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Press Article: Rare Book Comes Home After 163 Years (NST 1987)
New Sunday Times, February 8, 1987 – A London diary from Rehman Rashid – A book written by John Anderson the official translator to the British Government during the nineteenth century who was charged with forcing the official liason between the Government and the Malay Kings. In the course of his duties, Mr. Anderson had access to all the treaties and documentation. He wrote this book including in it detailed transcriptions of all the treaties drawn up between his Government and the Sultans of Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Johore. He recorded the correspondence between the Sultan of Kedah and the lieges of Ava, Tavoy and Ligore – the warring Burmese and Siamese states whose eventual treaty would force Siam to invade Kedah. Mr. Anderson completed his work on September 11, 1824 and submitted the book to the Government printers – who wave immediately ordered to suppress its publications. His book was too critical of his superiors and his Government. Less than 100 copies were printed and John Anderson was left to drift quietly into historical oblivion. But he managed to dispatch one copy of his book as a matter of form to the Governor-General of India at the time, Lord Amhurst. As this was a special gift, an artist was commissioned to paint, as frontispiece to the book, a full-colour portrait of the exiled King of Kedah. This copy of Anderson’s book because of the inclusion of that unique portrait, has survived intact. Last October the copy turned up in the rare book collection of Sotheby’s, the London auctioneers. There it was sold to Mr. R. Gooch, and antiquarian book dealer in Sussex, for a hammer price of £5800. Including Sotheby’s commission, Mr Gooch paid a total of £6500 for it. For Malaysia, however, the value of the book could not easily be measured in any particular sum of money. Reading of Mr. Gooch’s purchase in the New Straits Times last October, a consortium of eminent Malaysians resolved to bring the book home. The transaction was concluded last January 26, and John Anderson’s work after 163 years, was on its way back to the land which inspired it. Tunku Abdul Rahman received the book yesterday as a birthday present. A long, long journey through history and time finally came full circle to its end.