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MPH has been a household name in Singapore for so long that many people have forgotten what the initials stand for, and the history behind its name. Before MPH, it had been known as the Malaysia Publishing House, the Malaya Publishing House and prior to that, the Methodist Publishing House. Earlier still, it began as the Amelia Bishop Press in 1890, and three years later, became the American Mission Press. The MPH story covers more than 150 years of printing and publishing history, and retail bookselling.
Rev. Dr. W. G. Shellabear, a former army officer and later missionary, began the Methodist Mission Press in December 1890, to publish materials for the Methodist mission. The Press published tracts, dictionaries and translations. Located in a shophouse at the junction of Selegie Road and Sophia Road, the Press expanded rapidly, with staff increase, and publishing in 12 languages. The lack of space in the shophouse, and its distance from the business city centre, resulted in the move to a rented, large upper room in the back alley of 28 Raffles Place in 1893. Until this time, the business had been known as the Amelia Bishop Press (named after a Boston financial donor), and it was felt that the name did not link clearly enough with the mission., and a name change made it the American Mission Press. The next name change in 1906 made it the Methodist Publishing House. Then, in April 1908, the organisation moved to a new 3-storey building, in red brick and plaster, situated at the junction of Armenian Street and Stamford Road. The new premises included a retail book-store with their printing department. Its close proximity to so many schools, led to an increase in book sales. The press was so commercially successful that its original role solely for the missions was overshadowed, and the Publishing House became public stock company. It was thus sold off and incorporated on 31 December 1927, as Malaya Publishing House Limited. The new MPH bought the old one.
There was great activity in wholesale and retail bookselling, and of course plenty of work for the printing department, which was now printing books of education and other general knowledge. Between 1828 - 1947, with Managing Director Frank Cooper Sands, at the helm, MPH continued as prosperous and profitable concern.
The formation of Malaysia on 17 September 1963, made Malaya Publishing House change its name to Malaysia Publishing House. The organisation went through various name changes, but to the staff and the general public it had long been better known simply as "MPH". In 1968, it became official, the registered name of the company changed to MPH Limited. The organisation went through financial difficulties in the early 1970s, but was rescued by Jack Chia Holdings, and in 1972, the name of the parent company was changed to Jack Chia-MPH, which also made Jack Chia Chairman and Managing Director of MPH. The MPH with its unique architectural exterior, remains a prominent landmark in Singapore, to this day.
Vernon Cornelius Takahama
Hutton, P. (1978). Make what I can sell: The story of Jack Chia-MPH (pp. 15-92, 96, 97). Singapore: Jack Chia-MPH.
(Call no.: R 388.7610705095957 HUT)
Sng, B. E. K. (1993). In His good time: The story of the church in Singapore, 1819-1978 (pp. 116 -120). Singapore: Graduates' Christian Fellowship.
(Call no.: RSING 280.4095957 SNG)
Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1996). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 363). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: SING 915.957 EDW)
The information in this article is valid as at 2001 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be
an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.