Gandhi’s Printing Press

Gandhi’s Printing Press

Isabel Hofmeyr
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Gandhi’s Printing Press
    Book Description:

    When Gandhi as a young lawyer in South Africa began fashioning the tenets of his political philosophy, he was absorbed by a seemingly unrelated enterprise: creating a newspaper, Indian Opinion. In Gandhi's Printing Press Isabel Hofmeyr provides an account of how this footnote to a career shaped the man who would become the world-changing Mahatma.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-07474-3
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction: A Gandhian Theory of Text
    (pp. 1-29)

    In one of his many memorable phrases, Benedict Anderson describes imperialism as a process of “stretching the tight skin of nation over the gigantic body of empire.”¹ To Mohandas Gandhi, a reluctant nationalist at best, this sentiment would have seemed back to front. For much of his life, Gandhi regarded empire as cardinal, the nation-state as secondary, an unfortunate growth upon it. Yet as nationalism gained ground, the equation had to be presented the other way around. What happened when one tried to bunch the vast skin of empire on the nation? What to do with all those ungainly folds?...

  4. 1 Printing Cultures in the Indian Ocean World
    (pp. 30-45)

    At low tide from the beach in Porbandar in Gujarat, it is said one can just glimpse the tip of a shipwreck. Originally the SS Khedive, this vessel is the subject of a double legend. The first is that it carried Mohandas Gandhi on one of his voyages between Bombay and Durban. The second is that the ship sank with Gandhi’s printing press on board.¹

    This is not the only report of a phantom printing press associated with Gandhi. More than a century earlier, another account had emerged, this time at the other end of the Indian Ocean, in Durban....

  5. 2 Gandhi’s Printing Press: A Biography
    (pp. 46-68)

    The International Printing Press (IPP) came into the world in considerable style on the evening of November 29, 1898. An opening ceremony attended by a crowd of nearly a hundred inaugurated the press at its “commodious premises” at 113 Grey Street, next door to the Natal Indian Congress (NIC) Hall. A report in the Natal Mercury (November 30, 1898) gave some background: “The necessity of Oriental printing works has been felt for a long time past by the Indian community in Natal, and especially by merchants, priests, and teachers in Durban and other centres of population in the Colony.”


  6. [Maps]
    (pp. None)
  7. 3 Indian Opinion: Texts in Transit
    (pp. 69-97)

    Late in 1909 Gandhi issued a letter of instruction to the staff at Phoenix. The newspaper was becoming a strain, and its size was to be reduced. “All matter should be severely condensed. Energy should be devoted to the art of condensation. . . . Original papers from which condensation is made should, if possible, be kept pasted in book form” (CW 10: 195).

    A year later, in 1910, the paper again downscaled but reassured its readers: “Though the size has been reduced, we hope we shall be able by means of condensation to give the same amount of information”...

  8. 4 Binding Pamphlets, Summarizing India
    (pp. 98-124)

    Between 1903 and 1914 the International Printing Press (IPP) published some thirty pamphlets, mostly taken from popular or significant articles in Indian Opinion. Writing in 1913, Gandhi described these as the most important part of the paper: “Our purpose is to publish, from time to time, articles of permanent value so that readers who like to preserve copies can later have them bound into a volume” (CW 12: 360).

    So central were these publications that at times the paper was envisaged as serving the pamphlets rather than vice versa. As part of the same downsize, the paper shifted from three...

  9. 5 A Gandhian Theory of Reading: The Reader as Satyagrahi
    (pp. 125-152)

    Hind Swaraj takes the form of a dialogue between an “Editor” and a “Reader.” In the canonical traditions of Gandhian scholarship, the Editor is routinely identified as Gandhi himself, while the Reader is one or more of the Indian expatriate revolutionaries that he met in London (the two usual suspects are Shyamji Krishnavarma, editor of the radical Indian Sociologist, and full-time revolutionary, V. D. Savarkar).¹ In some cases the general addressee (“reader” with a lowercase “r”) is recognized as including some additional constituencies, in Parel’s words, “The Extremists and Moderates of the Indian National Congress, the Indian nation and ‘the...

  10. Conclusion: “No Rights Reserved”
    (pp. 153-164)

    Today it is virtually impossible to locate a copy of the first edition of the English version of Hind Swaraj published at the International Printing Press (IPP) under the title Indian Home Rule. The Johannesburg Public Library once owned a copy but it has disappeared, and none of the world’s major deposit libraries has any in their holdings. One survives in South Africa among Gandhi’s descendants, but no public copy is available either in the country or beyond.

    In part, this disappearance is not surprising: like all printed ephemera, pamphlets seldom endure. Yet there is something larger in this paradox...

  11. Appendix: Pamphlets Reprinted from Indian Opinion
    (pp. 165-168)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 169-204)
  13. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 205-208)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 209-212)
  15. Index
    (pp. 213-218)