[Reader-list] 3rd posting:circlation of ...

Kamal Kumar Mishra kamal_bhu at rediffmail.com
Mon Apr 24 05:52:54 IST 2006

        circulation of the "literary-texts" in the Hindi-heartland;  
              The instrumental role of A. H. Wheeler & co.

Mr. Emili Edward Moreau, a Frenchman by origin, actually spent a large part of his life in England,came to Allahabad as a representative of,an English firm, Bird & Co.,Calcutta,in the post 1957 decades.Moreau,an adroit Bridge player,Socialized with the elite, but the one great passion which ruled his life was his love 
Of reading. 

This love for reading led him towards establishing varied contacts with the printing / publishing world in England. His long standing, influential relationship with Arthur Henry Wheeler of England began thus. Then for some reason Mr. Moreau decided to leave Allahabad. His one main hindrance to do so was his unwieldy personal collection of books, journals and magazines. This anthology, being of inestimable value to him,he had to decide to dispense with utmost care.  

One fine day, when Moreau reached Allahabad Railway station and observed the attitude of the long distance travelers, especially the English, he noticed how these passengers, enthusiastically approached the book-laden almirahs placed at one side of the platform. His eyes did not fail to notice, how they eagerly swarmed to buy these books.

After observing the extreme popularity of magazines and journals with the numerous passengers at the Allahabad Railway Station ,Moreau single- mindedly,decided to stay back and establish a bookstall business . Realizing the suitability and impact of using an English name for his firm, he approached Arthur Henry Wheeler to lend his name and goodwill as he was already a well –established figure in the realm of the English book trade. To this proposal, however his friend readily agreed. Thus was introduced the name ARTHUR HENERY WHEELER in the Indian network. 

When the bookstall business of Allahabad began in 1877, the work on the expansion of the Railway tracks had just commenced. Within a short period of time, WheelerProved to be a profitable venture not only in the major stations of Northern &Eastern provinces, but its business flourished till the farthest towns of the then undivided India. The head office of A. H. W. was established in Allahabad.

 For more then twenty years the stalls of Wheeler exhibited an over-whelming collection of foreign books and periodicals. The buyers were mostly English and English-speaking nationals at that time. Here one have to keep in mind the slow start of publishing industry in the Hindi-heartland which had been confined to the publication of the Text-Books for quite a long time and the publication of popular material like religious literature and Kissas started later only. By 1890’s the very essence of the wheeler bookstalls had begun changing 
as now the company had taken responsibilities for the advertisements of different companies of Indian Railways, besides selling books and journals in the various Indian vernaculars.

By 1890’s four more companies namely, Merchants Advertising Agent, Bookstall properties and contractors East India Colonial Agencies and Symonds had begun collaborating with A.H.W. On 31st January 1937, Moreau transferred his goodwill partnership in the name of Late Mr.Tinkari Kumar Banerjee, who has been serving the Wheeler Co. since 1899, and left for England .Two Englishmen Mr. Brand and Mr. Keeler remained as minor partners till 1944 when T.K.B. abandoned the partnership system.

Today out of more than 7000 Railway stations all over India Wheeler have their stalls on 267 stations. In the early years Wheelers had bookstalls over 600 railway stations with the option of opening a bookstall on any one of the stations they wished to, over the entire railway system! They also had a “ perpetual Renewal Clause” in their agreement with the railways. In other words, their agreement was to be renewed automatically at the end of one agreement period, if Wheelers wished to continue. Wheeler had its counterparts in south and northwest India as well: Higginbotham’s and Rai Sahib Gulab Singh & Sons.

 Famous film personality Khwaja Ahmad Abbas once said -“ wheelers provided the books, too. And I recall that wheelers offered a wide choice –ranging from Sexton Blake (the forerunner of Perry Mason and James Bond; as well as many of our jasoos of Hindi detective fictions) to works of Gandhi ji and Jawaharlal Nehru

Wheeler Co. use to charge publishers 36-40% on the total sell. Unsold material use to be send back first to the head-office and then to the publishers. For the production and circulation of the jasoosi fictions in the Hindi-heartland these very stalls proved to be instrumental. Not only the success or failure of a writer/publisher depended on his association with the Wheelers but most of the Hindi jasoosi fiction writers have taken the clues from the books of western writers of this genre, which they might have bought from these stalls only.
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