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Guyana Colonial Imprint: The British Guiana Directory and Almanack for 1892. Leap Year.


An extremely rare early issue of Charles Kennedy Jardine’s directory and almanac for British Guiana, an unusually comprehensive work of its kind, featuring a vast wealth of information available nowhere else, a critical resource for the study of the colony during this critical period, compiled and published in Georgetown by the ‘Daily Chronicle’ newspaper.


8° (16.5 x 10.5 cm): xvi, 505, [6], xlviii, with printed endpapers, bound in original red cloth with blind-stamped designs and title gilt-debossed to cover and spine, discreet contemporary handstamps of the ‘Georgetown Club’ to margins of several pages (Very Good, internally quite clean, just a few quires coming a little loose, but still holding, some light contemporary scribbling in pen to ‘Avertisements’, p. xlvi and contemporary manuscript name of “C.B. Stevenson” to final endpaper; binding with some edge- wear, notably to head and foot of spine and some light stains).


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This is an extremely rare issue of The British Guiana Directory and Almanack published in 1892 in Georgetown by the colony’s leading newspaper, the Daily Chronicle, under the direction of its proprietor, Charles Kennedy Jardine.  The work is exceptionally comprehensive, providing more information, and in greater detail, than is commonly the case with this type of publication.

The directory-almanac commences with an ‘Introduction’ to the company, detailing its history, geography, geology, economy, demographics and politics.  Next is an almanac, followed by a lengthy directory, or list of the colony’s leading subjects, with their occupations and places of residence.  This is followed by an accounting of the colony’s civil and military establishment, along with its social services (hospitals, schools, etc.), followed by coverage of the religious establishment.  The works then lists the colony’s various clubs and societies, followed by list of professionals, proprietors of commercial establishments, as well as the owners of plantations.  After that, is a detailed account of British Guiana’s economy and demographics (including immigration) with lengthy tables showcasing virtually every possible variable going back many years, as well as descriptions of the colony’s laws regulations.  The work is concluded by 48 pages of advertisements, which make for an interesting read, covering everything from piano sellers to insurance companies.

The present directory-almanac appeared at an interesting time when the colony of 280,000 residents was undergoing a period of transition.  Traditionally, British Guiana’s economy had relied upon agriculture (sugar, etc.), as well as lumber and minerals.  In the wake of the abolition of slavery in 1838, the colonial authorities, seeking to make up for the labour shortage, decided to import indentured workers from India, and to lesser extent China.  Between 1838 and 1886 over 150,000 immigrant workers arrived from India, while 15,000 were brought in from China.  These labourers for some time worked under horrendous conditions, that could be likened to slavery by another name.  However, by the 1880s, many of these former menial workers, or their descendants, had become successful professionals or entrepreneurs.  Moreover, a Black middle class had developed during the two generations since the end of slavery.  Additionally, British Guiana had a small but vibrant Jewish community, which was long established in various industries.  While the colony was still anchored by commodities, a burgeoning trading and service sector developed, in good part maintained by the colony’s various ethnic communities.  Their success led them to call for political reforms, giving them a voice in the colonial government, resulting in series of gradual democratic measures that were instituted in 1891, the year before the present almanac was published.


Early Directory-Almanacs in British Guiana

The early history of directory-almanacs in the colonies of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice (which were united to become British Guiana in 1831) is not a well-researched topic.  However, the first such works were issued by The Colonist newspaper in as the The Demerara Vade-mecum: Or, British Guiana Almanack and Register, which we gather appeared in two issues, in 1821 and 1825.

It seems that it was not until 1857, when the new proprietor of The Colonist began to publish annual issues of directories-almanacs, in a unform format, from that year onwards.  In 1884, the production of these directory-almanacs was taken over by the Chronicle newspaper, owned by Charles Kennedy Jardine, upon his acquisition of The Colonist.


A Note on Rarity

All issues of directory-almanacs printed in British Guiana during the 19th century are extremely rare.  They would have been published in only small print runs, while their survival rate, due to their use in a damp, tropical climate, would have been very low.

We can trace only a single example of the present 1892 edition, held by the Cambridge University Library.  Collections of issues for other years are held by the British Library, the Bodleian Library (Oxford University) and the SOAS Library (University of London).


Charles Kennedy Jardine: Modernizer of the Press in British Guiana

The publisher of the present work, Charles Kennedy Jardine (1848 – 1902), was a native of Ayrshire, Scotland, and apprenticed as stationer in Glasgow.  Seeing limited opportunities in his homeland, he immigrated to British Guiana in 1870, working in the drapery profession for the Georgetown firm of Pasley, Templeton & Co.  Finding the experience disagreeable, he gained new employment as a stationer with the firm of W.B. Jamieson in 1872.

In 1875, Jardine joined the printing industry, hired by Lawrence McDermott, the proprietor of The Colonist, Guiana’s only daily newspaper (costing 8 cents per issue).  While The Colonist occupied a key role in the life of the colony, McDermott was a poor businessman, and the enterprise was run inefficiently.  Jardine, having quickly made his way up to becoming the managing director, moved with amazing skill and focus to dramatically improve the paper’s circulation and advertising revenue, while augmenting the quality of its content.  In 1880, McDermott apparently agreed to sell The Colonist to Jardine; however, he later backed out of the deal.

In 1881, Jardine set off to publish his own paper, the Chronicle (later the Daily Chornicle).  His business plan was daring, he pledged to provide a paper of at least the same high quality as he had established at The Colonist, while charging only 4 cents per issue (undercutting his competition by 50%!).  Many in Georgetown initially believed that Jardine’s designs were foolhardy; however, his drive and skill proved them wrong and within a short time the Chronicle captured a majority market share.

Jardine’s slick and modern operation was something that had never been seen in the colony, and he was soon appointed as the ‘Printer to the Government of British Guiana’, with his advertisement boasting of his establishment: “The Plant of Type and Machinery in this office is, without exception, the largest in the West Indies.  Every description of Printing, Bookbinding, and Manufacturing Stationary Work, is undertaken and executed as moderate prices” (See in the present work, ‘Advertisements’, p. viii).

In 1884, a chastened McDermott sold The Colonist to Jardine, who merged its operations with his own paper, henceforth dominating the popular media in British Guiana.  Sadly, Jardine died suddenly while on visit to Scotland in 1902, however his legacy lived on, as his paper continued to be published until 1966.


References: Cambridge University Library: RCS.YD.79.1.

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