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Panchanan Karmakar


Panchanan Karmakar (?-1804) inventor of Bangla type and printing technician, was born in the village of Triveni in Hughli district. His forefathers were calligraphers by profession, inscribing names and decorations on copper plates, weapons, metal pots etc. Panchanan inherited this artistic talent from his ancestors.

Panchanan was working at Triveni as a blacksmith, when a Christian missionary, Father Andrews, who had set up a printing press at Hughli, felt the need for Bangla type in order to print nathaniel brassey halhed's A Grammar of the Bengal Language. Under the supervision of Sir charles wilkins, Panchanan developed the first Bangla type for printing.

In 1779 the east india company, encouraged by Governor warren hastings and under the direction of Wilkins, set up its own printing press in Kolkata. Wilkins brought Panchanan to Kolkata, where he started working at the new press. Subsequently, Panchanan met william carey, joining his Baptist Mission Press at serampore in 1799.

In 1801 Carey's Bangla translation of the New Testament was printed with type developed by Panchanan. In 1803, in order to print Carey's Sanskrit grammar, Panchanan developed a set of Devnagari script, the first Nagari type to be developed in India. Panchanan subsequently developed a set of smaller and finer Bangla type. With the help of Panchanan, the Serampore Mission set up at Serampore a foundry for making type, becoming, in due course, Asia's biggest type foundry. Apart from Bangla, Panchanan developed type in 14 languages, including Arabic, Persian, Marathi, Telegu, Burmese and Chinese. The use of the type made by him continued for a long time.

When old, Panchanan began engraving illustrations for the bat-tala book publishers in Kolkata, also training his son-in-law, Manohar Karmakar, in this art. He died in 1804. [Ayub Hossain]