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After the British occupation of the lower Myanmar by the Second Anglo-Burmese war, the Bernard Free Library appeared.

It was one of the oldest buildings with English names given by the British rulers. The Bernard Free Library was located in the compound of the Rangoon Government High School (now BENS No. 1, Lathar Township) at the corner of Commissioner Road (now Bogyoke Aung San Rd.) and Shwe Dagon Pagoda Road.

It was a small wooden building with a pointed roof, inaugurated by Chief Commissioner Sir Charles Bernard and Chairman of the Burma Education Syndicate Sir John Jardine on 21st February, 1883. On its opening day Sir John Jardine who was also Jus­tice of the lower Myanmar donated his own old books to the library.

Pali Professor Childa had studied the literary work of Buddhist pali literature (scripture) while he carried out is government duties ‘in Sri Lanka. When he went back to England, he com­piled the first Pali-English Dictionary. He donated his newly compiled dictionar­ies to the library.

Both European literature and Oriental literature had been collected and accept­ed for loan at the Bernard Free Library.

In the European liter­ature section included various kinds of book published 230 to 300 years ago, English language mag­azines published 100 years ago, journal published by the London Asia Society, Asian Journal, published at Calcutta, old Indian Knowl edge Journals published at Bombay, Oriental Histor­ical Journal, published in French language at Saigon and Myanmar-Malayu-Tha dictionary published at India in 1812.

In The oriental literature section the printed ver­sion (qy & )and the version of Manu script found in palm-leaves (Goy) were separately collected, a collection of printed books were antiquated works of literature published before 1885 A.D. (1247 ME), and Myanmar Pyazats (dramas) published between 1768 and 1898.

There were palm-leef manuscript , Prabide and hand written scripts. There were four kinds of lan­guage, like Pali, Myanmar, Mon and Karen. Since its inception the Bernard Free Library urged Pali Profes­sor Ford Shamar to go to various parts of the coun­try and make enquiries the condition of palm-leaf manuscript, Parabide and hand written script he found.

He submitted a report about their, prevalent condition. He collected all the policies of manuscript available by donating, copying and buying as far as he could. He supervised Myanmar and Mon nation­als to copy palm-leaf and hand written manuscripts and Parabide and collectec them.

He inscribed the “Ber­nard-Policy” on the pages of the books of poem, Pyo and history. The Europe­an language books were catalogued with year of publication, and palm-leaf manuscript, Parabide and hand written Manu script of pali, Myanmar, Mon anc Karen Languages might be found at the Bernard Free Library.

The Bernard Free Library was really a people library which allowed every one t( study and read the books a free of charge.

In those days “for those who could not find any book he wanted to read, go to the Bernard Free Library” as our saying goes according to scholars.

The British Government had aided the Bernard Free Library throughout the years of its existence. Since its in caption the Govern­ment Education Syndicate had administered the library, and since 1920 the nine-membered executive committee had continued to administer it.

Sir Charles Bernard, Sir John Jardine, Prof. Childa, i U Po Hmyin and U Myo donated books abundantly to the library.

The Bernard Free Li­brary received some of the palm-leaf manuscripts and Parabide from the King Thibaw Library, the British Government entrusted Mr. Jame Kolaback with the duty of looking after the Shwe Nandaw Pitakat Teik (the King Thibaw Library). “Soon after taking respon­sibility he divided the book list into three portions -one for the Bernard Free Library, one for the India Library in London and one for the King of Siam and sent them to the respective destinations” written in the official record.

In 1921 the Bernard Free Library bought in Indian Rupees 15,000 worth of palm-leaf manuscripts and Parabide from the Kinwun Mingyi Pitaka Teik (Library) and kept them there.

There were a total number 1,333 of Kinwun Mingyi’s palm-leaf manu­scripts, Parabide and scrip­tures” recorded in Charles Duroiselle and Pali Saya Hpyay’s catalogue. During the Second World War Saya Zaw Gyi and Saya Min Thu Wun moved this invaluable groperties to a village near t vante and took them back after the war.

The Bernard Free Library bought Indian Rupees 10,000 worth of Kinwun Mingyi’s palm-leaf manuscripts and Parabide, and opened the library with the name “The Kinwun Mingyi Pitaka Teik”. The Bernard Free Library with the name “The Kinwun Mingyi Pitaka Teik”.

The Bernard Free Library governing body continued to take responsibility of ad- ministering both the Ber- nard Free Library and the Kinwun Mingyi Pitaka Teik. Currently Kinwun Mingyi’s Parabides have been kept at the National Museum. The Bernard Free Library brought and kept rupees 5,000 worth of Bagan Wun Htauk Minn U Tin’s books and Parabides.

Before his demise (10 years before the WW II) he donated five cupboard loades of his own Para-bides, palm-leaf manu­scripts and printed books to the British government.

Both Kinwun Mingyi and Bagan Wun Htauk Minn U Tin’s properties had been kept safely in a room at the Secretariat (ex-Ministers’ office), Yangon.

After King Thibaw’s exile, Bagan Wunhtauk Minn U Tin had the chance of compiling palm-leaf manu­scripts and Parabide which had been kept safely in the Secretariat. On 5th May 1940 the 57 years old wooden building was closed down and all the movable properties were moved to the newly constructed building of Yangon Municipal Corpo­ration on 27th June of the same year.

On 20th February 1942 when the city dwellers de­serted the Yangon City, The Library became in disorder and its invaluable proper­ties were looted by lawless persons. In 1952 the’rem­nants of books and man­uscripts were moved from the Municipal building to Jubilee Hall on Shwedagon Pagoda Road.

The Library was opened with the name “The Union of Burma Pitaka Teik” and later its name was changed to the National Library.

 Source : The traveller Vol 3, No.7  From July27  To August 2, 2015