Kalikata Little Magazine Library O Gabeshona Kendra

Bengali Language Initiative

Grant Period: Over two years

Functioning out of a small room in Tamer Lane, off College Street, in Kolkata, the Little Magazine Library opened to the public in 1978 with Sandip Dutta’s personal collection of magazines. Mr Dutta had begun collecting little magazines in the 1970s, but the impulse for the library was his indignation at the mass disposal of Bengali little magazines by the National Library in Kolkata. He took it upon himself to buy them up, and even expressed his sense of outrage at what he saw as official apathy to non-mainstream writing and publication by organising a ‘protest exhibition’. This brought him many supporters and gave a fresh lease of life to the parallel magazine movement.

His collection grew from a mere 750 magazines in 1978 to 46,000 in 2006. The library has, over time, become a hub for interested readers. Located in a part of the city frequented by students and booklovers, it soon began to draw scholars, researchers and the interested public working in, or enthusiastic about, the Bengali language context. Mr Dutta decided to turn a personal collection into a legal and institutional entity, and Kalikata Little Magazine Library O Gobeshana Kendra was set up as a Society in 1995 with the mandate of generating public awareness about the culture of little magazines in Bengal. The Society was set up with the primary objectives of establishing a centre for study and research into Bengali little magazines.

The library possesses many rare editions of magazines that have gone out of publication. For instance, it has the inaugural edition of Bangadarshan, published in 1872 and edited by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay––the only surviving copy in the public domain. Likewise, Mr Dutta has all the editions of Sama Samayik, a little magazine that Nirad C. Chaudhuri edited in the 1950s. Earning a livelihood as a school teacher, Mr Dutta has been running the library on his own steam.

This grant will be crucial in helping the library overcome the official apathy towards the little magazine movement. It supports the digitisation of 46,000 little magazines and the setting up of an Internet archive, thereby increasing accessibility and expanding the available resources for researchers. A team from the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences Calcutta (CSSSC) will be responsible for the digitisation and the preparation of the Internet archive, and a digital copy of the archive will be housed in CSSSC. The library’s outreach has thus far been restricted because all magazines had to be accessed physically in Kolkata. It is hoped that the digitisation and the open-access archive will draw scholars from India and abroad to the astonishing collection and trigger research in the area. The grant will also help the library raise its public profile and connect to other institutions working with technology to make cultural resources available in the public domain.     

This grant was made possible with support from Aditi Foundation for the Arts.