The 6th meeting of "Oral History of Book" held

Memories from the hidden printing of Imam Khomeini Resalah

Maryam Rajabi
Translated by: M. B. Khoshnevisan


The 6th meeting out of the second round of the meetings of "Oral History of Book" was held in the Book House Institute on 30th of May 2017 attended by members of Ketabchi family who are active in printing and publishing for more than one hundred years, according to the website of Iranian Oral History.

Seyed Jalal Ketabchi, the Head of Islamiyah Publications, Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi, Seyed Farid Ketabchi and Seyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi, the heads of Elmiyah Islamiyah Publications were preset in the meeting.


Activity in numerous printing houses

In the beginning of the meeting, Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi introduced himself and said, "I was born on 11th of October 1947. My father's name was Seyed Mahmoud Ketabchi. I have four brothers and three sisters and I am the younger child of the family. I started my work in book area in 1966, experiencing working in booksellers and printing houses.

I worked in different printing houses such as "Ziba" located in Ferdowsi Street, Khanlari Alley, "Chavosh" in Northern Sa'di Street, "2000" in Enqelab Square, "Pars" in Vesal Shirazi Street, "Roshdieh" in Northern Sa'di Street, Minoo Alley, and "Aftab" in front of  the Justice Palace".


Printing of books of great scholars

In continuation of the meeting, Seyed Jalal Ketabchi, the Head of Islamiyah Publications talked about the books published in the publications, and said, "We printed various books. We published the Resalah (jurisprudential manual) of sources of emulation such as the late ayatollah Seyed Abolhasan Esfehani and Grand Ayatollah Boroujerdi named "Annis-al Moqaleddin" which later turned into Resalah of sources of emulation, the Resalahs of Ayatollah Hadi Milani, Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul), Ayatollah Seyed Abolqassem Khoee, Ayatollah Seyed Mohsen hakim and so on."

Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi referred to how the Resalah of Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) was published in pre-revolution years, saying, "In view of the situation created for Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) in June 1963, people paid more attention to him and his Resalah, thus we printed his Resalah secretly. Numerous printings were carried out and given to different people. There were suspicious people among those who referred to us to take the Imam's Resalah and we felt that they had come from SAVAK (Shah's secret police), because they were not treated like other customers. Later, the customers referred to us and said, "When we got out of your shop, they inspected us to probably find Imam Khomeini's Resalah, you should be more careful!"

He added, "One day, Colonel Afzali, who was the head of SAVAK in Galbandak Four-Way along with three or four others entered the shop. They pulled down the shop shutter and started inspecting. They were looking for the Imam's Resalah, but found nothing. We printed the Resalahs in folio and octavo formats, but they did not have primary information about the book and looked at the books with quarto formats. They did not find any document showing we were printing the Resalah and came to us from what they had heard.

Before they arrived in the shop, a man named Seyed Qaravi who had a drapery in Qiam Square, had come to the shop and brought a few books which were on the table. Colonel Afzali took one of them and showed to his deputy, and asked what this was. I don't know whether he was illiterate or it was something else. A young man who was nice and had an Isfahani dialect told him that this was not the Resalah. Then, they took one of the members of the bookselling to SAVAK. He had been taken to a room in which the voices of torturing and moaning were heard; of course, it was the sound of a tape recorder and had been used just for scaring. After a few minutes, he had been transferred to another room and Colonel Afzali came and asked him, “Where is the storehouse of your bookselling? The clue of whatever Resalah s we have seized including in Shiraz comes back to your bookselling! Afzali’s deputy had tried to advise him, saying, “If you have an ideology, that’s correct, you accept its dangers, but if it is for the sake of material interests, the printing of this Resalah does not worth it! Then he had told him to bring a piece of photo the next day and undertook not to print any Resalah! He had replied that I printed no Resalah that I had to undertake for it!  If he had agreed to sign a letter of undertaking, in fact he had accepted the printing of the Resalah.”

This veteran publisher added, “No pursuit was carried out at that time. But later, my brother Seyed Mohammad Reza was arrested. The employee who was present there had said that two people had come to arrest him. With the follow-ups we did, we found out that he had been sent to anti-sabotage committee and then transferred to Qasr Prison and had been sentenced to prison. After the victory of the Islamic revolution, when a number of SAVAK agents had been arrested, we were asked to come and identify them.

We have also printed the book “Kashf-ol Asrar” written by Imam Khomeini (God bless his soul) in 1947. But after 1963, my brother was invited to SAVAK. He had said that this book had been printed under my father and had not been republished since then.”


Some books corrected and criticized

In continuation of the meeting, Seyed Jalal Ketabchi, the head of Islamiyah Publications about the books published in the publications referred to the book “Nasekh al-Tavarikh” and said, “This book had 97 volumes, and we printed it completely and it was typeset in stone printing format. At first, I printed the volume related to Hazrat Seyed-al Shohada Imam Hossain (PBUH) which had more applicants. Some of our books were updated by our correctors. The late Abolhasan She’rani criticized the book “Al-Imam Alla Sot-al Edalat-al Ensaniyeh” and presented explanations about the sections which were different with Shia opinion.

This veteran publisher added, “We ordered some books for compilation or translation like the book “Tafsir-e Asan” or simple exegesis which was written by Mohammad Javad Najafi and is a fluent and simple exegesis of the holy Quran. Also upon our request, he also a summary of the book “Fourteen Innocents: Bright Stars” in pocket form.

He said, “I loved a lot the book “The Political History of Islam” by Abolqassem Payandeh.”

Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi also said, “The book “Qessas al-Ulema” by the late Kompany was republished for several times, but unfortunately was not welcomed. We still have some editions of the book which is about the states of the respected sources of emulation, professors, and their books and so on.”

This veteran publisher stated, “It is not possible to name one or two books as the best books, but I love the book “Montahi al-Amal” which is about the states of Fourteen Innocents and Ahl-al Bayt.”

He stressed, “The book has a heavy and deep sleep, and needs a life and demands a generation so that its publications is finished.”


The colored printing of the Holy Quran

About the holy Qurans they have published, Seyed Jalal Ketabchi said, “We were among the first publishers who published the holy Quran in the script of Masoumi Zanjani and in two seven-color and two-color models”. 


Printing of Mafatih and Qomi’s curse

In continuation, Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi explained about the issue of printing Mafatih-al Jinan (keys to heaven) and the opinion of the late Sheikh Abbas Qomi regarding the increase or decrease of its supplications, and said, “It is quoted that the late Sheikh Abbas Qomi has cursed those who manipulated in this book. Like many others, I have heard this but I have not seen any document in this regard. But since Mafatih al-Jinan had much application in mourning days and the grand nights of Qadr, Elmiyah Islamiyah Publications added Hadith Kasa Supplication at the end of Mafatih and apart from the main text.” 

Seyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi another attendee of the meeting explained about the issue, “This Mafatih had been published when Sheikh Abbas Qomi was alive. A few yeasr ago, I along with my late brother visited Haojjat-al Eslam Mohaddeth Zadeh, the son of the late Sheikh Abbas Qomi, asking him the validity of this quotation. He approved the quotation about his curse but at the same time added that he himself had seen and read this Mafatih and showed no reaction on seeing the hadith Kasa at the end of the book and apart from the main text”.


Process of book market in Iran

Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi pointed to the process of book market in Iran and said, “The process the book market has is not good and is in decline. The new publishers which grew during the revolution published any book wanted by the market and the Ministry Guidance paid more attention to them.

The issue of book pricing was brought up one more time. I said, “What facilities have you given us that you want to price books? Have you equipped any library and have you given us any paper or bought any book? A book or a manuscript has a high cost.”

Another guest of the meeting was Seyed Farid Ketabchi. He referred to the situation of book in Iran and stressed, “The sale of textbooks is very different with other books. These books are sold well.”

He continued, “The statistics of book reading and studying is low in Iran. Once the Iranian TV had just two channels which broadcast programs for 8 to 10 hours a day, but now we have at least twelve channels plus provincial channels. A number people watch satellite channels while the social networks inside cell phones are effective in decreasing the amount of book reading.”

In the end, Seyed Mujtaba Ketabchi pointed, “Whatever you have should be spent on printing the books.”

The first meeting out of the new round of the meetings of “Oral History of Book” was held on 12th of April 2017 attended by Haj Beitollah Radkhah (Mashma’ Chi), the Head of Tehran-Tabriz Publications, the second meeting on 19th of April 2017, attended by Jamshid Esmaeeliyan, the head of Parto Publications, the third meeting on 26th of April 2017 attended by Abolqassem Ashraf-al Ketabi, the head of Ashrafi Publications, the fourth meeting on 17th of May 2017 attended by Hojjat-al Eslam Biok Chitchian, the head of Mortezavi Publications, and the fifth meeting on 23rd of May 2017 attended by Seyed Jalal Ketabchi, the head of Islamiyah Publications, and Seyed Fardi Ketabchi and Seyed Mohammad Baqer Ketabchi, the heads of Elmiyah Islamiya Publications. They were held in the Book House Institute.

Also, the first round of the meetings of “Oral History of Book” was held with the attempt of Nasrollah Haddadi in the Book House Institute since 2014 to summer 2015. The result of the meetings has been published in a book entitled “Oral History of Book” in 560 pages by the Book House Institute.

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