Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXX No. 10, September 16-30, 2020

Heritage Watch

The Madras Literary Society Building

Nestled in one corner of the Directorate of Public Instructions campus on College Road is the Madras Literary Society. Its origins go back by 200 years, for it was meant to be the library of the College of Fort St George, which operated from this campus and gave the road its name. The MLS was the fount of intellectual thought for the entire Presidency and was more or less the equivalent of the Asiatic Societies of Bengal and Bombay.

In its initial years it was a part of the College building and then, after peregrinating it came back early in the 20th century to its old location but with a new building constructed specially for it. It was most likely designed by Henry Irwin, for many of its design features match those of the Connemara Public Library and the Museum Theatre.

Accorded Grade 1 status by the High Court of Madras, the building itself is in reasonable condition, though what privations it is likely to suffer owing to a high-rise construction happening alongside and which will cut it off from the road is not known. The structure is maintained by the PWD.

It is however the library which is by itself in a perilous condition. With a shoestring budget and a falling membership, its collection of rare books face a very dark future. The current pandemic has also meant fewer footfalls and renewals of memberships. A young band of diehard supporters are doing their best to keep it going but it needs more help. We request readers of Madras Musings to help it by way of donations. Those interested can contact

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