Radhika Nath Saha – unsung hero of the Indian fountain pen by Dr Sovan Roy first hit the stands in 2019 and immediately had created a blast the kind of which are seldom seen.
For one, such an in-depth academic exercise had not been witnessed, especially in the field of fountain pens and inks in the memorable past and the world of academia as well as the fountain pen aficionados had applauded the effort cutting across all lines.
Secondly, the book introduced Dr Radhika Nath Saha to the modern readers – an unsung hero – inventor, entrepreneur, and polymath, one who had fourteen patents from four countries in his name, someone, who deserves the sobriquet of a pioneer in the world of fountain pens in general and India in particular. Had it not been for Dr Sovan Roy’s seminal work, many of us would not even have heard of Dr Radhikath Nath Saha, leave alone learn about the first power driven fountain pen industry in India which was established in the wee years of the last century, or about the brand that he had established. As for the first pen that was made in India, or for that matter, the first fountain pen brand that was established? The entity that exported fountain pens out of India with agents in the far and the middle eastern shores? Well, it is all there in the book.
Thirdly, had the book not been published, knowledge about a book, (Romance of Pen Industries: being a complete manual for the manufacture of writing materials, their history, progress and effects on human advancement, with special reference to the economics and prosperity problems of India. Baptist Mission Press, 1911) the first of its kind by an Indian author, written by none other than Dr Radhikath Nath Saha himself, would not have come to light. It was only after Dr Roy’s book was published that the earlier book, a tome on the state of the contemporary fountain pen and ink world, attracted the attention of the academic world, which has now led to the book being available for pursuance in the world wide web.
Fourthly, many a myth – some carefully constructed by vested interests, some children of our ignorance and apathy – were shattered by Dr Sovan Roy’s book. I will not go into the gory details, but suffice to say, history has given its due to Dr Radhika Nath Saha through this book.
Finally, the book had served another hugely important function – for which the community of fountain pen and ink lovers should always be grateful to Dr Sovan Roy. The book had helped bring the fledgling world of fountain pens back under the glare of the arch-lights. How much the hobby of fountain pen collecting has actually benefitted from the book will be something that only time will tell, but there is no denying the fact that benefitted, it certainly has.
And now Dr Sovan Roy is ready with the second edition of his magnum opus. Needless to say, this edition too is impeccably researched and painstakingly verified with a wealth of backup documents that sheds light on the fountainpen and ink industry in its nascent years in the subcontinent. The second edition is thus a much-enlarged version in which many new and hitherto unknown details about the industry and the principal protagonists (including little snippets about the celebrity users of the day) who helped shape it have been included, which I am sure will be of great interest to the readers and researchers alike. The second edition also sheds valuable light on many of the brands, once dominating their respective niches, that have since vanished into the blue.
It goes without saying that the world of fountain pen and ink has not witnessed this kind of research and the second edition of the book will be an invaluable treatise on the growth and development of the industry. Future generation wanting to learn about this niche will not be led into the kind of void that we had to face when we were embarking upon similar journeys thanks to this book. As a matter of fact, I am confident that the book will act as a resource, as a stepping stone for many academics and researchers who will pick up the threads to focus our attention to many areas of the industry that needs to be studied seriously. Viewed from this angle alone, the importance of this book and the contribution of Dr Sovan Roy are immense to put things mildly.
Dr Bibek Debroy who needs no introduction has enriched the book by penning the foreword.
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