On the hunt in London for Indian newspapers

Gate to British Libray 02

Today Yvonne and I went to London in search of Indian newspapers. Specifically, she was looking for examples in the Telugu language, and I was looking for Hindi. I was quite lucky to be with Yvonne, actually. She already knows the city quite well, and has been to the research locations before.

First we went to the British Library. To enter their reading rooms, you need to get a special photo ID pass. Yvonne already had one, and this process went very efficiently for me. I filled out a form on a computer with my name, address, study information, etc., and then showed a lady at the desk my passport, Maryland driver’s license, student ID, and my television license (which proved my home address). Afterwards, she took my picture and printed out a plastic card for me.

Card in hand, Yvonne and I went upstairs to our requisite reading room. We got the low-down on Indian newspapers from a member of the library staff.

  • Indian (and other Asian) newspapers are only viewable on microfilm. The originals are not available for handling.
  • English-language Indian newspapers—even dailies—are delivered regularly, but it takes time for them to be converted to film. For example, we visited on 18 January 2008, and our guide said that it was unlikely that the film reels for 2007 were available yet.
  • For Telegu, they had seven newspaper titles in their catalog, but none were more recent than the 1990s.
  • For Hindi, they had 14 newspaper on record, but not recent issues. Nothing after the 1960s, in fact.
  • They do have some cool things, though. For instance: numbers 1, 3, and 5 (1918) of The Palestine news, a Hindi-language newspaper printed in Cairo. Must have been a British Empire thing, I guess.

UK Bengali newspaper close-up 01
Close-up of text from the Janomat Bengali newsweekly, a weekly Bengali newspaper from the UK.

Afterwards, we walked to SOAS… a word you hear mentioned a lot at Reading. One imagines it to be a daunting place were well-dressed scholars go for tea and discussion. It turns out that SOAS is just the acronym for the School or Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London. They have their own library, which somehow is warmer than any sauna I’ve ever been in.

The library keeps newspapers on its top floor, but not very many. No Hindi or Telugu papers. They did have one Bengali-language newspaper, the Janomat Bengali newsweekly (see image above). This is a UK paper. From India, they have The Hindu, which is printed in English.

SOAS receives issues of Hindi-language edition of India Today, and has archives on the shelves going back to 1997. India Today publishes in other languages, including English (their main website seems to be in English). You can view current issues of the Hindi edition online as an e-paper.

Yvonne and little MG

After lunch and a short detour to Collinge & Clark – a used book store with very many type books – we went to the Royal Asiatic Society. A member of the SOAS library staff had recommended this to Yvonne, and it turned out to be a great idea. The society is located in a non-discrete building off of Euston, not far from either SOAS or the British Library. There, we were assisted by a very helpful curator. Although the society does not have new newspapers either, the curator did arrange an appointment for us with someone at the Nehru Centre for later on that very afternoon.

The Nehru Center is the cultural wing of the High Commission of India. During our meeting there, we were informed that the centre no longer gets Indian newspapers delivered to it anymore. It doesn’t make much budgetary sense… they read all the newspapers online in real time anyway. I got a list of websites of Hindi-language newspapers, and this is helpful—especially since some newspapers have e-papers that show the fonts used in the print edition. Yvonne and I were very careful to try and drive home that to make real analysis of typefaces in use, we need to look at and touch real newspapers, and see how the letterforms and white spaces are effected by the paper, the ink, the printing, colour, etc. I hope that we weren’t boring; you know how type designers can get! Nevertheless, I think that our meeting may result in further information or assistance, and it was also fantastic fun, so I am glad that we had it.

Yvonne and I arrived back in Reading about 11 and a half hours after we had left it. We hadn’t found any current Hindi or Telugu newspapers.


  1. Luckily for the both of you, I have that stack of newspapers you requested right before break. There are some Telegu in the mix, too.

  2. Oh, super! Are they at Oaklands?

  3. I’m a designer based in Bombay, let me know if i can help you in getting hold of any newspapers/magazines. I’m curious about your project! i’m very new to your wonderful blog and was pleasantly surprised to see this blog entry would love more details.

  4. Thanks! I hope that more of the blog’ll interest you, too. If not some of the past 200 or so articles, then perhaps something I’ll post in the future. The site’s RSS feed is a great thing to subscribe to (in my opinion, at least 😉 )… there is a link to it at the very bottom of this page.

    About newspapers, I’ll e-mail you directly.

  5. Dan, I used to have a red 1964 MGB that looked very much like the Midget in the picture above with Yvonne. Seems like you are having a grand time of it there in the UK!

  6. Oh, I’d be having an even grander time if I had a red MG like that one! Don’t know how I’d fit inside it though…

  7. […] Dear iLT readers, Johno has asked that I appeal directly for your aid. This year, I’m researching Indian newspapers, which typefaces are used, and how these work in print. Fellow students are conducting similar research: I’m just looking at Hindi newspapers (not other languages that use Devanagari), while a colleague is looking at Telugu newspapers. Other students are looking into Tamil, Gurmukhi, Oriya, and Malayalam, but not for newspapers. Perhaps this explains things a little better. […]

  8. Hey Dan!

    I don’t have any Indian newspapers, but if you visit London again, try the kiosk outside Holborn Tube Station. I’m not sure it has any, but I saw LOTS of different ones from all over the World. And it would not hurt to visit Brick Lane, home to most of London’s Indian restaurants (after having one hell of a meal, you could ask the staff for info). Good luck!

  9. Thanks, TypoJunkie! Finding Arabic-script (i.e., Arabic, and maybe Persian or Urdu) newspapers isn’t difficult in any European city… neither is finding East Asian newspapers, or at least a few of them. But Indian newspapers I don’t ever see. I’ll track your suggestions down anyway!

  10. Maybe you should have tried stopping in Southall (on the Reading-Paddington trainline). It has strong south Asian community and you may have more luck there?

  11. Here is a link to list of all vernacular newspapers in India: http://www.nriol.com/news/newsline/vernacular.asp

    Many links seem not to work, but you can do a google search with the name of the newspaper listed in the link above and get the current url. As far as I know, most of these newspapers are still operational.

  12. Tom
    All right, I’ll check that out, too.


  13. Hey Dan,
    I live in Bangalore. So i will be able to help with the south Indian language(telugu, tamil & malayalam) papers. let me know if you need any.
    Keep up the good work..

  14. Yep, try Southall, but don’t expect much. You can get some recent Hindi newspapers there. I would guess about 5. Rob did get some there and one Gujarati for me.

  15. Thanks, David!

    I did try out Southall on Sunday. There, I found a number of newspapers, but they were all Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi, or Tamil (and one Gujarati)! Most of these newspapers were UK newspapers, too.

    More about that trip here – http://www.typeoff.de/?p=260

  16. :-) I followed a link from iLT so I found the new article later. Let me know if you find some good sources. It is weird that there is nothing in SOAS. Have you considered bothering (read asking) some teachers there? You might ask Rob, but I think Southall was the best place he found.

    Also, you still have some time, you could write to the newspapers themselves?

    Please, do let me know how is the book you ordered recently. Most information on newspapers I found in Rau’s The Press and Priolkar. There must be more for Hindi – look into my bibliography, but I doubt there is anything more useful for you two. Also there is a new book The Indian Ink which is more about the East Indian Company and its use of printing than about type.

    Looking into Walter Tracy’s cabinet in Spur H is a good idea (and to Linotype collections as well, the cabinet on the right right after the door) there ARE samples for sure.

    Do not underestimate St Bride. Even though we had not found the specimen I was looking for, it was later found and exhibited there. :)

  17. This smileys replacement is disgusting. 😀

  18. Sorry about the smileys :(

    Yes, these are all good resources. But I’m particularly interested in Hindi newspapers that are being printed in India today. Thankfully, it is just January, and I still have a boatload of time to gather this dissertation material, I may go to India myself to gather enough (I know everybody says that…). We’ll see.

    I’ll let you know how the book is. I still haven’t received it yet. I did read the conclusion at the SOAS library. It didn’t talk about design much, and of course it I couldn’t find any mention of typefaces in the index, and the author seems to place more value of Monotype’s contribution to India’s printing than Linotype’s. Mostly though, the book seems to be about politics and identity… how newspapers bring diverse groups together under one national umbrella. But I need to read all of it.

  19. hey, nice MG. Lucky for you. I always have to want to have lite this one.

  20. The MG is, course, neither mine nor Yvonne’s. We just saw it parked on the street and made a photo!

  21. For latest NRI News please visit http://www.nri-online.com/category/NRI-News

    Non-Resident Indian News is streamed live from various sources around the world!

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