Alliance Franรงaise de Dhaka

Book Launch and Exhibition


๐‘บ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’š๐’‚๐’”๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’›๐’“๐’‚: ๐‘ท๐’“๐’Š๐’Ž๐’†๐’“ ๐’•๐’ ๐‘ท๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’” - ๐Œ๐š๐ฒ ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ‘

May 03, 2024 – May 18, 2024

Alliance Franรงaise de Dhaka, Dhanmondi

๐‘บ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’š๐’‚๐’”๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’›๐’“๐’‚: ๐‘ท๐’“๐’Š๐’Ž๐’†๐’“ ๐’•๐’ ๐‘ท๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’” - ๐Œ๐š๐ฒ ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ‘

The significance of mastering the alphabet of one’s native language extends beyond mere language acquisition, encompassing the preservation of ancestral heritage. The earliest encounter with one’s mother tongue occurs through the introduction to alphabet, marking the foundational stage of formal education for a child. Hence, it is evident that acquainting oneself with the alphabet represents not only a pivotal moment in language learning, but also underpins the broader concept of education, recognised as a fundamental human entitlement. As the primary conduit for acquiring alphabetical knowledge and language skills, the primer assumes paramount importance in upholding the universal right to education.

Exploring the realm of alphabets and lettering ignited my passion, leading me to embark on a project to compile a comprehensive collection of Bangla primers. As I went deeper into this field, my objective was to gather notable old Bangla primers and examine the evolution of lettering, editing, and printing techniques over time, all in a bid to understand the fluidity of these processes. With this goal in mind, I acquired the โ€œBangla Primer Sangrahaโ€ [Collection of Bangla Primers (1816-1855)], meticulously edited by Ashish Khastagir and published by the Pashchimbanga Bangla Academy. Undoubtedly, this publication served as a catalyst, fuelling my curiosity and personal quest for insights into the Bangla primer.

The inception of the Bangla primer can be traced back to the Serampore missionaries, who published a 12-page introductory book of the Bangla alphabet titled โ€œLipidharaโ€ in 1816. This pioneering work marked the beginning of the Bangla primer tradition. The first introductory alphabet book authored by a Bengali, โ€œShabdasarโ€, was published in 1835 by Ishwar Chandra Bose. In 1840, the primer โ€œShishusebadhiโ€ was gradually published in three parts, representing the progressive steps in expanding Bangla alphabet learning initiatives.


During the early days, Bangla primers were textbooks specifically published and devised for specific school syllabi. At this stage, the โ€˜Shishushikshaโ€™ series by Madanmohan Tarkalankar, published during the inauguration of Calcutta Female School, brought a revolutionary change to the arena of Bangla primers. Madanmohan, one of the first 16 Bengali parents of that period who sent their daughters to schools, was also an honourary tutor at that school. A Bangla textbook for the female students, hence the tagline in the โ€˜Shishushikshaโ€ series: โ€˜Intended for the local girlsโ€™ schools.โ€™


โ€œShishushikshaโ€ became very popular among students and teachers at that time. One of its rhymes, โ€˜Pakhi sob kore rob… [All the birds are chirping…]โ€™, is still alive in the collective memory. The new era of Bangla primer was introduced by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in 1855 with his contemporary colloquial standard prose. His new โ€œBarnaparichayโ€ was written in prose; on the other hand, โ€œShishushikshaโ€ was written in verse. The success of โ€œShishushikshaโ€ and โ€œBarnaparichayโ€ created the future roadmap of the Bangla primer for the next 150 years.


The primary objectives of the early Bangla primers were to enhance accessibility, conciseness, educational value, engagement, and child-friendliness, thereby facilitating the widespread adoption of primary education in Bangla. Achieving these features required profound interest, concentration, research, and endeavour. The advancement of modern Bangla language and printing technologies progressed parallelly. Consequently, primer books from different periods stand as exemplary manifestations of the cutting-edge technology of their respective eras. From its inception, there has been a consistent inclination towards incorporating illustrations into Bangla primers, with significant contributions from missionary figures.


From the last two decades of the nineteenth century, a notable trend emerged wherein Bangla primer titles began featuring a buzzwordโ€” โ€˜sachitra [illustrated]โ€™. Concurrently, another significant trend, driven either by necessity or commercial motives, was the addition of โ€˜sahaj/saral [easy/elementary]โ€™ modifier to book titles. The printing of primers in Dhaka commenced in the final years of the nineteenth century. For instance, โ€œAdi Balya Shikshaโ€ [The Original Childrenโ€™s Lessons] by Ram Sundar Basak was first published in East Bengal and gained popularity across West Bengal and other Bangla-speaking regions. With increasing demand, publishers also started releasing Dhaka editions of Bangla primers originally published in Kolkata. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the demand for primers surged, leading to a commercial trend of printing primers anonymously or producing duplicate versions of original books. Since then, despite an increase in the quantity of printed primers, there has been no significant shift in their quality or content.


In this publication, we brought together a total of eight selected specimens that were first published between 1849 and 1948. Through this compilation, one can perceive the apparent subjective diversity and gradual evolution of themes and content over a hundred-year timeframe. These eight primers have been chosen for their excellence, artistic virtuosity, aesthetics, and unique presentation. According to the timeline, these primers areโ€” โ€œShishushikshaโ€ by Madanmohan Tarkalankar, โ€œBarna Parichayโ€ by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, โ€œBalyashikshaโ€ by Ram Sundar Basak, โ€œAdarsha Lipiโ€ by Sitanath Basak, โ€œHasikhusiโ€ by Jogindranath Sarkar, โ€œChitraksharโ€ by Abanindranath Tagore, โ€œSahaj Pathโ€ authored by Rabindranath Tagore and illustrated by Nandalal Bose, and โ€œHate Khariโ€ authored by Bimal Chandra Ghosh and illustrated by Satyajit Ray. We express our sincere gratitude to Sandip Ray for permitting us to include โ€œHate Khariโ€ in this compilation.


Locating a first-edition copy of the selected is nearly impossible. The specimens compiled in this publication are the earliest and in-vogue versions, considering that more than one version might be available. It is important to note that while information on the initial publication dates of these primers is established, it is impossible now to retrieve details about copyright page or other related facts. Consequently, the names of cover artists, illustrators, engravers, and scribes remain unknown. It can be assumed that in some cases, primers were written, illustrated, and typeset by the same person.


These versions were so widespread that it is now challenging to find any concrete sources for their copyright or the name of the particular publishers or the printing presses. It is indeed thought-provoking to consider the various ways and numerous presses on both sides of Bengal where these primers were printed and maintained their appeal to people over time. Maybe these primers are still relevant and available because there have been no strict copyright rules or the publishing process was not highly dependent on specific presses. Moreover, the publishers and the authors continuously adapted and assimilated contemporary changes. For example, in Ram Sundar Basakโ€™s โ€œAadi Balyashikshaโ€, words under the portrait of Queen Victoria on the partition of British India and the independence of Bangladesh are included. Likewise, โ€œAdarshalipiโ€ by Sitanath Basak included English and Urdu alphabets considering user requirements. It should also be mentioned that none of the particular versions of the primers assimilated in this publication can be claimed as the first or the authentic edition.


Without bringing any change in the original outlook, I worked on the manuscript to make it printable. In some versions, there were no page numbers and we also maintained this. I did not change the covers, texts, and illustrations with a view to introduce original fonts, page setup, the standard usage of colour, and the printing style of the old days to the readers. Reprinting while maintaining the original design and form requires extra time and labour, and I had to give consecration separately to each page printed. However, the book โ€œChitraksharโ€ was originally printed in landscape format that had to be reproduced in portrait mode to maintain consistency. The books were published over the course of a century involving diverse technologies, for exampleโ€”woodblock printing, movable types, screen printing, letterpress printing, and for illustrationsโ€”wood engraving, etching, lithography, linocuts, etc.


The formal journey of Bangla primers commenced over two centuries ago, evolving efforts to promote social perspectives and humanistic values. Influenced by contemporary socio-economic and political reforms, Bangla primers adapted to the changing landscape of each era. It is evident that the individuals involved in shaping Bangla primers, as well as the structure of the modern Bangla language, were deeply concerned with advancing elementary education in the mother tongue for the betterment of society as a whole. Each primer served as a milestone in the advancement of public education in the modern Bangla language.


An intrinsic aspect of the contemporary history of Bangla primers is their inclination to cater to a diverse readership, reflected in their visualisation, illustration, printing techniques, symbol selection, presentation, and overall targeting of the masses. Bangla primers played a crucial role in transitioning Bangla education from handwritten punthis or religious education centred around gurus to a school-based public education system, facilitating continued learning beyond traditional school settings. Their significance, particularly for womenโ€™s education, cannot be overstated.


The journey of modern Bangla language through standardization, simplification and applied research has been advanced in parallel to the development of Bangla primers. The primer industry has contributed significantly to the growth of the printing and publication business in the region, fostering the proliferation of printing presses and advancements in printing technology. The inception and flourishing of Bangla primers are deeply intertwined with the context of the Bengal Renaissance. It is regrettable though that this significant chapter of history is not adequately archived or considered as a valuable historical document.


While this publication may serve as a valuable resource for professionals in the printing and design industry, my focus remains on the outlook, illustrations, and the printing mechanisms of Bangla primers. However, the scope of working within the niche of Bangla primer is both extensive and significant. If young enthusiasts develop curiosity about the Bangla primer due to this publication, I hope their interest goes beyond technical aspects and also inspires theoretical and academic research.


I have always been fortunate to receive unwavering support from friends and family to express my thoughts and publish my works. This time is no different. With their backing, I am organising an exhibition to complement the ideas in this book on Bangla printing and publication. These efforts are solely driven by personal dedication. Due to the lack of opportunities for theoretical analysis, our efforts mainly revolve around understanding technical intricacies. We rely on readers for assessment and improvement of this publication. Any criticism, advice, or cooperation is welcome from readers, while the task of correcting mistakes and enhancing content falls on me.


Moving forward, I eagerly anticipate engaging with readers, sharing both the limitations and successes of this publication, and refining our collective understanding of Bangla printing and publication.

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๐‘บ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’š๐’‚๐’”๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’›๐’“๐’‚

๐‘บ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’š๐’‚๐’”๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’›๐’“๐’‚

๐‘บ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’š๐’‚๐’”๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’›๐’“๐’‚

Born in 1978, Sabyasachi Hazra holds bachelorโ€™s and masterโ€™s degrees in fine arts (Drawing and Painting) from the Institute of Fine Arts of the University of Dhaka. He has worked as creative editor and artist for numerous dailies and weeklies and is a prolific illustrator with around three thousand book cover designs in his portfolio. He has also designed hundreds of Posters, Logos and Brand Guidelines.



Sabyasachi is currently serving โ€˜Nymphea Publicationโ€™ as Creative Director and alsoaffiliated with Bangla Academy and Shilpokola Academy for design and illustration.As an expert he isused to conduct trainings and facilitate workshops in different capacity building initiatives hosted by Shilpokola Academy, Prachyanaut School of Acting and Design, Moviana Film Society, Dhaka University Film Society, South Asian Photographic Institute (Pathshala), Room to Read, and others.



He has authored two thematic publications for children named as โ€˜Chitrolipiโ€™(a pictorial introduction to Bangla Alphabet) and โ€˜Rong Tulite Chop Chapโ€™ (art appreciation guideline for children). His third book on Bangla lettering and calligraphy will be published soon. Sabyasachi has also contributed to concept and content of couple of Coffee table books. He has co-produced a photo book titled as โ€œMujib 100โ€ just released on the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.



Sabyasachi received Gold Award in Conqueror Corporate Identity Design Contest for Bangladesh (2015), โ€˜Citycell Channel I Music Awardโ€™ for Best Album Cover twice (in 2014 & 2010), โ€˜SwopnofulSwadhinotaPuroskarโ€™ ( 2014), โ€˜Chotoder Mela Awardโ€™ (2010)and many others for his creative supervision includingShaheed Munier Choudhury Memorial Awardin 2015 ( awarded to the publication โ€˜Buddhist Heritage of Bangladeshโ€™on the category of aesthetic values) and Qayyum Chowdhury Memorial Award in 2018 (awarded to thepublisher โ€˜Kathaprakashโ€™ for best book stall design) by Bangla Academy.



Sabyasachi has designed the logo of Mujib Year, the Eternal Mujib memento and multipleposters released by National Implementation Committee for the Celebration of Mujib Borsho.



Apart from his creative work, Sabyasachi has been passionately involved with social and cultural movements from his early age and is also committed to volunteer himself for charitable initiatives.

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๐—จ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฐ ๐˜๐˜†๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ฝ๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป, ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ผ๐˜„๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—น๐˜‚๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ:

Join us for the grand unveiling of ๐‘บ๐’‚๐’ƒ๐’š๐’‚๐’”๐’‚๐’„๐’‰๐’Š ๐‘ฏ๐’‚๐’›๐’“๐’‚: ๐‘ท๐’“๐’Š๐’Ž๐’†๐’“ ๐’•๐’ ๐‘ท๐’“๐’†๐’”๐’”.

Experience the grand launch of Sabyasachi Hazra’s Primer to Press.

The mechanism of printing press and “๐‘ฉ๐’๐’“๐’๐’๐’Ž๐’‚๐’๐’‚”

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