Monday, 22 August 2016

356 pages

During the layout and proof-reading processes of Let the Aisles Proclaim, so many changes were made to the manuscript that after a while, I lost count of my total output in the book itself. The choosing of the pictures for the book, adding captions to all the pictures, adding or removing certain information, correcting the spellings and grammar, checking the layout, etc, all had contributed to it. 

At the last count, I had almost 146,000 words committed to paper. My original manuscript, which excluded any picture, had spread over 265 pages on A4-sized paper. This would consist of the front material for the book (inner title page, contents pages, ISBN page, foreword and preface), the 12 chapters of the book, four appendices and a bibliography. Initially, I had hoped to include an index too but gave up the attempt after realising the amount of work that would go into compiling it. And I was working on a very tight deadline.

My preference would have been to adopt an A4-size format for the book but the chairman of the Bicentenary Committee, Abdul Rafique bin Abdul Karim, preferred a slightly smaller format. "It's more book-like," he tried to persuade me. In the end, we agreed to his suggestion. One of the consequences of his choice was that the book being smaller, the number of laid-out pages would increase. Also, adding in the pictures would bump up the number of pages even more. 

The problem with an historical book like Let the Aisles Proclaim was that there were going to be very few pictures from the long distant past. In fact, there were none from the 19th century that I could uncover. The earliest picture was provided by the local historian, Marcus Langdon, who gave me a picture of the third School Master, George Porter, who happened to be one of his ancestors. 

I then decided to see how many of the pictures from the old school magazines could be used but unfortunately, the first issue saw light only in 1909, and there weren't any pictures in them until possibly 1916. Moreover, many of the issues from the pre-WWII era, that is, between 1909 and 1941, had been lost or destroyed. Whatever school magazines from that period which I could still lay my hands on from the School Archives were also in a tremendously delicate state. Brown, brittle pages made it impossible to even photograph them. I gave up after a while. But yes, I still managed to retrieve many grainy pictures from those magazines.

The post-war magazines were no better. The pictures were still grainy right up till the 1980s. And it was still a wonder that post-WWII, the School Archives could not have a complete set of school magazines starting from the 1946 issue. I had to rely on friends and acquaintances to look at the 1964 and 1965 issues. The 1954 issue remained missing despite all efforts to trace a copy. Although pictures from the 1990s onwards were plentiful, frankly, I couldn't use any of them because they were not historical enough. Nevertheless, at the end, there are at least 180 pictures and illustrations, big and small, in the book.

Thus, with all the layout and pictures included, the book has now grown to a respectable 356 pages. There will only be a hardcover edition with an accompanying jacket in full colour. The book will be launched by the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Jamalullail on 21 October 2016, which is the 200th Anniversary of the School. I hear that the Bicentenary Committee has priced the book at RM80 each. 

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