The Musalman: The Last Handwritten Newspaper in the World

Tucked away in the crowded southern Indian city of Chennai, in the shadow of the Wallajah Mosque, is an unflattering building. But what happens inside the building is remarkable. Every day since 1927, a dedicated team has worked tirelessly to create a handwritten newspaper, The Musalman (in Urdu: مسلمان). Today, there’s a team of six workers who work on the newspaper daily. Four of the workers are known as katibs, writers dedicated to the ancient art of Urdu calligraphy. They have the most modest of facilities: two wall fans, three light bulbs, and one tube light in an 800-square-foot building. But watching the video, you learn how this newspaper has survived for three generations — everyone who works there is absolutely devoted to the task. In fact, they are prepared to work on The Musalman until their “last breath,” an undeniable passion.

In the modern era where almost every published work is created digitally, it is refreshing to see the tradition of calligraphy endure with The Musalman. We can only hope the rest of us can appreciate The Musalman’s history and its efforts to survive as much as its dedicated readers do.

To learn more about The Musalman, read this Times of India story. For more about the world’s handwritten newspapers, please see this post on BrainPickings.

Eugene Buchko is a blogger and photographer living in Atlanta, GA. He maintains a photoblog, Erudite Expressions, and writes about what he reads on his reading blog.

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Comments (5)
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  • Dsale says:

    I don’t get it…not even a hand-crank press? Is it because they can’t get type set in Urdu?

    • Nicabod says:

      Urdu is written in a variety of Arabic called Nastaliq, which can be quite beautiful, but hideously difficult to typeset. It would be totally impossible to typeset with metal type. In recent years, after years of effort, it became possible to typeset it by computer, but requiring human help. The character repertore includes very roughly ten thousand strings of letters that are quite impractical to typeset using individual letters.nnThe text is quite beautiful.

  • journalist jane says:

    It is printed off – but the original is handwritten in calligraphy. Watch the video — you see the press about 5 minutes in!

  • Ola shaikh says:

    How can i get the copy of this hand written news paper”The Musalman”?

  • Urdu News says:

    You’re doing a great job Man, Keep it up.

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