I had gone to “Madras Literary Society” (MLS) library few times with my father during my school days. After few decades today I had a chance to visit the library which is familiar to Tamilians due to it’s frequent appearance in many Tamil films. Beginning in 1812 MLS is the oldest surviving library in modern India.
For me, it was a bit sentimental to visit a place where my grandfather LIFCO Sarmaji (1908-1979), a veracious reader and publisher had frequented and was a member borrowing many books at a time. Presently the library looked unloved with the books in most shelves not even been moved in decades. Clearly, it’s glorious days had ended in the 20th century.
Still the library had few treasures for those who cared to look around. I found two such books, each in the size of an opened News Paper, they had been part of few books which volunteers had restored as the huge book’s pages were laminated and looked good.
The first book I went through was “The Seven Pagodas of the Coromandel Coast” edited by Capt. M W Carr and written by William Chambers, Benjamin Guy Barington, Lieutenant John Braddock and C.Gubbins and published in 1869. I understood little of the various sculptures and architecture of Mahabalipuram that were explained in the book, but I am sure for a trained eye there was a wealth of information here.
Flipping through the pages and seeing the photographs of the places like Tanjore Big Temple (தஞ்சாவூர் பெரிய கோவில்) and Trichy Rockfort (திருச்சி மலைக்கோட்டை) felt like being transported to a world that existed 150 years back; speechless.
I hope well wishers of history and books join together with the state and restore the library to its glory, immediately needed is to digitise all the books say through Google Books and make them available for posterity.