Story of the first printing press in Asia and Goa

Arrival of printing press in Goa is a classic example of good things resulting from an unfortunate circumstance. It was also the first printing press to arrive in Asia. Originally intended to be used in Abyssinia (Ethiopia), how did it end up in Goa?

The Abyssinian Emperor had requested the King of Portugal for a ‘Printing press’. The request was granted at a much later date. One of the reasons for granting the request was for the press to be used in missionary work in the Abyssinian Empire (in Africa).

St. Francis Xavier had made a request for printing press to be made available in India, Japan and Ethiopia. Primarily to be used for missionary purposes in these places. The press wasn’t sought out after in Goa due to its small size (Old Conquest did not comprise entire Goa, but, Talukas of Bardez, Tiswadi, Margao).


Finally the press was dispatched. Non- existence of Suez Canal meant the ship travelling from Portugal would have to go around the Cape of Good Hope, make a pit stop at Goa before leaving for Ethiopia (in Africa).

But by the time the press(Gutenberg) arrived in Goa on 6th September 1556, relations with the Abyssinian Emperor had strained. Hence the press was deposited in Goa at Saint Paul’s College in Old Goa. Printing operations began soon, making it the first printing press not only in Goa but also Asia!

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1 thought on “Story of the first printing press in Asia and Goa”

  1. It is unfortunate that such an informative report has omitted to mention A.K.Priolkar’s book “Press in India” which is the primary/secondary source of the information given out by it. Would appreciate such small courtesies to those who travelled the way before us and left a trail for us to follow.

    A factual incorrectness has crept in about having a pit stop in Goa before proceeding to Ethiopia in North Africa. The inconvenience because of not having the Suez Canal at that Point of time applies only for the Ethiopian consignment. Once the consignment crossed the Cape of Good Hope, there was no direct sailing across the Arabian SEa in the olden days.One had necessarily to touch coastal ports in Africa including Madagascar and Zanzibar,Kenya etc and then sail along arabian and OIran coast before touching Indian Ports of Saurashra,Gujarat and Maharashtra and then touch Goa. Only after great Ships capable of withstanding strong gails in the Southern hemisphere, and also with large storage capacity to hold provision for several weeks at a time, and also better Navigational Aids, the cross-taffic across Arabia SEa and Indian Ocean became visble.

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