Balai Pustaka Collection (1908-1980)

Photograph

In 1908, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies set up a Committee of Popular Literature (a Commissie voor de Volkslectuur). This Committee was responsible for providing suitable reading material for the students emerging from the new approach to education instituted by the Dutch after 1906. By 1927 it included an editorial department, a translation department, a library department which established a network of libraries across Java and a press under the name of Balai Pustaka (‘house of books’). The publications produced by Balai Pustaka ranged from traditional literature, such as popular folk tales, and classical works such as the Mahabharata, to translations of Western novels, such as Pinocchio or the Count of Monte Cristo, and informational publications on health, hygiene and agriculture. Books were published in a range of local languages such as Malay, Javanese, Sundanese, and Madurese, as well as in Indonesian. However, Balai Pustaka’s most important function was to publish original works by Indonesian authors. Balai Pustaka has been credited with playing a vital role in the development of modern Indonesian literature. Monash University Library’s Balai Pustaka collection is extensive and has especially good holdings for the 1920s and 1930s. Balai Pustaka books published after 1970 have been incorporated into the Indonesian collection.

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