Saturday, October 18, 2014



Assalaamu'alaikum Warahmatullaahi Wabarakaatuh



This is one of the many articles that have been written on the Langkawi Book Village in this blog and the local media from time to time. Although the activity in this scenic location, with its meandering stream flowing down a waterfall, surrounded by virgin fauna and flora, along a man-built cement steps, Tangga Mahsuri Seribu Kenangan (The Mahsuri Steps of a Thousand Memories) up the hill called Gunung Raya (Great  Mountain) which is the tallest peak in the legendary group of islands of Langkawi, the book village in Langkawi is still registered among the ? book villages and towns in the northern hemisphere particularly Europe and the United States and Western Europe. Besides the Korean Book Village which was recently admitted and the earlier formed specialized book town for children in ? Jalan the Malaysian Book Village is the only one in Asia and the Muslim World. The recent inclusion of the ? Book Town was made during the Conference of Book Villages and Towns held in Langkawi in ??? It was with strong recommendation from Malaysia who was the host member.


Besides being inactive after a grand launching by the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Dr. Mahathir in _____________ and during the writer's term as the Chief Minister of the State of Kedah in which state the district of Langkawi is situated, the Langkawi Book Village remains on the register of members as the Founder of the First Book Village in the World in the town of Hay-on-Wye still remembers that the writer was the first to suggest the formation of a Book Village of Book Town Foundation when there were only two known book villages at the time the other one being in the town of Redu in Belgium. The Redu book Village was founded by Noel Ansolet who discovered and was inspired by the Hay-on-Wye Book Village when he transited on his way to Scotland to visit his laws after a military tour of the soldiers of the Second World War.   


When I first visited Hay-on-Wye it was not the books which was my focus, although book collecting and reading is my hobby, but to meet the man who weaved the ropes for capital punishment as Malaysian prison than had 36 inmates convicted with death sentences but had insufficient ropes to fulfill the task. It so happened that the appointment was in Hay-on-Wye.


Among the most number of books I read are those on Islam, leadership, organization, power, economics and finance, philosophy, biographies and history. Besides the many books written on our Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and the 30 years rule of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, I was also attracted to Napoleon Bonaparte and his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo. 


Napoleon invaded Egypt in July 1798, arriving in Alexandria on July 2 and moving on to Cairo on July 22. In a bid to placate both the Egyptian population and the Ottoman Empire, Napoleon gave a speech in Alexandria in which he proclaimed his respect for Islam and the Sultan:

People of Egypt, you will be told that I have come to destroy your religion; do not believe it! Answer that I have come to restore your tights and punish the usurpers, and that, more than the Mamluks, I respect God, his Prophet and the Koran... Is it not we who have been through the centuries the friends of the Sultan?'

Later, in Al Azhar Napoleon was recorded to have said:

'I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Qur'an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness,' Quoted in Christian Cherfils, 'Bonaparte et Islam,' Pedona Ed., Paris, France, 1914 pp. 105.

The Battle of Waterloo was fought about one year after Napoleon's Egyptian tour, on Sunday, 18 June, 1815.

The British and the Prussians formed the most unlikely alliance against the French under Napoleon. The British were led by the Duke of Wellington and Prussia was led by Gebhard von Blucher

Napoleon died in exile in St. Helena in 1821.


Having scrutinized the detail of the war I suspected that the unlikely alliance between Britain and Prussia was made possible by the fear of Islam, by the two Christian powers of differing orientations, made the cooperation possible.

As such I decided to visit the battle ground of Waterloo.

While flying on the plane to Brussels I read in the airline brochure of the existence of a Book Village in Redu, Belgium which is less than an hour distance from the battle-ground of Waterloo.  This was the second time I came across any news of a Book Village or a Book Town. The first incident has been described in my blog entry on 27th May, 2014 entitled TAWARAN RASUAH BOTAK CHIN.

After walking around the battle ground and having bought books on the battle and on Napoleon I took a taxi to Redu and met the founder of the Redu Book Village, Noel Anselot who was the founder of the second Book Village in the world. The first one, you might remember, being in Hay-On-Wye on the border of England and Wales and it was founded by Richard Booth. 

As a cabinet minister representing the Parliamentary Constituency of Jerlun-Langkawi, and a lover of books, I decided that a book village should be established in Malaysia and possibly in Langkawi.

Below is a letter and a proposal submitted by the secretary of the World Book Village Federation, Mr. Noel Anselot of Redu Book Village in Redu, Belgium.


For the attention of Mr. Sanusi Junid
Minister of Agriculture
Promoter of The First Book Village In South East Asia

Dear Mr. Sanusi Junid

This is the promised memorandum on the future Book-Village in Malaysia. It is the result of my reflections after visiting your delightful and thriving land, especially, the pearl of its touristic crown in Langkawi.

I hope this will be useful as a guideline and a pointer to past successes and mistakes.

Please keep me fully posted on developments.

We earnestly hope, Joan and I, to return, perhaps already next year, to see the progress made.

With very kind and grateful regards,

Noel Anselot 16th April 1994.


The first properly-named book-town was created in the United Kingdom over 30 years ago.

It was the idea of a young Oxford University graduate. Richard BOOTH was born in a small market-town, by name of Hay-on-Wye, in the foothills of the Black Mountain, on the banks of the river Wye, in Wales.

Hay-on-Wye is a small agglomeration with a population of just over 1300 inhabitants.

When Richard Booth decided to leave London where he had started an antiques shop, to return to Hay, the village was declining fast economically and demographically. Yet it possessed some real assets; the famous salmon river, the picturesqueness of the townlet, the existence of an impressive Norman Castle, the beauty of the surrounding countryside, the availability of many empty houses.

Booth’s great idea was to secure several vacant premises at very low cost and to transform them into popular second-hand, low-price, bookshops. This he did with the help of some of the local young people. Gifted with a keen sense of publicity, Booth ensured that his initiative became widely known. And he started drawing the crowds to his distant village.

A few years later, he commanded the attention of the British and international media by proclaiming the Unilateral Independence of Hay-on-Wye from the United Kingdom, crowning himself “king” in the process.

He published a newspaper, printed his own postage stamps, appointed his ambassadors all over the world and, in the course of months and years of renewed publicity stunts, finally put HAY-ON-WYE firmly on the map.

Today, this little Welsh community has found a new life; hundreds of thousands of people visit it year after year. Many shops are prospering in what it had become an economic desert. There are bookshops of course (some 20 of them with stocks in excess of 3 million books), but may other businesses as well.

So the idea was clear: revive the economy through large-scale book sales at low prices.

14 years ago, the first BOOK-VILLAGE was started on the European Continent. This was organized in a small village, in the forest of Ardennes in the south of Belgium.

REDU is a small community of some 400 inhabitants. The local people, for the last thousand years, had made a living out of small agricultural holdings and forestry work. But after the last world war, the economy had also started declining fast. In 1980, the village had only one small shop left, most of the inhabitants were old-age pensioners, the young people looking for work in the industrial towns.

I had met Richard Booth in Hay, had bought large quantities of books from him and he had brought them to Redu himself. We had become friends; we shared a

This happened for basically the same reasons and with the same success it had in Wales.

The location was naturally attractive, the scenery beautiful, premises were available at low rents, there were local tax incentives and the attention of national and international newspapers, magazines, radio and tv networks was soon harnessed to serve the idea of “a capital of books in the middle of the woods”.

Today Redu, the first book-village on the continent of Europe knows a success equal to that of Hay-on-Wye and welcomes over 200,000 visitors a year. Prosperity has returned, employment has been created and the Forest of Ardennes has become a powerful cultural magnet as well as an abode of natural scenic beauty.

In the course of the last few years, Hay-on-Wye and Redu have co-sponsored 2 Book-Villages in France, 1 in Netherlands and 1 in Switzerland.

Books have thus ensured the resuscitation of many small communities.

This is due no doubt to many reasons. But the main one, obviously, is the natural and universal appeal exercised by books.

There are, all over the world, MORE AND MORE BOOKS today. Not everybody realizes yet that 95% of all the books produced over the 550 years that have elapsed since the invention of printing by Gutenberg, have in fact been printed in the last 35 YEARS on our modern presses. For example, France and Belgium alone, in 1990, published 23,000 new titles!

Contrary to commonly received opinion, people today read MORE than ever before, not less. But they read differently. They read paperbacks, they read digests, they read magazines, the read Comic-strips, they read SECOND-HAND BOOKS.

This will increasingly so, partly because the price of new books is becoming more and more expensive and therefore increasingly out of reach of the majority of people, but also because the NEED for books is getting greater.


  • of new ideas
  • of education
  • of culture
  • of knowledge and research
  •  of reference
  •  of pleasure and recreation

More and more good books are becoming available all the time.

First because it is obvious that the NEW BOOK OF TODAY becomes ipso facto the SECOND-HAND BOOK OF TOMORROW.

Secondly because the MOVEMENTS OF BOOKS across the world has enormously accelerated during the last few years.

In the early 19 century, for example, tens of millions of scholarly books crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific, bound for the Universities, Colleges, Religious Institutions, Scientific establishments of all types. But times change, fashions also. Many learned bodies review the contents of their libraries, discard some books to buy new ones. There is thus a worldwide movement of books today. It is for instance well-known that the Japanese Universities are buying universally book-treasures from Europe and the United States for their collections.

As professors come and go, the American Universities change their centers of interest and therefore, buy and discard simultaneously.

This movement will amplify in the coming years.

Whilst this is happening everywhere, some parallel phenomena are recorded.

For example the instinctive need of mankind for the rediscovery of nature, for quiet, peace and natural beauty. More and more people are drawn to the tranquility of the country.

This of course, is the corollary of the increasing stress experienced in the large cities, with the noise, the pollution, the throb of traffic. It is becoming increasingly difficult to shop in the large towns. This has led to the creation of large suburban shopping centers and the exodus of many businesses towards the periphery of the cities.

Traditionally and, in Europe for many centuries, second-hand booksellers and antiquarians had their shops in town. Today it is becoming increasingly difficult to visit them for people harassed by the parking problems and the stress of driving in heavy traffic.

That is another major reason for the success of the book-villages where shopping and browsing remains a pleasure.


What has been said previously shows that it is important, in a given region, TO BE FIRST. There can only be ONE first and on that project will concentrate the attention of the media and of the public at large.

The effect of NOVELTY, of CURIOUSITY must be carefully cultivated.

Not all the BOOK-VILLAGES are absolutely identical. But they share many common denominators and, where they differ, they must use the difference to their advantage.

It is also evident that the characteristics will vary between the geographical areas, reflecting the idiosyncrasies of each.

In Western Europe, for instance, which is in terms of world communications, a small, compact area, it seems that booktowns should be separated by a distance of roughly 1,000 kilometers to cater for different zones of clientele.

Basically in Europe we concentrate a lot on what we call “ONE DAY TOURISM”, that is on the areas of populations likely to spend a day in a given location and returning home at night.

But this is not always true. For instance, Hay-on-Wye has no convenient means of communications nearby; no motorways, no railway station for example. But nevertheless people crowd in from all parts of the world as well as from the various regions of Great Britain.


  1. A small size (the population varies from 450 to ca 1300 inh.
  2. Natural scenic beauty: Hay-on-Wye: the Black Mountains and Wye river. Redu: The Forest of Ardennes. Montolieu, France; The Montagne Noire and the Vineyard of Cabardes. Becherel: the beauty of Britanny, St Pierre De Clages: the Swiss ALPS and Rhone vineyards. Bredevoort: The charm of 17th C. country townlet in open country. Close to Rhineland Westphalia 
  3. Local and regional government support
  4. A large potential clientele in a 250 km radius
  5.  Increasingly specialized booksellers capable of satisfying collectors.

Redu, Montolieu, Bredevort & St. Pierre de Clages are served by good motorways facilitating access. Montolieu perched on a rocky hilltop has a shortage of parking space.

Hay-on-Wye and Redu enjoy, after all these years, the benefit of massive media coverage, the result of their first established image.

Experience shows that it is important for A Book-Village to establish a reputation based on the following:

  1. Large choice of books and prints with good stock renewal;
  2. An increasing degree or real specialization and professional competence in the bookshops. Choice of languages;
  3.  Regular opening hours;
  4. Presence of related crafts and trade (engravers, paper-manufactures, bookbinders, gilders, printers, frame-makers etc.);
  5. Sufficient catering facilities at reasonable prices;
  6. A good system of road-signs on all roads leading to the Village;
  7. Presence of brochures describing the village in key tourist centers;
  8. A competent system of liaison with the media.


After spending three weeks visiting the country, my reflections take into account several aspects;

A.       General impression of someone with no previous knowledge of the country.

I am very impressed with the obvious drive shown by the leaders and reflected by the nation. Compared with the old continent of Europe, one feels the throb of a young country busy creating its own future, with a vision often absent in the world.

One also gets the impression that financial resources are substantial and therefore that projects which would not be easily contemplated elsewhere could be considered in Malaysia.

We were most impressed with the work accomplished on the road network, in the designing and landscaping of town developments, in the standard of design and operation of the national airline and airports, on the research/cum recreational establishments of the Ministry of Agriculture which we were privileged to visit; the Agricultural Park near Kuala Lumpur, the Park near Kuantan, the Research stations at Tanah Rata, the Park near Sekayu (Terengganu), the Fisheries Research establishment on Lake Kenyir, the Turtle Sanctuary in Rantau Abang, the Ministry Park and Research center near Kuantan… Everywhere we found a very high degree of professionalism and a great pride in the work achieved. This is rich in promise for the country.

I was personally very interested in the exchanges we had with the various members of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in Kuala Lumpur during our two meetings and I have read with great admiration the short stories published collectively by some of the leading Malay writers (including Mr Abdullah Hussain) and translated in French by the Swiss publishers. Such an elite should be of a very great help in starting a Book-Community in Malaysia. Malaysia seems a natural cultural leader in the regional South East Asian context.

B.        The reading public and clientele of a Malaysian Book-Village

I have not been able to assess the potential of Malaysia itself. I do not know the figures for readership in the country. It would be interesting maybe to ask Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, or maybe one or other of the universities, or both, to make a survey of this potential:

Ø  Who?
Ø  Where would they come from?
Ø  What distances?
Ø  What languages in what proportion?
Ø  Main subject of interest?

It would be of particular interest to survey the student population of Universities, Colleges, Technical School, Secondary schools.

This should of course cover the whole Malaysia, but it would be interesting to assess the potential of the nearest neighboring countries (Singapore, Indonesia especially Bandung and Jakarta, Thailand).

But the character of the first South East Asian Book-Village will normally ensure that motivated visitors will come from much farther afield.

It seems likely that its appeal will extend to the regions which are already supplying now an important flow of tourists. This of course would include visitors from Japan, from Australia and from Europe (particularly, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands).

It is important to define the nature and the location of the clientele so as to ensure the proper orientation of the public relations and general publicity campaign.

The location of the clientele will also have a direct bearing on the means of the communications.

Most of the visitors of the European book-towns have an easy access by car, often on the basis, as has been said, of a day visit.

C.        The location of the first East Asian Book-Village

As a result of the exploratory work carried out by Mr Sanusi Junid, Minister of Agriculture of Malaysia and the contacts established by him, Malaysia looks today as if it will be the promoter of this first East Asian Book-Village.

There are many reasons why this should be so.

The first is the leading role that this country is assuming in the South East, politically, economically, culturally & scientifically. It is evident that Malaysia dominates the scene in the geographical area and that its leaders exercise a great influence in all the South East Asian countries.

Another reason is the natural beauty offered by the country & the remarkable effort of conservation which is shown by the authorities for the natural environment.

Another factor is weather which is fair for most of the year.

Yet another is the exceptional effort made in the construction of major touristic infrastructure and in a first class national network of communications, by road, rail, water and air.

All this puts Malaysia in a league apart from the neighboring countries. It should be emphasized in the promotion of the projected Book-Village, just like it is in the promotion of other attractive facets of the country, not forgetting the richness represented by its multicultural nature apparent, among other things, in the extremely varied form of its cuisine and gastronomic traditions.

D.       Where should the first Book-Village be implemented in Malaysia?

The basic criteria must be similar to those prevailing in the existing villages in other parts of the world:

  1. The place chosen must be naturally attractive;
  2.  It must be small, i.e. a place where the shops can be concentrated within a limited periphery;
  3. It must offer quiet and a relaxed atmosphere;
  4. Yet is must command and important Clientele;
  5. It must offer premises and facilities to the potential booksellers and craftspeople at reasonable cost;
  6. It must enjoy good communications.

The choice seems to have been made of the main island of the Archipelago of Langkawi.

And there are indeed many factors to support that choice.

  1. The natural beauty of the region.
  2. The extraordinary touristic boom known by Langkawi world-wide.
  3. The extreme high quality of the infrastructure on the main island; hotel and catering equipment, road network, air service and modern airport, recreational equipment (with two golf courses and more to come).
  4. The perfect blend of tradition and modernism offered by the island.
  5. The wealth of flowers everywhere.
  6. The existence of superb beaches.
  7. The possibilities offered by the surrounding islands (close: Pulau Singa Besar, Pulau Tiloi or further afield: Penang etc.)
  8. The proximity of the Thai border for possible excursions.
  9. The interest shown in the region by the government of Malaysia and in particular by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture.
  10. The number of visitors each year, expected to reach 2 million in 1994.

E.        The choice of Langkawi

What has been said above shows that Langkawi offers many advantages.

But it must noted it is situated on an island and can only be reached directly by air or by ferry from Kuala Perlis.

Kuala Perlis is situated about 500km from Kuala Lumpur and 875 from Singapore. This access has of course been rendered much easier via the motorway dorsal (North South Highway).

This geographical location is somewhat similar to that of Hay-on-Wye in the United Kingdom, in terms of distances but with much faster ways of communication.

The policy will therefore have to be similar to the one pursued in Hay to attract people from afar, relying on one-day visits.

Pulau Langkawi enjoys the facilities and attraction of the Tax-Free Status and of a modern airport with many regular flights, not only to Kuala Lumpur and other destinations in Malaysia but increasingly to foreign cities as well; it has increasing and regular charter traffic to many destinations including western Europe.

The topography of the island is varied and offers a great choice of scenery, virgin forest, natural caves for exploration, spectacular waterfalls, good fishing grounds, exceptional sports facilities in the shape of good golf courses etc. this is very important as it offers compounded attractions to booklovers and their families.

The locations offered for the establishment of the future book-village have distinct characteristics: 

1.   Site A: Near hotel Lima Beach Resort, a vast hotelier complex aiming at a moderately priced clientele. It is close to the airport, on flat grounds, of easy access. But it will probably tend to be at the center of a very busy and tripperish area, noisier and normally more attractive to idle strollers than to book collectors and amateurs of quiet browsing. It might become drowned in a busy area and thus loose its necessary strong personality. An advantage is the existence of facilities: water supply, electricity etc.

2.      Site B: The place is a clearing of the forest, astride a fast-flowing and picturesque small stream, a few hundred meters from an emerging new hotel complex, the Langkawi Holiday Villa on the road to Pantai Tengah. A rustic path-way now leads from the metalled-road to the site; close to it, the Ministry of Agriculture has built a new Horticultural station, itself an attraction of a quiet natural character, fitting well with the tranquility required by a book-village.

Site B is secluded but at a reasonable distance from the main area and airport; some 10 minutes by car. The relief of the land and the existence of the river is rich in possibilities for corollary activities; trades and crafts connected with the printed word. It has great natural beauty. There would be no parking problems and the land lends itself to a harmonious architectural project.

The negative aspect: Absence at present of some facilities; mainly electricity and telephone, sewerage etc. This could no doubt be easily remedied in view of the proximity of the “Pertanian” Green House station.

A book-village must also be a “living” place. One should therefore envisage the future project as one where residential facilities would be available to booksellers and associated craftsmen and tradesmen.

The access to the site would have to be improved, without affecting the bucolic nature of the environment. A slight widening and improved surfacing of the existing pathway would probably suffice. Parking areas would also have to be provided nearby.

3.      Site C: This site lies on one of the islands (Pulau Tuba) of the archipelago.

It has romantic appeal.

It inscribes itself in a touristic, educational ensemble incorporating Pulau Tiloi (Flowers Island) and Pulau Singa (Big Lion Island) and would therefore benefit from the promotion of the ensemble.

The negative aspects are however important.

For a number of people, the fact that it would mean an additional boat trip might be a brake.

Also it would blend the book-village concept in a global “tourist” package, thus removing the uniqueness characteristics of the bok-villages. This would dilute the appeal and the impact of the project.

The infrastructure problems would be more important than in the other two sites.

It seems likely that it would be also more difficult to convince the bookselling community to “live” there.

All things considered, it seems that the most promising site, if the project of the Malaysian book-village is realized in Langkawi, would be site B.

F.         Problems to be solved and Orientation to be given

A book-town to be successful requires 5 main ingredients. Apart from the physical existence of a “village” (here to be built) they are: a community of booksellers and related artisans, a large amount of book constantly renewed and adapted to the potential buyers, a market of book buyers, an important and permanent public relations and promotional campaign.

F.2. Where and how to recruit the booksellers and craftspeople?

There is of course no fixed recipe. But all potential participants must be: keen on books, knowledgeable, patient (success takes time) and be also commercially competent (art to buy well, art to sell well, art to make themselves known individually); they must also have a minimum of capital to start with. They may come from the academic world, they maybe early retired professionals, they maybe people with an existing business looking for a diversification or, more likely, for more congenial or more friendly natural surroundings. Experience shows that, geographically, they may come from many places; one could imagine Langkawi appealing to somebody from Singapore, or Indonesia, or Holland, or Australia as well as from different parts of Malaysia. The members of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and the Universities could help. Editorial coverage in the Malaysian press and on radio and television might encourage vocations. The publications of the tourist authorities as well as the on board magazines of Malaysian Airlines might be used to the same effect as well as the media abroad.

The potential candidates will have to be encouraged by incentives. These will have to be suited to local circumstances. One of the main incentives would be the availability of accommodation and commercial premises at attractive conditions.

F.3. The village must build a reputation far afield for the large and varied stock of books it offers

In the case of Malaysia, it must be borne in mind that the country is already a natural intellectual leader in a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-language region. Stocks would therefore have to include books and documents in a variety of languages: Malay of course, but also Chinese, Japanese, Hindi and Urdu, but also English, with some literature in German and Dutch.

Buying books is done in many ways. Ultimately it will be seen that a book—village is not only a place where people come and buy books, but also one where people come and sell books.

Initially, it will be necessary for booksellers to advertise their willingness to buy whole libraries or lots of books.

In Europe, it is found that a useful contact is made with notaries and solicitors looking after the disposal of assets when people die. There are also public auctions where books are sold. Another important source is the existing libraries of Universities, Colleges and many other establishments, including Religious congregations. It is frequent that these libraries carry duplicates, triplicates or books in which they are not interested anymore.

A systematic and permanent contact should be made and maintained with such establishments, not only in Malaysia but with the institutions of neighboring countries. It seems, for instance, that the Bandung University has a wide range of books in Dutch and in English.

Finally, book purchases can be made through the trade, in Europe and on the other continents. Large supplies could be secured through various sources i.a. in the United States.

The Success of Langkawi as a Major Book-Village will depend to a very large extent on the vast quantity of books to be found there.

The target is to make the visit a must for millions of book-lovers and collectors.

F.4. These collectors, these book-lovers will have to be found and contacted whenever they are. We have dealt with the problem under F.3. above.

F.5. This will be the object of a permanent public relations and publicity exercise. Somebody with first class contacts in the media world, at home and abroad, will have to take charge of this responsibility.

He or she will have to feed newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations with regular bits of information on what is happening in the South East Asian Book-Village. Events will have to be encouraged and promoted. All the publications of the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board will have to carry the message that this new major cultural high spot exists and is a muat for book-lovers. The same could be done in the on board magazines of Malaysian Airlines. All diplomatic posts abroad, all tourism offices should be supplied with suitable posters and ad hoc literature. And one should remember that this is not a flash in the pan publicity effort, but a long term, permanent programme.

G.       The Specific Nature of the Langkawi “Book-Kampung”

It is difficult to foresee how fast and how widely the project will develop. How many booksellers will settle in the new Book Community.

I would suggest that simple numbers is not the important thing. Rather, it is the quality.

Some subjects are known to be “winners” the world over.

I will mention a few:

  • Architecture – Archeology
  • Arts, Applied Arts, Crafts and Techniques
  • Bibliography, Bibliophily
  • Botany, Art of the Garden, Flower Arrangement
  • Cartography, Ancient Maps, Ancient Atlases
  • Esoterism, Hermetism
  • Gastronomy, History of Food, Art of Cooking
  • History (local, regional, national, diplomatic, economic etc)
  • History of Ideas, Philosophy, History of Religions
  • Juvenilia, Old and New Children’s Books
  • Medicine, Pharmacy, (History of, ancient book on-)
  • Militaria (Military science and history)
  • Naval Science (History, Techniques etc)
  • Rare Books (ancient, limited editions, private press printing, great illustrated and plate books)
  • Rare Prints (etchings, lithography etc.)
  • Sciences (Ancient sciences, botany, zoology, mineralogy, geology, physics, ancient chemistry and alchemistry, ichthyology, entomology, mathematics, astronomy etc.
  • Travel Books
  • Theatre
  • Literature in all its forms is of course a universal subject
  • Regional and Local History and Topography are also universal bestsellers
  • There is also a universal interest in Philately and Numismatic

Specialist in these subjects should be encouraged. There would of course be an important place for a specialist in Oriental Arts, especially knowledgeable in “objects d’art” and “furniture”.

I would also add that if, as seems desirable, site B is selected, corollary projects should be planned and encouraged.

For example, the proximity of a clear water stream coming down from the hills should generate the establishment of:

  1. a paper mill manufacturing paper in the tradition of old;
  2. an establishment specializing in the preparation of rare high quality leather for book-binding; morocco, chagrine (goat leather), why not lizard and crocodile and other rare leathers;
  3. a calligrapher;
  4. an engraver and lithographer;
  5. a printing using the old manual techniques;
  6. a bookbinder;
  7. a gilder;
  8. a paper-restorer;
  9. a maker of frames for maps and pictures;
  10. a manufacturer of hand-made end-paper etc.

This very special location of the Malaysian Book-Village, in the island of Langkawi implies a relatively captive clientele.

It is, I understand, estimated that some 2 million people will visit Langkawi in 1994.

One must make sure that a sizeable proportion of these visitors are tempted to pay at least a call on the Book-Kampung.

It will therefore be absolutely essential to devise and install a very complete system of sign-posting on all the roads of the island and, especially on those leading directly to the village. There must general signs announcing the locality and directional signs at appropriate turnings.

It has been found that such sign-posting, which should be installed at strategic points on the North-South Motorways, acts as a very effective magnet on tourist. Some 150 such signs have been erected in a 50 km radius round Redu.

H.       What Specific Help Can We Give the New Book-Village

Twelve thousand kilometers away, direct assistance is not easy.

But we can back up the project in several ways;

First, we can make it known. In every communication made by and for the existing book-villages, we can announce the creation of the Langkawi Book Venture.

We can circulate all over Europe and distribute in the existing villages, the literature and posters which will be produce by the Malaysian promoters.

We can also encourage people to visit Malaysia and, to some extent, suggest a participation. This might take various forms. It is conceivable that in Holland, for instance, or in England, one might find somebody interested in setting up a book business in the lovely scenery and in the sunshine of Pulau Langkawi.

Another way to help is to provide a base, or a relay, for the procurement of books. We have access to large quantities of books in the United States, in Europe and in Canada.

We could no doubt develop a network in the newly liberated countries of Central Europe where libraries have, for centuries, accumulated great wealth in books of all kind and printed magnificent illustrated ones.

We know that some of our best craftsmen are very interested in assisting future colleagues in Langkawi, not only with sound advice, but with practical help. M. Colpin, for example, in Redu the expert paper-manufacturer in the 18th century manner, has informed me that he could be happy and honoured to participate in training interested parties.

Finally, we would certainly be interested to open markets at this end for good books issuing from South Eastern and Eastern Asia. There is an existing demand for good arts books especially those dealing with ancient furniture, cloth weaving, tapestry and object d’art.

It is likely that the other ways to co-operate will emerge in time. And the coming into existence of the Langkawi project will enlarge the scope of mutual help through the International Book-Village Association which is now being prepared.

With all my best wishes and the promise to assist in any way in my power.

Noel Anselot
Redu Village – Livre Belgium
16th April 1994.

1 comment:

720921 said...

Dear Tan Sri,

I enjoyed reading the post. There are not many politicians who are bibliophiles (I remember reading somewhere that you have something like 10,000 books in your private collection) and seriously interested with promoting reading culture in Malaysia.

If you do not mind, allow me to share some thoughts on this matter. I am also a serious book lover (and collector) and have visited Hay On Wye and am due to visit Redu in two weeks time. In the past I had visited the Langkawi Book Village.

I believe the Langkawi Book Village is not active anymore. That is very unfortunate. I do think there is potential for a book village in Malaysia but it should be managed by those who are passionate about books and know the business well via a PPP model.

The best second-hand bookshop in Malaysia is run by a non-Malaysian in Penang. The best second hand book shop in Thailand and possibly in ASEAN is run by a non-Thai in Chiang Mai. Bottom line is that we need to get the right person immaterial of the nationality to run these sort of projects. Our preoccupation in insisting that only Malaysians should manage our national projects has been the reason why so many of our national projects failed or at least did not success as well as it could have.

Also as a commercial concern (as with Hay on Wye etc), Government's role should be limited to providing support (eg marketing, subsidies etc) without direct involvement in the running of the project.

As a Malaysian and an ardent book lover I do sincerely hope we can revive the Langkawi Book Village project and get it going as soon as possible.

Thanks and Selamat Berbuaka Puasa.