi, Sakal, have yellowed but provide scholars of theology, philosophy and history with priceless research material.
Books from personal collections of Jagadish Bose, Pearychand Mitra and P Ray have also enriched the library’s rare possessions.
Another art de object in possession of the library is a bust of Raja Rammohun Roy which was originally created in marble by the famous sculptor George Clarke. It is known that Rammohun Roy had modelled for Clarke’ when the original was being created. The replica was in possession of the Tagores of Jorasanko and was gifted in 1936 to the library and is still in its possession.
The library allows the city’s research scholars and bookworms to read 5 days a week for a few hours every evening. However you can photocopy relevant sections from the books and periodicals at this heritage(founded 1895) institution.