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Franklin Book Program Titles in Indonesian and Malay: Book Publishing through Geopolitical and Linguistic Shifts

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(The following is a post by Andrea Decker, Summer 2022 Junior Fellow, Asian Division)

The Franklin Book Program (FBP) was a Cold War-era book publishing program that supported translating almost 3,500 books from English into at least ten other languages between 1952 and 1978. Donated to the Library of Congress in the late 1970s, FBP materials span several Library divisions, with the Asian Division holding FBP publications in Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, and Urdu.

During the summer of 2022, while working at the Library as a Junior Fellow in the Asian Division on a project entitled “Winning Hearts and Minds: Indonesian and Malay Titles in the Franklin Book Program,” I inventoried and compiled metadata for titles in Malay and Indonesian and worked with catalogers in the Library’s Jakarta field office to make these books discoverable in the Library’s online catalog. The Malay and Indonesian holdings from FBP are of particular interest because both programs spanned years of intense geopolitical and linguistic transformation in the Federation of Malaya (which together with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore formed Malaysia in 1963) and Indonesia.

Map showing land, coast lines and seas.
Map of Southeast Asia. United States Central Intelligence Agency, “Southeast Asia,” 2002. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Malay and Indonesian were established as national languages in the twentieth century. Language was seen as a crucial post-colonial political unifier in both countries. As an international publishing project, the Malay and Indonesian FBP collections provide a window into nationalist efforts to formalize and promote a national language and culture in both contexts. This post explores a few examples of such titles in each language; far more are available through the Asian Reading Room.

FBP established a field office in Jakarta under the direction of Hassan Shadily in 1955 to publish Indonesian-language books. Prior to his appointment with FBP, Shadily was (with Mh. Rustandi Kartakusuma) the first Indonesian to receive a Fulbright scholarship to study in the United States. With the Fulbright, Shadily studied at Cornell University where he completed an M.A. in Sociology in 1955. In addition to his role leading the field office, Shadily was personally involved with several projects as a translator, editor, or illustrator. Of these projects, the Indonesian-English and English-Indonesian dictionaries and encyclopedia were the most prominent.

Indonesian was adopted as the national language in 1945 despite few Indonesians speaking it as a first language. Standardized from Malay, the lingua franca of the archipelago, Indonesian became the language supported by the nationalist movement. Most Indonesians spoke a regional language at home and used Indonesian for education and government business. As a result, the national government felt a great need to formalize the language through dictionaries and education. John Echols and Hassan Shadily write in the preface to an Indonesian-English dictionary in the FBP collection, “Indonesian […] is undergoing rapid development, and its effort to become a vehicle adequate in all spheres of knowledge has placed tremendous pressure on its users to supply the necessary terms.” While all FBP publications required translation and linguistic expertise, dictionaries and encyclopedias were seen as special projects that required more investment and had the potential for greater benefit. FBP President Datus C. Smith wrote in September 1959 of the potential for publishing dictionaries, “I am convinced there is much to be done, and in many ways with a greater sense of urgency in Indonesian than in most countries in Asia” (image 162, letter no. 1348).

The Indonesian to English and English to Indonesian dictionaries created through cooperation between FBP, Cornell University Press, and the Ford Foundation required significant effort and care. The process demonstrates the linguistic shifts occurring at the time. The team working in Jakarta acknowledged the difficulty of compiling a dictionary in two languages, neither of which was their first. Hassan Shadily, whose first language was Madurese, wrote to FBP’s New York office on March 9, 1969 about the process. “There’s simply no way of rushing us up, especially when we are being faced with problems of not finding the exact Indonesian words immediately. Consultations have to be done with Indonesian experts at large. […] These problems sometimes occupied me for many days or nights and the answers can’t simply be rushed up especially when no Indonesians have seemed to be unanimous about their particular meanings” (image 10, letter no. 4471). Shadily further explained the necessity to consult with Indonesians from multiple ethnic groups to narrow down the most accurate translation. He wrote in the same letter, “[My wife] Julia is still assisting me and gives consults of particular (Sumatran) expressions and phrases, more close to Indonesian than my own native tongue Madurese. For more doubtful expressions I’d ask languists [sic.] at large for their opinions” (image 9, letter 4471). Shadily was posthumously awarded a presidential honor from Indonesia for his work on the Indonesian-English dictionary published through FBP, which was reprinted several times and eventually surpassed the Oxford dictionary in use in Indonesia. The Asian Division FBP holdings include two editions of the Indonesian-English dictionary (1961 and 1963) and one of the encyclopedia; LC also holds newer editions of the dictionaries published since the end of FBP.

In addition to his work on the encyclopedia and dictionaries, Shadily also directed the program as a field officer with a hands-on approach. One example of his guidance can be glimpsed in the 1958 Indonesian translation of “Lives of Girls who Became Famous,” an English-language title by Sarah K. Bolton first published in 1886 with different biographies of women added to subsequent editions over the years. When comparing the table of contents of the Indonesian edition (top left of image below) with that of the 1964 Malay edition (top right of image below), it is evident that the selection of biographies featured in both differs. While there is overlap, the Malay edition is considerably shorter with only seven chapters. The Indonesian version has fifteen chapters and omits two chapters that appear in the Malay—one on Louisa May Alcott and another on Susan B. Anthony. Other biographies were preferred in their place, suggesting how local editors shaped the final product.

Going beyond selection of content and translation, the Indonesian editors added two chapters written in Indonesian: one about Raden Ayu Kartini, a writer and feminist activist, and one about Maria Ulfah Santoso, Indonesia’s first woman government minister. The portraits of both women—Kartini (bottom left of image below) and Santoso (bottom right of image below)—were done by Shadily as evidenced by his signature in both drawings, pointing to his deep involvement in certain projects. While Shadily is only one figure of note from FBP, his work shows the influence of local field officers on the programs.

Collage showing pages from books above two portraits of Indonesian women.
Top left, bottom left, bottom right: Tables of contents and illustrations for the Indonesian edition of Sarah K. Bolton’s “Lives of Girls who Became Famous,” signed “H. Shadily.” The Indonesian edition was translated by Nj. S. Djojopuspito. “Beberapa wanita jang terkemuka (A few famous women),” 1958. Franklin Book Program Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division. Top right: Table of contents for the Malay edition translated by Qamariah Hamzah. “Wanita2 terkemuka (Famous women),” 1964. Franklin Book Program Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division.

Like the Indonesian titles, the Malay titles reflect the transformations in the region during the 1950s to the 1970s. FBP established a field office in Kuala Lumpur under the direction of Ghazali Yunus in 1960 to publish Malay-language books. Yunus would go on to become a founder and President of the Malaysia Book Publishers Association. The first book published by FBP in Malay was “Making and Keeping Friends” (1960). This seventy-nine-page illustrated self-help book includes an added introduction by the publisher relating the principles of friendship contained therein to the geopolitical conditions of the time:

“Friendship is one of the most important pillars of life. Friendship is also the foundation for achieving a peaceful existence and universal safety. From studying history, we can see that the rise of enthusiasm for friendship stems from its ability to protect various things of importance. That is the reason friendship agreements exist between nations. The Federation of Malaya, for example, has a connection in the form of a friendship agreement with its neighbor Indonesia. Maybe it will make additional friendship agreements with other nations in the future.” (p.7, translation by Andrea Decker).

This pointed introduction in a seemingly innocuous book about the principles of friendship did not age well. By the time the second Malay edition was published in 1965, the Federation of Malaya had become a part of the Federation of Malaysia (which also incorporated Singapore until August, 1965, Sabah, and Sarawak) and suffered a period of undeclared armed conflict with Indonesia known as Konfrontasi (1963–1966). The sentences about friendship with Indonesia were removed from the 1965 edition.

Another title that reflects geopolitical changes is “Let’s Go to the Library,” which had two separate editions—one for Malaysia and one for Singapore. In 1965, Singapore left Malaysia. FBP kept its main field office in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps because Singapore already possessed a vibrant publishing scene and companies like McGraw-Hill had been active there since at least 1959. “Let’s Go to the Library” is the only example in the Library’s collection of separate editions of the same book commissioned by Malaysia and Singapore.

FBP published the first Malay edition in 1966, commissioned by the Malaysian ministry of education. The second edition was published for the National Library of Singapore in 1967. Both versions adapted text and illustrations from the original English-language edition to reflect local library systems and national values. For example, the pages pictured show different forms libraries can take. The English-language version shows library buildings in hot and cold climates, a school library, and a branch library, reflecting the U.S. library system; the 1966 Malay edition shows different types of buildings found in Malaysia and explains that large cities may have public libraries; and the 1967 edition for Singapore features a mobile bus library and a diagram explaining the branch and mobile libraries in use at the time.

Collage of books showing text and illustrations.
Comparison of illustrations of libraries in the three editions of “Let’s Go to the Library.” Top Left: Description and illustrations of different kinds of libraries in the English-language original. Naomi Buchheimer, “Let’s Go to the Library,” 1957. Library of Congress General Collection. Top Right: Description and illustrations of different kinds of libraries in the Malay-language edition published in Kuala Lumpur (1966). “Mari kita ka-Perpustakaan (Let’s Go to the Library),” 1966. Franklin Book Program Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division. Bottom Left: Description and illustrations of different kinds of libraries in the Malay-language edition published for Singapore (1967). “Mari kita ka-Perpustakaan (Let’s Go to the Library),” 1967. Franklin Book Program Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division. Bottom Right: This diagram in the same Malay-language edition published for Singapore (1967) explains the buildings and mobile libraries in the public library system of Singapore. 

The books were also adapted to appeal to local customers’ interests and the books available to them. The English-language original states that a librarian may recommend titles like “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Little House in the Big Woods,” while the 1966 and 1967 editions in Malay instead advertise other local FBP publications, like Sarah K. Bolton’s “Lives of Poor Boys who Became Famous” (1967), the juvenile science books by Bertha Morris Parker, and the collection of folktales “Ride with the Sun” (1961) edited by Harold Courlander, all part of the Library’s FBP collection.

The Kuala Lumpur (1966) and Singapore (1967) editions also use distinct national landmarks and symbols. The English-language pages shown below feature a European stagecoach, butterflies, and the Eiffel Tower. The 1966 edition adds the Kuala Lumpur landmark Sultan Abdul Samad building and replaces the stagecoach with a buffalo cart. In contrast, the Singapore edition shows what looks to be the former Singapore Supreme Court building, an orchid, and a merlion, all national symbols of the island state.

Collage of books showing text and images.
Illustrations showing where reading can take readers in their imaginations in English-language edition (top), the 1966 Kuala Lumpur edition (middle) and the 1967 Singapore edition (bottom). Naomi Buchheimer, “Let’s Go to the Library,” 1957. Library of Congress General Collection. “Mari kita ka-Perpustakaan (Let’s Go to the Library),” 1966. Franklin Book Program Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division. “Mari kita ka-Perpustakaan (Let’s Go to the Library),” 1967. Franklin Book Program Collection. Library of Congress Asian Division.

The separate editions for Malaysia and Singapore and the translation, illustration, and substantive alterations therein demonstrate how local publishers influenced the items produced by FBP abroad. They also show how the shifting geopolitical sphere impacted FBP. As a non-profit publishing company funded by both private and public U.S. sources, FBP balanced its goals of increasing publishing and reading cultures abroad and promoting the international exchange of knowledge with the wishes of U.S. backers and the knowledge of local field officers, publishers, and translators in the countries in which it worked. The Indonesian and Malay titles in the collection reflect the linguistic formalization and shifting political borders of island Southeast Asia during the years of FBP operation.

Some Indonesian and Malay FBP titles were not yet cataloged at the time of writing but can be accessed through the Asian Reading Room. For more information about Franklin Book Program material at the Library of Congress, please use the Asian Division’s Ask-A-Librarian page.

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Comments (2)

  1. This post by Andrea Decker is absolutely fascinating to read. Thank you

  2. The depiction of people/children North-South-East-West is especially interesting. Stereotypes for north and south for all three, typical European boy for the English version (=east!) replaced by boy with a fez/peci in Malaysian version, stereotypical Chinese replaced by a girl (in European dress), boy with fez back to European boy on Singapore version.

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