Scott Carney, a journalist living in Chennai (Madras), has an amazing post about “one small ink-stained corner of Chennai where the world’s last hand written newspaper still churns out 20,000 broad sheets a day”:

I was walking through Tripplicane late last week looking for someone who might be able to teach me the Urdu script when a local fakir led me into a small gully off a main road and introduced me to Syed Fazlulla who has edited “The Musalman” for the last 18 years.

The newspaper employs three full-time calligraphers who painstakingly handwrite and manually typeset the paper the same way they have since 1927. Fazlulla says that they have never switched to computers because he wants to keep the art of calligraphy alive in the secular world. The news room only has three computers—none of which are used for editing or typesetting, and for all intents and purposes are little more than e-mail terminals for the one computer-savvy employee.

There are pictures of the editor, the press (“The off-set printing press is an artifact of the 1920s and has been in continuous operation since the paper’s inception”), and the finished product; it all makes me wish I read Urdu so that I could fully enjoy this glorious anachronism. (Thanks go to Dinesh Rao for the link.)


  1. Eskandar Jabbari says

    This made my day! The very thought of a handwritten Urdu newspaper makes me smile.

  2. This is fascinating. But I wish he had been a little clearer about the actual technique. Somehow the handwritten images are transferred onto a single plate, so it looks almost like lithography.
    It’s great that they have such a large circulation. I’ve heard that nasta’liq is difficult to typeset, so perhaps that’s why there’s a market for this.

  3. I’ve seen several Urdu papers in Old Delhi that must have been handwritten, at least the greater part of them. I think there must be many more in Pakistan. What about the Maldives? Isn’t there a paper handwritten in the Divehi script?

  4. Tomasz Kamusella says

    Divehi is the name of the language used on the Maldives. The script (a mixture of Arabic and South Indian numerals, developed in the 16th cnetury) is called Thaana.
    The Mini Van daily published in the Maldives seems to by typset with the use of a wordprocessor (unless the quality of their caligraphy is so exquisite), however, some adverts seem to be handwritten. On the other hand, most books available in Thaana were apparently handwritten before printed, mostly with the use of advanced photocopying.

  5. Lars Mathiesen says

    Not even on the wayback machine. Fugax!

  6. I found it with no problem and replaced the links. Maybe you accidentally borked the URL? At any rate, thanks for reminding me of this wonderful story… and, amazingly, the newspaper is still going! (Or at least was as of April 2018; I wonder if there’s any way to find out about its current status?)

  7. It was still around in August 2021.

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