A Passage Through Time - A Brief History of MPH
That a brief history of
MPH should start with a missionary may seem strange, but it sets the motion
to the train of events, that, eventually led to the establishment of MPH.
In 1807, Robert Morrison
was the first Protestant missionary sent by the London Missionary Society
to work in China. He translated the New Testament and Old Testament into
Chinese with the help of an eager young missionary, William Milne. After
being in Macau for two years, Milne chose to set up a printing press in
Malacca in 1815. Among his achievements in his first few years there were
to start up the Malacca Anglo-Chinese College and print the first Chinese
edition of the Old Testament.
In 1890, Captain W.G. Shellabear
arrived in Singapore to establish a printing press known as the Amelia
Bishop Press. The aim of the publishing venture was the printing of Christian
literature, and eventually, the setting and printing of secular work was
Amelia Bishop Press moved
to Raffles Place in 1893 and changed its name to the American Mission
Press. The Book Room was established to sell publications of the Mission
Press, school books and other supplies for the Mission’s schools.
Shellabear is recognised
as the founder of the Malaya Publishing House whose far sightedness in
bringing modern printing techniques to Singapore contributed to the growth
of the Southeast Asian publishing industry. Methodist Christians know
him as one of the founders and early leaders of Methodism in Malaya, and
as a translator of the Bible and many other religious texts into Malay.
Among old Malay classics reprinted by Shellabear include Sejarah Melayu
and Hikayat Abdullah.
In 1900, Rev. William T.
Cherry arrived and helped turn the foundations built by Shellabear into
a multi-faceted organisation - printing, publishing, bookselling, and
book distribution. The American Mission Press changed name to the Methodist
Publishing House in 1906, from which the acronym MPH was derived. It was
in 1908 that the Methodist Publishing House moved into its new building
at the corner of Stamford Road and Armenian Street. The company became
a public stock company in 1927 with an experienced Board of Directors
and the Publishing House was officially incorporated as Malaya Publishing
In 1928, Frank Cooper Sands
became the Managing Director of the new Malaya Publishing House. The company
was carrying on its business as ‘proprietors and publishers of and
dealers in newspapers, journals, magazines, books and other literary works
and undertakings.’ Frank Sands reopened the publishing house in 1945
after the Japanese occupation, which left most of the printing equipment
removed or destroyed, and the building on Stamford Road badly deteriorated.
In 1963 the Malaya Publishing
House changed its name to Malaysia Publishing House and began operating
as a wholesale book department. The retail side, under the name of Malaysian
Books Limited, had new bookstores opening at Selangor Mansion in Kuala
Lumpur, Beach Street in Penang and at Jalan Laksamana in Malacca. At Stamford
Road, the ground floor was turned to general bookselling.
1966 saw the Malaysia Publishing
House failing financially. The company was bought over and set up under
a consortium headed by Masagung, a sixth-generation Chinese Indonesian.
Under the new management, there were 4 subsidiaries: MPH Books, MPH Printers,
MPH Publications & Lian Tak MPH (producing exercise books & paper
products). Despite its problems in the 1960s, the company continued to
publish a range of old and new titles.
In 1972, Jack Chia Holdings
(Hong Kong) bought over MPH. As Jack Chia-MPH Limited, its various subsidiaries
were divided into the Books and Publications Division, the Consumer Products
Division, the Timber Division, the Hotel Division and the Services Division.
The Books and Publications Division took on new activities like publication
The company was publicly
listed and bought over in 1999 by Singaporean entrepreneur Simon Cheong
and changed its name to MPH Ltd in March 2000.
In 2002, the MPH brand
with its book retail and book distribution arm, MPH Bookstores and MPH
Distributors respectively, was bought over by a Malaysian company, Jalinan
Inspirasi Sdn Bhd. It is part of a large Malaysian conglomerate owned
by Malaysian businessman Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary. For the first
time, MPH becomes a wholly Malaysian-owned company.
Recently, the MPH Group
restarted its printing and publishing arm; MPH Group Printing and MPH
Group Publishing respectively. Jalinan Inspirasi is now known as the MPH
Group, which owns MPH Bookstores (Malaysia and Singapore), MPH Distributors
(Malaysia and Singapore), MPH Group Printing and MPH Group Publishing.
MPH Bookstores currently
has 27 outlets in Malaysia: 17 in the Klang Valley, 3 in Johor, 2 in Negeri
Sembilan, 1 each in Perak, Pulau Pinang , Melaka, Kedah and Sarawak operating under
the MPH Bookstores brand name.