Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Areca's Penang Heritage

I'm a sucker for coffee-table books about aspects of Malaysian history, but hadn't realised that Penang based publisher Areca Books had such a great catalogue, until I stumbled across some of their books in Silverfish yesterday.

A couple of their earlier titles are old friends. My copy of Streets of Georgetown, Penang by Khoo Salma Nasution is very tatty after guiding not only my own rambles round this fascinating city, but also after being lent to numerous overseas visitors who want to know exactly what they are looking at.

Penang Postcards Collection also by Khoo Salma Nasution, with Malcolm Wade is a much-thumbed treasure. (Though I have a minor niggle - the paper used doesn't seem to like this humid climate very much and the pages stick together.)

Yesterday I added to my collection Days Gone By : Growing Up in Penang by Christine Wu Ramsay, which Chong Kwee Kim described in the Star as the classic Chinese tale where :
A patriach makes a fortune in tin-mining and the next two generations squander it.
The patriach in question is the author's great-grandfather, Leong Fee a poor Hakka migrant from China who rose to become the owner of the famous Tambun Mines in Perak (at one time the world's greatest tin producer) and a Vice-Consul of China in Penang.

The book is worth buying for the old photos alone, culled from family albums, and I reckon that it is very reasonably priced at RM50.

And also, Penang Through Gilded Doors by Julia de Bierre which focuses on the wealth of heritage buildings on the island. James Bain Smith's photographs are nothing short of stunning. What I particularly love is that they allow access into interiors, from kampung houses to grand mansions, that I have never had the chance to see for myself (but have always longed to!). It's heartening to see the restoration work on these buildings, and how lovingly they are cared for.

Even if you know Penang very well, I'm sure this beautiful book will help you to see it with fresh eyes.

I will be slowly - as I can afford to - collecting the other titles in the series!


Yusuf Martin said...

These seem like excellent books, are there, I wonder, any concerning the Kinta Valley?

Amir said...

They got one riiiight here, Yusof.

bibliobibuli said...

and there is one too about the mandelings in perak which raman has (and i want too!)

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Ah, you're making me nostalgic for Penang! I've been following Su Nin's work for years, after we met back in 1988 over one of my short stories. I also met Julia and James in 2006 before I moved to Kuching; after a wonderful evening with them and a Swiss blogger friend, it turned out I knew Julia's parents! I first met her father with Hugh Watts, a legendary planter, back in 1985.

Areca Books even have one on the German/Penang/Malaysia connection, titled More Than Merchants. By all means buy their books -- excellent stuff!

Yusuf Martin said...

Many thanks Amir but I've had that one for a while now.

The mandelings book sounds interesting......

All this talk of heritage has prompted me to get in touch with the Perak Heritage Society to see what there is I can do.

So thank you Sharon

Anonymous said...

I left Penang 50 yrs ago, but make frequent trips back.
I have some of these books on Penang. Excellent reads.
I love Penang .. always will..