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Custodians of a Living Heritage

Custodians of a Living Heritage

Salaam Dear Reader, One of our Malaysian customers sent us a message one morning that contained a photo of the imprint page of a century-old book called Kitab Pelayaran Haji. She is doing research on Malay manuscripts and came upon this work in Jawi written by Muhammad bin Muhammad Ali Sambas. One of the addresses on the imprint page was 58 Bussorah Street – Wardah Books' present-day address.

The book was written in 1909 and this particular edition was printed in 1927 by the printer Haji Muhammad Nor Haji Muhammad Idris, whose shop was located at No 21 Haji Lane, Singapore. According to the imprint page, this edition was available for sale at the offices of Haji Ali at 58 Bussorah Street and from Haji Abdullah's shop at 54 Bussorah Street. The copy in the researcher's possession was sold at the bookshop of Haji Yusoff Rawa located at Penang's Acheen Street (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Qadi Haji Ali, seated third from right.

So this work was written by an Islamic scholar from Sambas in Kalimantan, printed at Haji Lane, distributed at Bussorah Street, and sold in Penang. After almost 100 years, a digital copy of the work has come home to Bussorah Street. Books can be such amazing things. They transmit knowledge by what they contain but they are also, in their own right, objects of history.

Our forebears leave behind books, knowledge, responsibilities, and even buildings. We in turn leave the same to our successors. In the present slice of time, we are all custodians of a living heritage, whether we are aware of it or not. And sometimes, like that morning, heritage comes knocking on your door.

May we be worthy custodians.

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