19th Century Printing Press regains past glory | Daily News

19th Century Printing Press regains past glory

The renovated  printing press.
The renovated printing press.

The ancient printing press that printed ‘Lankalokaya’, which is considered the country’s first Sinhala newspaper, was opened for public display on Thursday at the Ranwella Purana Viharaya in Kathaluwa, Galle after full renovation.

The 160 years old Columbian printing press, which was badly destroyed by a fire in November 2012, has been restored to working condition with the support of local engineers and a financial donation from Thailand.

Thai Ambassador in Sri Lanka Chulamanee Chartsuwan graced the occasion of opening the renovated press. This UK-made printing press was imported to Sri Lanka in 1860 with a donation by the then Thai King along with a set of valuable books and Buddha statues.

Late Ven Bulathgama Dhammalankara Siri Sumanatissa Thera (1795- 1891) had initiated ‘Lankalokaya’ newspaper as a bi-monthly publication in a small space in Galle, but it had not been a registered newspaper back then. Later, when its publication ceased, the first registered Sinhala newspaper ‘Lakmini Pahana’ was printed using the same press in 1862.

This historical printing machine, rich in ancient art work beautifully crafted on metal, has been restored to its past glory, and a print was obtained as a monument at a simple ceremony last Poya Day (28) in the presence of the retiring Thai Ambassador.

The frame of this printing machine is highly decorated and the characteristic “bald eagle” is seen on the top.

Ranwella Purana Viharaya Chief Incumbent Ven. Marakolliye Wimalajothi Thera said the restoration of the printing press was a long overdue task. “The work has now been completed with the assistance from the Thai Government and we hope to keep it as a public exhibit in the temple,” he added.