On This Day

The Day the Burma Translation Society was Born

By Wei Yan Aung 26 August 2019

YANGON—On this day 72 years ago, the Burma Translation Society, which introduced world culture, literature and education to the Burmese public, was formed. On its governing council were then Prime Minister U Nu, U Thant (who later became the third United Nations Secretary General), legal experts and professors.

The society was first headquartered at Judson College in Yangon and later moved to Sorrento Villa, where the name of the society was changed to its current name, Sarpay Beikman (the Palace of Literature). It was moved again in 1955 to its current location on Merchant Street.

The society published books, journals, magazines, newsletters, and so on. It also presented awards in different categories of literature and translation. The first award in translation was presented in 1952 for a translation of Great Expectations by British author Charles Dickens.

A periodical of The Burma Translation Society

One notable achievement of the society was its compiling and publishing 15 volumes of the Burmese Encyclopedia between 1954 and 1976.

The society’s first few books, including the encyclopedia, were printed in England and the Netherlands. The quality of its printing and its publications started to decline in the late 1990s. While the society printed at least 10,000 copies per title in its early days, only a few hundred to a thousand are printed today.