Maria De Lourdes Bravo Da Costa Rodrigues
The Central Library has its beginnings in the Academia Militar established in 1817. In 1832 it became a public library during the tenure of the Vice-Roy Dom Manuel de Portugal e Castro and was named Publica Livaria.
Initially, the objective of this library was to “improve public education of the youth, especially with respect to military education in common benefit to the State utility to Royal service”.
The Provincial Government of the Estado da India, wanted to extend this service to the citizens in general so that they could acquire knowledge by reading different books.
In order to enhance the collection of books, the Government ordered that the books from the suppressed convents run by religious orders be transferred to the library.
The library changed its name over the course of years. On 5th October 1836, it was renamed ‘Bibliotheca Nacional de Goa’. This upgrading facilitated exchange between libraries and institutions worldwide.
By a decree of March 18, 1956, the library was given the benefit of Book Delivery Act, which entitled it to two free copies of publications in Goa, Portugal and her colonies. Another important decision was to have the library under the direct control of Department of Education and Health in September 1959.
The post-Liberation collection includes books in English, Konkani, Marathi, Hindi and Gujarati. The library also has a collection of newspapers published in Goa, which is an important source for the study of social history of Goa.
Government reports and publications are other source material for researchers of contemporary history of Goa.
This library has five reader-oriented sections, namely Circulation, Reference, Rare Books and Local History, Children and Periodicals. The Circulation section caters to the need of library members and the public in general. The members can borrow books from this section. The other two sections are for the public to refer to the collection on matters of their interest.
The Rare Books is a special section on local and Indo-Portuguese history. Periodical Section has more than forty titles of newspapers and magazines.
To fulfil this recommendation, the library buys books on local history and culture and collects bound volumes of newspapers and periodicals from Goa. Rare books and Local History section includes books from the old collection, with the result that the large number of books in this collection are in Portuguese.
These are enhanced by contemporary publications in English, Marathi and Konkani books. There are books by well-known writers and historians, both Goan and Portuguese like A.B Braganca Pereira, Panduronga Pissurlencar, Filipe Neri Xavier, Joaquim H da Cunha Rivara, Antonio da Silva Rego, Joseph Wicki and others.
Various travelogues are also included in this collection, with first hand experiences by Duarte Barbosa, Van Hughen Linschoten, Pietro Della Valle and Pyrad de Laval.
Portuguese chroniclers such as Joao de Barros, Diogo de Couto, Afonso de Albuquerque accounts are also available in this collection. The collection is updated with latest publications on Indo-Portuguese history and culture.
Goa had the privilege of having the first printing press in Asia established at the St. Paul’s College in 1556, and the Government Press started functioning in 1821, with a publication called ‘Gazetta de Goa’. The private press did not lag behind when in 1856, the family of the Costas of Margao started the newspaper ‘O Ultramar’.
From the titles, one can ascertain that the collection contains newspapers in Portuguese, English, Konkani and Marathi: a very important collection for anyone interested in the social history of Goa during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Unfortunately, this collection needs better care and storage facilities. Historical journals like Oriente Portugues, Chronista de Tissuari, Boletim do Instituto Vasco de Gama, Boletim de Arquidiocese de Goa are also available for reference.
Manuscripts and early imprints are very precious collection, which includes rarities and the only extant copies of some works. The earliest imprint in the collection is ‘Constituicao do Arcebispado de Goa’ published in 1643.
However, rarities of the sixteenth century are not in this collection. The oldest book in the library is of 1539, titled ‘Sexto (supir) Codicis Justinian Commentaria’ by Baldi de Ubaldi Perusini.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The writer is a senior staff member at the Central Library at the Institute Menezes Braganza in Panjim, and has co-authored and authored books linked to Goan history, biography and food. This essay was published in the latest (2004) issue of *Parmal*, the journal of the Goa Heritage Action Group which has its mailing list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/goaheritage (to join this list, send a blank email to email@example.com )
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