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Oriental Watchman Publishing House, Poona.

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Oriental Watchman Publishing House

By Cheryl Christo Howson

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Cheryl Christo Howson earned a graduate diploma in computer aided interior designing at the Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture for Women in Pune, India. She co-founded an interior design company in Sri Lanka and worked as a copywriter. She contributed to the morning devotional published by Women’s Ministries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Shepherdess International Journal magazine, and the Adventist Review. She has written several plays. Currently (2020), she lives in Hosur, India while preparing for a piano exam.

First Published: May 24, 2022

The Oriental Watchman Publishing House is the first and only Seventh-day Adventist publishing house in India. It maintains its own printing facilities in Pune, India, and is operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association (Pvt. Ltd.), a company owned by the Southern Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Early Developments

The first Seventh-day Adventist mission in India was established at the end of 1895 at 154 Bow Bazaar Street, Calcutta with Dores Alanzo Robinson in charge. Ellery Robinson arrived in 1896 to handle the literature work.1

The International Tract Society was established in 1896 with the hope of spreading the gospel through printed media. The first tract – International Series No.1, was four pages with the title “Can All Be Saved?” Later in the same year another tract with an article by Mrs. E. G. White, “The Coming of Christ,” was published in Bengali.2 For personal reasons Ellery Robinson was released in 1898 and he returned to America.3

William Ambrose Spicer arrived in 1898 as editor for the International Tract Society and began to regularly publish The Oriental Watchman, a 16-page monthly magazine. The first edition of 1,500 copies was distributed free.4 Subsequently, a one-year subscription cost Rs.1-8-0 per year.5

After Dores A. Robinson succumbed to smallpox in December 1899 Spicer served as superintendent of the mission. Spicer left in 1901 to join the General Conference Mission Board and John L. Shaw was sent in his place, as superintendent and editor.6

Establishment

For seven years the printing work was carried out at various presses in Calcutta.7 Finally in January 1903, the International Tract Society set up its own press at 38 Free School Street, which had become the Adventist mission’s office.8 Walter W. Quantock, a colporteur, was appointed the first manager.9

In March 1903 an action was taken, “That Brother Quantock go ahead and get racks, composing stone, etc., and make other arrangements necessary and move machinery when arrangements relative to the house are complete.”10 Finally, an announcement appeared in the July 1903 issue: “Beginning with this issue, the Oriental Watchman will be printed on our own press.” The official name was The Watchman Press,11 and it operated under The India Publishing House.

The Publishing Committee in 1903 included J. L. Shaw, R. S. Ingersoll, H. Armstrong, L. F. Hansen, H. B. Meyers, W. W. Quantock. The editor of The Oriental Watchman and Eastern Tidings was J. L. Shaw.12

Move to Karmatar, 1905

From June 1903 to March 1905, the press continued at Calcutta with W. W. Quantock as manager.13 However, there was not much room for expansion. About 270 km west of Calcutta, in the rural setting of Karmatar, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school connected with an orphanage and dispensary had available extra space.14 The press moved there in March 1905 with J. C. Little as manager in order to incorporate industrial education with their printing program and to provide greater opportunity for growth.15

Move to Lucknow, 1909

The location in Karmatar had limitations. The main difficulty was that paper and other supplies had to be obtained from Calcutta. When the India Mission headquarters was established in the city of Lucknow, it was decided to move the Publishing House from Karmatar to Lucknow,16 because Lucknow was centrally situated and transportation to the main centers of the country would be more accessible.17

In 1911, a new building for the India Union Mission headquarters and the Publishing House was financed by donations.18 An acre of land was acquired at 17 Abbott Road with a 50 x 72 ft. building. An additional building of 41 x 75 ft. was planned for the press.19

Due to World War I, the publication of The Oriental Watchman and The Herald of Health was suspended during 1914-1918.20

After the war the press was renamed the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing House partly because the word “International” had been used by a society whose views were not universally accepted. However, the main reason for the change was for the publishing house to bear the denominational name.21

Move to Pune, 1924

After the reorganization of the India Union Mission as the Southern Asia Division in 1919-1920, a search began for new headquarters for the Southern Asia Division and for the publishing house. Poona was selected for its excellent climate, its position on the main rail line, its proximity to Bombay and its international airport.22 Pastor C. Mackett was placed in charge of the building work for both the publishing house and headquarters.23

After building work was completed, the publishing house moved to 35, Salisbury Park, Pune, Maharashtra. Several important actions were taken at this time. The name of the press was then changed to Oriental Watchman Publishing Association,24 with the phrase “an organization of Seventh-day Adventists” added in the literature that was published. The magazine resumed publication in 1924 as the Oriental Watchman and Herald of Health with G. F. Enoch as editor.25 Space was provided on the first floor for the Southern Asia Division headquarters.26

At the Southern Asia Division Council held in Poona, India, from February 20-March 7, 1929, it was decided to recognize the Oriental Watchman Publishing House (OWPH) as the official publishing house of the Southern Asia Division and as the publisher of all denominational literature for general circulation.27

Soon the space was found inadequate for both the press and division offices. In 1929, a separate building was constructed, and the division headquarters moved into the new building, leaving the publishing house room to expand.28

In 1979, a spacious new chapel was constructed with a seating capacity of 150, standing adjacent to the OWPH, but away from the hub and bustle of activity. It was built with funds received two years prior to its construction. The workers had previously worshipped in several different locations.29

Equipment and Development

In 1903, when the press was first opened, the equipment consisted of a cylinder press, paper cutter, a stapler, together with other essential accessories.30

Around 1929, when J. C. Craven was manager, a power connection was obtained from the Poona Electric Supply Co. A power connection greatly facilitated printing operations and opened the way for the installation of modern machinery in the future, including intertype machines.31

As printing requirements increased, a decision was made to equip the press with an offset printer. On December 12, 1965, the British Mann Master Junior offset press was delivered at the Oriental Watchman Publishing House. The 23 inches x 36 inches press was single-color and capable of 8,000 impressions per hour. The offset camera was also acquired around the same time.32

By 1973 production was going so well that OWPH had accumulated import credit from its sales abroad and decided to upgrade its machinery with a second offset printer and other equipment. The following new equipment was acquired: the Solna 132 offset press; a Heidelburg automatic, high-speed, single revolution, cylinder press, capable of printing four thousand full-sized sheets per hour; two Martini book sewing machines, and a high-speed Wholenberg 115 pragrammatic, paper-cutting machine. This new equipment from Europe, valued at seven lakhs, increased the potential output of the press by one-third.33

In 1976, the Review and Herald Publishing House from the United States donated the following to the OWPH in Pune: two type cabinets, one monotype caster, galleys and galley cabinets, nearly four tons of monotype characters.34

In 1982, the OWPH entered the computer age with a photo-typesetter and a three-knife trimmer which helped the bindery pick up speed.35

Three additional machines were installed in the press in June 1987. These included a Heidelberg SORDZ two-color offset machine, an Eskofot 865, an automatic film processor and an electronic Stahl Compact KC 66 folding machine.36

The machinery currently being used includes a Heidelberg 5 color Speedmaster offset press, an HMT offset press, two Stahl automatic folding machines, a Printool perfect binder, A Muller Martin flow line /trimmerbinder, a Polar cutting machine, a squaring machine, and a shrinkwrap machine.

OWPH has the following departments: editorial, prepress, press, postpress, and the offices include treasury, marketing, circulation, shipping, and stock. Recent developments have seen the setting up of an Archives and Library room, and an Ellen White Library room. Currently, a Media and Digital Library room is under development.

Publication Progress Overview

The first tracts printed in Bengali were “Can All be Saved” and “The Coming of Christ” by Ellen G. White. Printed in 1896 in Calcutta, they were the forerunners of the publishing work in the Southern Asia Division.37

In May 1898, the International Tract Society began to publish The Oriental Watchman, a 16-page monthly magazine with William Ambrose Spicer as the editor.38

In 1903 the Eastern Tidings, a monthly official paper of the Seventh-day Adventists in India was added.39

In January 1910, Dr. Herman Carl Menkel founded The Herald of Health magazine40 which continued regularly until 1917, when it was discontinued due to the economic depression and World War I.41

The Signs of the Times replaced The Oriental Watchman in January 1916. Later this publication came to be called Signs of the Times and Oriental Watchman. The church paper also changed its name to India Union Tidings. The press, at the end of 1916, was printing in English, Urdu, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali. The India Union committee voted to print in Gujarati as well.42

In May 1924, after the move from Lucknow, the two magazines – Oriental Watchman and The Herald of Health were combined and publication was resumed at the new location in Poona with G. F. Enoch as editor.43

However, by March 1925, the publishing house was struggling. It was printing 1,600 copies and losing more than two hundred rupees on each issue. To make matters worse, orders for all the copies were not guaranteed. It was around this time that Big Week was initiated, to increase orders.44

In February 1926, after a visit from a representative of the General Conference, action was taken to cut some of the losses due to the reconstruction period, and advice was given to adopt a workable budget for the future. With these taken into effect, the publishing house closed the year with the largest sales in its history.45

The publishing house was reorganized under W. A. Scott during 1920-1927, when a Publishing House Board was formed and a constitution adopted. The first health book Health and Longevity appeared during this time. Other books began to appear in English and Urdu, the first of which was Future of the World. Sabbath School quarterlies were printed in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali, while Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam came from Bangalore.46

A health magazine in Tamil named Nalzvazhi (Good Way) appeared in January 1936. Health and Longevity was first published in Hindi and Kanarese in 1937. 47

By 1976 the Oriental Watchman Publishing House was printing eight magazines (7 health and 1 religious family magazines). Forty-six different titles of subscription books for the literature evangelists were printed in 18 languages.48

Ninety-six different titles (including eighteen sets) were listed in the 1987 catalog. The OWPH printed in English as well as twenty-one Indian languages. The publications included religious, health, temperance, and educational literature as well as Sabbath School quarterlies, Voice of Prophecy lessons, and IMEWS brochures.49

As of 2022, the OWPH produced trade books, subscription books and magazines in major languages of India. The OWPH does all printing work for the Southern Asia Division and some other Seventh-day Adventist organizations. The OWPH currently has the ability to translate and print in twenty-three major languages in India. These are: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Maithili and Santhali.50

The major publications of the OWPH currently include Herald of Health, Nalwazhi, Swasthya Aur Jeevan, Arogyadeep, BE•EN AN•SENGANINA, Adventist World Digest, Tidings, Our Times, Spirit of Prophecy books, missionary books, church hymnals, devotional books, Moral Text Books for Adventist schools, Sabbath School quarterlies, Vacation Bible School material, and others.

Staff Numbers

The press began in 1903 with one manager-printer and one or two helpers.51

The number of staff grew steadily as requirements increased. By 1963 the Oriental Watchman Publishing House employed a staff of 90 (81 men and 9 women). A total of eleven languages were spoken by these workers from various sections of southern Asia and overseas.52

By July 1976, the publishing house was completely staffed by nationals. The staff of 106 included a number of apprentices and trainee workers.53

With the improvements in technology and better equipment, fewer workers were required. In 1987 the force consisted of 90 in total: 15 office workers, 13 editorial workers, 15 press workers, 11 compositors, 29 bindery workers and seven graphic art workers.54

In 2022, the OWPH had a staff of 65, who came from various parts of Southern Asia and spoke eleven languages.55

Historical Role

Besides providing job opportunities and livelihood to hundreds of citizens from the countries of the Southern Asia Division, the OWPH makes provisions for apprenticeships in printing technology. It also aids in granting school/college scholarships to students who circulate its literature during the summer/winter vacation.56

The OWPH prints literature on various topics covering religion, health, temperance and education, and so it contributes to the development of social, moral, and ethical values in Southern Asia and beyond.57

Outlook

The Southern Asia Division of Seventh-day Adventists includes the nations of India, Nepal, Maldives, and Bhutan,58 with over 1.4 billion people and 30 major languages, 90 related languages and 270 mother tongues.59 One of the OWPH’s main goals is to translate its material for all language groups of India and distribute them as extensively as possible. The OWPH currently has the ability to co-ordinate translations to 23 out of 30 major languages in India, which means that 96 percent of Indians could be reached through its publications and distribution.60

With an increase in literacy and access to education, reading is no longer limited to the educated elite. Cities are developing quickly and there is a trend toward digital media. However, a vast majority of the population in the Southern Asia Division lives in rural areas, which means the printed word still has an advantage in reaching areas where technology is limited.

General Managers

Watchman Press, The India Publishing House: W. W. Quantock (1903-1904); A. G. Watson (1904-1905); J. C. Little (1905-1908); W. E. Perrin (1909-1911).

International Tract Society: S. A. Wellman (1915-1916); W. S. Mead (1916-1919).

Seventh-day Adventist Publishing House: Alfred H. Williams (1919-1920); W. A. Scott (1920-1924).

Oriental Watchman Publishing Association: W. A. Scott (1924-1927); Judson S James (1927-1929).

Oriental Watchman Publishing House: J. C. Craven (1929-1936); J. O. Wilson (1936-1937); A. G. Rodgers (1937-1938); Charles H Mackett (1938-1941); Loren C. Shepard (1941-1945); R. M. Milne (1945-1946); Frank H Loasby (1946-1947); Loren C Shepard (1947-1953); Olaf A. Skau (1953-1956); Loren C. Shepard (1956-1959); V. Raju (1959-1982); Ganta S. Peterson (1982-1985); Prem H. Lall (1985-1995); Ganta S. Robert Clive (1996-2005); Edwin B. Matthews (2005-2010); Calvin N. Joshua (2010-2014); Anthony Doss Pagyam (2015- ).

Editors

William A. Spicer (1898-1901), John L. Shaw (1901-1902).

Watchman Press, The India Publishing House: John L. Shaw (1903-1904); W. W. Miller & J. C. Little (1905-06); John L. Shaw & J. C. Little (1907-1908); George F. Enoch & W. E. Perrin (1909); S. A. Wellman & W. E. Perrin (1910-1911).

International Tract Society: S. A. Wellman (1911-1916); R. D. Brisbin (1917-18).

Seventh-day Adventist Publishing House: Eric B. Jones (1919-1924).

Oriental Watchman Publishing Association: George F. Enoch (1924-25), Judson S. James (1926-1929).

Oriental Watchman Publishing House: P. C. Poley (1930-1931); George F. Enoch (1932-1935); H. C. Menkel and Robert B. Thurber (1936-1941); Ray L. Kimble (1942-1943); Frank H. Loasby (1944-1945); Eric M. Meleen (1946-1951); L. J. Larsen (1954-1959); Theodore R. Torkelson (1959-1965); Thomas A. Davis (1965-1970); John M. Fowler (1970-1974); Elsworth A. Hetke (1974-1976); John M. Fowler (1977-1980); Roscoe S. Lowry (1980-1981); Stanley Hutton, (1981-1986); Cecil B. Hammond (1987-1992); Edwin Charles (1992-1995); Edison Samraj (1996-2002); Measapogu Wilson (2003-2005); Idiculla Varghese (2005-2013); Vara Prasad Deepati (2013- ).

Sources

“Annual Union Mission Council.” India Union Tidings, January 15, 1919.

“Benwell is Bade Farewell.” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1974.

Benwell, W. A. “OWPH Acquires Modern Machines.” Southern Asia Tidings, November 1982.

Charles, Edwin “From Poona to Hosur.” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987.

Eastern Tidings, February 1926.

Enoch, George F. “Shall We Permit the Newly-Born Infant to Die?” Eastern Tidings, March 1, 1925.

Fletcher, W.W. “Executive Board Meeting.” Eastern Tidings, November 1921.

“Gleanings.” Eastern Tidings, August 15, 1945.

Hammond, Annie R. “Inauguration of New Machinery in the OWPH.” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987.

Hammond, Annie R. “Spreading the Gospel Light.” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987.

Hammond, C.B. “Publishing in India.” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1987.

Hammond, C.B. “Publishing House.” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987.

Jesudas, Subhashini. “Hunt Inaugurates New OWPH Chapel.” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1979.

Lall P.H. “Contribution of the OWPH to Publishing Work.” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1987.

Mookerjee, L.G. “Early Days in the Northeast.” Eastern Tidings, September 15, 1945.

News Notes, Eastern Tidings, November 1921.

“News.” Southern Asia Tidings, January 1966.

“Newsflash.” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1976.

“OWPH Welcomes Editor-in-Chief.” Southern Asia Tidings, July 1981.

“Poona Log-book.” Southern Asia Tidings, April 1973.

Raju, V. “OW Enjoys Growth.” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1, 1963.

Reports from the staff of OWPH, February 2022.

“Retiring OWPH Manager Receives Grand Farewell.” Southern Asia Tidings, February 1983.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. Second revised edition. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996. S.v. “Oriental Watchman Publishing House.”

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1904-1960. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Shaw, J.L. “Lucknow Headquarters.” Eastern Tidings, April 1912.

Shepard, L.C. “Fifty Years of Progress in the Publishing Work.” Eastern Tidings, September 1, 1945.

Spalding, Arthur Whitefield, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists. Volume 4. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962.

“Statement of Policy Covering the Conduct of The Publishing Work in The Southern Asia Division.” Eastern Tidings, May 1929.

“Superintendent’s Biennial Report.” Eastern Tidings, January 1913.

Torkelson, T.R. “Rise from Humble Beginnings.” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1, 1963. (60th-anniversary issue).

Notes

  1. L.G. Mookerjee, “Early Days in the Northeast,” Eastern Tidings, September 15, 1945, 2.

  2. L. C. Shepard, “Fifty Years of Progress in the Publishing Work,” Eastern Tidings, September 1, 1945, 10.

  3. “Ellery Robinson Released,” Minutes of the Foreign Mission Board, December 5, 1897, 53.

  4. Mookerjee, 2.

  5. Shepard, 10.

  6. Mookerjee, 2

  7. Shepard, 10.

  8. T. R. Torkelson, “Rise from Humble Beginnings,” Southern Asia Tidings, December 01, 1963, 3. (60th-anniversary issue).

  9. Shepard, 10.

  10. Torkelson, 3.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1904), 87

  13. Torkelson, 3.

  14. Arthur Whitefield Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Vol 4 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962), 197-198.

  15. “Karmatar,” Eastern Tidings,” May 25, 1905, 13; Torkelson, 3; Shepard, 10; P. H. Lall “Contribution of the OWPH to Publishing Work,” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1987, 8.

  16. Spalding, 197.

  17. Torkelson, 3.

  18. “Superintendent’s Biennial Report,” Eastern Tidings, January 1913, 31.

  19. J. L. Shaw, “Lucknow Headquarters,” Eastern Tidings, April 1912, 1.

  20. Shepard, 10.

  21. “Annual Union Mission Council,” India Union Tidings, January 15, 1919, 1.

  22. Minutes of the Southern Asia Division, Mar 4, 1921.

  23. News Notes, Eastern Tidings, November 1921, 6.

  24. Torkelson, 3; Spalding, 198.

  25. Shepard, 10.

  26. “Publishing Convention Plan and Policies,” Minutes of the Southern Asia Division Council, Oct 23-26, 1924, #1266, #1325, #1364.

  27. “Statement of Policy Covering the Conduct of The Publishing Work in The Southern Asia Division,” Eastern Tidings, May 1929, 7.

  28. Edwin Charles, “From Poona to Hosur,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987, 5.

  29. Subhashini Jesudas, “Hunt Inaugurates New OWPH Chapel,” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1979, 1.

  30. Torkelson, 3.

  31. Ibid.

  32. “News,” Southern Asia Tidings, January 1966, 16.

  33. “Poona Log-book” Southern Asia Tidings, April 1973, 5; “Benwell is Bade Farewell,” Southern Asia Tidings, September 1974, 4.

  34. “Newsflash,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1976, 12.

  35. W. A. Benwell, “OWPH Acquires Modern Machines,” Southern Asia Tidings, November 1982, 5.

  36. Annie R. Hammond, “Inauguration of New Machinery in the OWPH,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987, 17.

  37. Shepard, 10; C.B. Hammond, “Publishing in India,” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1987, 9.

  38. Mookerjee, 2.

  39. Hammond, 9.

  40. Shepard, 10.

  41. Hammond, 9.

  42. Ibid.

  43. Shepard, 10.

  44. George F. Enoch, “Shall We Permit the Newly-Born Infant to Die?” Eastern Tidings, March 1, 1925, 1.

  45. Eastern Tidings, February 1926, 2.

  46. Hammond, 9.

  47. Ibid.

  48. Lall, 8.

  49. C. B. Hammond; “Publishing House,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987, 18.

  50. As reported by the current staff of the press.

  51. Lall, 8.

  52. V. Raju, “OW Enjoys Growth,” Southern Asia Tidings, December 1, 1963, 6.

  53. Lall, 8.

  54. Annie R. Hammond, “Spreading the Gospel Light,” Southern Asia Tidings, August 1987, 16.

  55. As reported by staff of OWPH, February 2022.

  56. Hammond, 8.

  57. Ibid.

  58. Southern Asia Division, https://www.adventistdirectory.org/ViewAdmField.aspx?AdmFieldID=sud; As reported by the staff of the OWPH, February 2022.

  59. https://censusindia.gov.in/2011Census/Language-2011/Statement-1.pdf

  60. As reported by the staff of the OWPH, February 2022.

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Howson, Cheryl Christo. "Oriental Watchman Publishing House." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 24, 2022. Accessed May 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GALT.

Howson, Cheryl Christo. "Oriental Watchman Publishing House." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 24, 2022. Date of access May 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GALT.

Howson, Cheryl Christo (2022, May 24). Oriental Watchman Publishing House. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GALT.