Publica Livraria, nuggets from an old institution (by Lourdes Bravo da Costa)

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.

Portuguese poet and writer Tomas Ribeiro felt that there was a lacuna in the cultural life of Goa and so a cultural center, Instituto Vasco da Gama was born in 1871. After a short but eventful life it closed down in 1875. However, in 1924 it was reopened and in March 1925, the library was attached to the Instituto, when once again the name changed to ‘Bilioteca Nacional Vasco da Gama’.

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 Central Library holdings contain a collection of rare books of bibliographical value. These include books that came from the convents in Old Goa, manuscripts, early imprints published in Goa, books in Portuguese, French, English and Latin.

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.

In 1980 the Expert Committee Report for Library has emphasised the need for the Central Library “to be the reservoir and fountain of the sources of information in the state and to serve as a repository of material pertaining to Portugal and its relation with Goa and India”.

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’.

For a small place like Goa we had more than three hundred titles over the years, However, the Central Library has only about one hundred and sixty-nine in the collection. It includes O Heraldo, the first daily of Goa established in 1900, Heraldo, A Vida, Diario de Noite, Vaureadencho Ixxt (O Amigo do Operario), Anglo-Lusitano, Diario de Goa, Goatma, Dhudsagar, Gomantak, Niaya Chacxu, Aitarache Vachop, O Crente, A India Portuguesa, The Goa Mail, O Vinte e tres de Novembro.

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.

The Central Library of Goa is a recognized institution worldwide for studies in Indo-Portuguese history. It is an important cultural institution, which should be on the heritage map of Goa.

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 goaheritage-subscribe@yahoogroups.com )

GOANET READER WELCOMES contributions from its readers, by way of essays, reviews, features and think-pieces. We share quality Goa-related writing among the growing readership of Goanet and it’s allied network of mailing lists. If you appreciate the above article, please send in your feedback to the writer. Our writers write — or share what they have written — pro bono, and deserve hearing back from those who appreciate their work. Goanet Reader too welcomes your feedback at feedback@xxxxxxxxxx Goanet Reader is edited by Frederick Noronha

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3 comments

  1. George

    Hi,

    I sincerely doubt that the Central Library was ever called Publica Livaria. “Livaria” means nothing in Portuguese. “Livraria” is today a book shop, not a library. It is possible, but unlikely, that “Livraria” meant Library back then. Yet the Central Library would certainly not be known as (anglicized) Publica Livraria, it would be “Livraria Publica”. And of course it would be Livraria, not Livaria.
    Maybe the author can elaborate on this?
    Regards,
    George

  2. J. Loiola Pereira

    Livaria has never been a Portuguese word. It should read LIVRARIA, which means library.

  3. P. Melo e Castro

    Further to what was said above: George is quite right. Livraria in modern Portuguese means “bookshop”. It is possible that the word had the meaning of library in older usages. Library in modern Portuguese, in the sense of a collection of books that can be consulted and borrowed, is “biblioteca”.

    I’m currently doing some work on Goan literature in Portuguese and the big difficulty I have found is finding copies of the works in question to consult. Does anyone have any contact information for the writer of this article? Whatever it is called, the library above seems like the place to find them.

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