Belt of paper
House of the Book organises the 'Belt of Paper' exhibition on the rise of the printed book in Indonesia during the period 1816-1957 from 22 September 2023 to 25 February 2024. The exhibition includes: Indonesian lontar manuscripts, illustrated pustahas made of tree bark, letter proofs of Javanese letters, the first book printed by an Indonesian in 1827, colonial school books, law books for Dutch and 'natives', the 1903 Dutch-Indonesian war game and revolutionary printed matter. All made in Indonesia. The exhibition offers an intriguing insight into developments within (post-)colonial society. We also see printed matter that shows how sharply discrimination took place and how the desire for a free Indonesia was captured in printed matter long before the Indonesian revolution. Evidence of the latter includes the iconic, rare 1913 bilingual writing 'Als ik eens Nederlander was...' by Suwardi Sujaningrat, the facsimile of which can be browsed in the exhibition.
Consequences of book production
Contrary to what was expected and intended, the printing press took its course in the 19th century. Printing increased enormously in print runs and spread further and further. It reached various target groups and local writing talents took up the pen. Ultimately, all this contributed to Indonesia's independence. The books and pamphlets in the exhibition - from the Landsdrukkerij and Balai Poestaka, from the missionary organizations and increasingly also from private Indonesian, Chinese and Dutch publishers - show different, sometimes conflicting, interests. From 1920, more and more Indonesian publishers appear in bookshops and around 1950 they form a majority.
Mass production and distribution
Compared to handwriting, the printing type brought the advantages of mass production and distribution: texts could suddenly reach a much wider audience. In addition, lithography also made it possible to reproduce handwriting, while retaining the traditional appearance of handwriting. Dutch commercial type foundries, such as Enschedé and Tetterode, developed lead type for various Indonesian languages and scripts, including Javanese, Madurese and Sundanese, in order to reach the Indonesian population with printed matter. Examples of this with accompanying type examples can be seen at the exhibition.
The transition to an independent Indonesia with its own book production
The continued presence of Dutch publishers, printers and bookshops in Indonesia came to be seen in a different light after the Second World War. Both during and after the Indonesian Revolution, printed matter would play an important role in Indonesia. Books from this period give an overview of the events. More importantly, the creators of the printed matter themselves have brought profound changes to society over time.