Goa’s private treasure trove of tomes has 5k books

Chandor’s Braganza House in South Goa is not just roomy but has a library of 18th and 19th century books that are in need of digitisation
PRICELESS: The Braganza House in Chandor has withstood the test of time.
PRICELESS: The Braganza House in Chandor has withstood the test of time. Photo: Chopraraghav/ Kimberly Colaco

Speak of grandeur and glory, and look no further than the Braganza House in Chandor, built by Francisco Xavier e Braganza in 1576, which makes it one of the oldest and largest colonial-period mansions in the state.

The Braganza House, built with great care, love and minute detailing, stands on land granted to the family by the then king of Portugal. With time and the passing of generations, the house was divided into the east and west wing among siblings.

WISDOM'S DOOR: door: Believed to be the largest private library in Goa, with over 5,000 books.
WISDOM'S DOOR: door: Believed to be the largest private library in Goa, with over 5,000 books. Photo: Kimberly Colaco

The common entrance of the house leads to the cool wooden floors, where, despite the temperature outside rising to 31 degree Celsius, indoors it was pleasantly cooler. Once inside, it is to the East wing of the house that we proceed, as it holds the Goa's first private library in Goa, with over 5,000 books.

Providing details about the private library, Rohan Luis de Menezes Braganza, the great grandson of the house, says that "with over 5,000 books this is the largest private library in Goa that has books collected by various generations who have lived here."

PRICELESS: The Braganza House in Chandor has withstood the test of time.
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 “We have the largest private library where we host over 5,000 books in four different languages – English, Latin, French and Portuguese – all leather bound and collected by Luis de Menezes Braganza (1878-1938), and the generation before him. He was a reputed journalist, who also founded the O Heraldo newspaper and played a part in Goa’s freedom movement,” says Rohan, who also takes guests on tours of his house.

TREASURE TROVE: These books are as old as 19th century.
TREASURE TROVE: These books are as old as 19th century. Photo: Kimberly Colaco

Speaking of the books with great animation, he said that the books are from the 18th and 19th centuries. “These books have been saved from many generations, but were mostly collected by my great grandfather Luis Menezes. They vary in genres – encyclopaedias, world books, medical and law books, along with fictional and history books. Since these books are from around the 19th century, opening them can be risky as the papers are very brittle and can tear. We don’t let anyone touch it, because of the quality of paper,” he says.

Since these books are from around the 19th century, opening them can be risky as the papers are very brittle and can tear. We don’t let anyone touch it, because of the quality of paper.

Rohan Luis de Menezes Braganza, the great grandson of the house.

He explains that most of the cupboards used to store the books are made from teak and rose wood from their plantations and by the carpenters who worked with them for generations.

“Luis de Menezes was self-taught and wanted to learn to be a doctor, however, he was detected with typhoid. He was a very prominent Goan freedom fighter, who was also a great writer, journalist and a staunch anti-colonial activist. He was also known as O Maior de Todos (The Greatest of All) and in the Indian mainland as The Tilak of Goa,” says Rohan.

WITH LOVE AND CARE: These books are delicate and have to be handled with utmost care.
WITH LOVE AND CARE: These books are delicate and have to be handled with utmost care.Photo: Kimberly Colaco

With books stored in cupboards, and not much ventilation, Rohan is looking for experts who can digitise them. “There is so much knowledge in these books and I'm looking to get them digitised. Since they are so old, they have to be handled with utmost care,” says Rohan, who gets the place treated for bugs and other pests twice a year.

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