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Early printing from Africa in the British Library

Carol Holden


ALTHOUGH the date of the introduction of printing to Africa south of the Sahara ranges across the continent from the late eighteenth to late nineteenth century, its development usually followed a similar pattern and in many cases can be traced to the arrival of Christian missionaries. Indigenous literature was predominantly oral in nature, passed down from generation to generation in the form of folktales, myths, songs, riddles and proverbs. This rich tradition was largely ignored as a source of inspiration for printing since the earliest presses were invariably linked to one of two activities - the efforts at evangelism by missionaries in the field, or the endeavours of colonial governments to administer their colonies. Newspapers could fall into either of these categories, although, as printing developed, the independent newspaper press became a significant category in its own right.

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