Early 20th century work on Viet Nam to be republished

One hundred years after it was first published, a second edition of the book Techniques du Peuple Annamite (Mechanics and Crafts of the Annamites) by Frenchman Henri Oger is about to hit the shelves.

Oger spent two years (from 1908 to 1909) studying the streets of Ha Noi and outlying areas to record an inventory of the development of local industries and commerce. With the help of a Vietnamese painter, Oger’s research produced around 4,200 drawing and sketches being printed on do (poonah) paper.

Oger was only 24 when he first came to Viet Nam to do his military service.

The book is known as one of the earliest documentation of industrial development in the North of Viet Nam in the early 20th century.

“With his book, Oger left the Vietnamese people an inestimable treasure,” says Olivier Tessier, co-editor of the reprinted book and also the Associate Professor at the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient (The French School of Far Orient).

“For a very long time, the book was not known by many people. The reason was simple: it was made very early on by a young man who was not famous at all,” he says.

Only 60 copies of the book were printed.

“No original versions of the book have been found at Parisian libraries. Luckily, we found an original version at the General Science Library in HCM City.”

The second edition of Oger’s work is published in three languages: English, Vietnamese, and French. There is also an accompanying DVD produced by the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient in Ha Noi and the HCM City’s General Science Library.

The book, published by the Nha Nam Publishing House, is on sale in major libraries while the DVD is available on request.

“We spent one year restoring the images and translating the text into quoc ngu (romanised Vietnamese script). Before, all the captions were written by the Han Nom (Chinese-transcribed Vietnamese scripts),” says Philippe Le Failler, co-editor of the book, Associate Professor at the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient.

A 15-day exhibition will present a selection of 100 drawings and sketches used for Oger’s book is being held at l’Espace, the French Cultural Centre, at 24A Trang Tien Street till June 3.

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