In 1847, a landmark scholarly journal — Journal of the Indian Archipelago & Eastern Asia (JIAEA) — was published in Singapore. At that time, scientific and literary knowledge was mainly disseminated via the medium of periodicals and journals. Such publications in the region then were dominated by missionary-related magazines and scientific journals of Java produced by the Dutch. JIAEA, the first of its kind in the Straits Settlements, endeavoured to present to its readers all available information on the Indian Archipelago in a scientific manner. Its pool of contributing writers came from varied backgrounds – the clergy, law, medicine, military, commerce and agriculture. The subject matter covered a broad spectrum of knowledge including history, language, literature, ethnography, natural history, physical science, topography, agriculture and economics.
JIAEA was published from 1847 till 1863. The first nine volumes were published from 1847-1855, followed by a new series of four volumes which ran from 1856-1863. Its print run was small and throughout its lifespan each volume averaged only two to three hundred copies. Fifty copies of each volume were subscribed for the use of the East India Company.
Clearly, this was a venture of high risk with little chance of turning a profit. Most people would not be so foolish as to invest in such an enterprise. The gentleman behind this bold undertaking was none other than James Richardson Logan (1819-1869), a Scotsman and practicing lawyer based in Singapore. Logan’s first foray to the Far East was to join his cousin Daniel Logan in Bengal, India where he tried his hand at indigo planting. Shortly thereafter, he left for Penang in 1839 with his brother Abraham where he started practicing law after overcoming an official hurdle. When business declined in Penang, Logan decided to move south to Singapore in 1843 where he joined Abraham who had arrived a year earlier. At the time, Abraham was residing with John Turnbull Thomson, a government surveyor in the employ of the Straits Settlements. Thomson authored Translations from the Hakayit Abdulla (bin Abdulkadar), a rare book we introduced earlier. Logan and Thomson had schooled together from 1830-1832 but they were not close, and it was not until when they met again in Penang in 1839 that they formed what proved to be an enduring and lifelong friendship.
Logan was a versatile man with a wide range of interests. Besides his professional interest in law, he was knowledgeable in and wrote on matters covering subjects in geography, geology, and philology. Not only did he finance and publish the JIAEA, he edited it till 1862 and contributed many articles to it. Such was his dedication to the JIAEA that it came to be popularly known as Logan’s Journal.
Logan returned to Penang in 1853 where he took over the Penang Gazette turning it into a publication of some note. He died of malaria in 1869 and a statue was erected in his memory there. However, the most enduring legacy of Logan’s is the journal that he founded and published that is still referred to today.