By the middle of the nineteenth century Bengali Children’s books had emerged as a niche segment in the larger business of the book trade. As in any competitive market, advertisements in varied forms and guises became the chief instrument for selling the wares. In his recently published volume on the popular spects of nineteenth century Bengali publications, Professor Gautam Bhadra observes that in the latter half of the century, the Bengali equivalents of captions like ‘preface’ or ‘introduction’ began to be replaced by words like ‘advertisement’ or ‘announcement’.

Text books printed endorsements by well-known educationists and advertised certified approvals - often from office-holders like the Director of Public Instruction - as a way of impressing the prospective buyer. Sometimes publishers also appended additional pages for inserting advertisements of available and forthcoming titles. Such advertisements provide us with important indicators of readerships and popularity of particular titles and become crucial records of evidence for books and their prices.

With the emergence of the child as a reader,for whom reading was not only the means towards an education and a livelihood but increasingly also a pastime and an entertainment, there developed a market for publishing pleasurable books for children. Following the market of children’s leisure reading, was the inevitable development of a larger market where children were seen as consumers. The juvenile periodicals at the turn of the century printed commercials advertising a variety of products related to or used by children such as toys, musical instruments, sports goods, syrups, hair oils and body lotions. Full page advertisements of Delkhosh essence or Kuntalin hair oil from the house of “H. Bose, Perfumer, Calcutta”, Bengal Chemical syrups (a firm founded by the leading scientist Prafulla Chandra Ray) or those of the Athletic Store selling “swadeshi [indigenously manufactured] football, bats and balls” were some of the commonest commercials appearing in children’s magazines.

Among the crowd of book advertisements that jostled for attention in the pages of juvenile publications in the early twentieth century, those for Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar’s volumes deserve special mention. An artist, illustrator and an author, Mitra Majumdar himself designed the advertisements of his Matrigranthabali titles. Also important were the neatly printed book advertisements from firms like U. Ray and Sons and Sisir Publishing House.

The link at the top will lead you to a series of advertisements that appeared in Bengali children’s books and were a strategic part of the niche trade in the nineteenth and early twentieth century period.

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