Friday, 1 August 2014

My Collection Of St Michael's Institution Exercise Books

I wonder, do people actually collect exercise books, especially of those that are from one's former school? Well, I certainly do not. But I am beginning to wonder now if I should. Most household do not give a hoot to them come the end of the school year. Most will be discarded and there is certainly no exception at my home. However, for one reason or another, a couple of these exercise books from my former school did survive. They were not all kept at the same place. So when I gathered them together, I realized that I have quite an interesting collection - historical items from my old school St. Michael's Institution, Ipoh (S.M.I.).

Not all of these exercise books were mine. Some were my brother's, and for the more recent ones they were given to me. In all, what I have now is a collection of S.M.I. exercise books that span something like 43 years. They date from 1970 till 2013, and are all of the same size, measuring 16.5cm x 21.0cm. Off my memory, I can recall the 40, 80 and 120 pages for the plain/blank, single line, double line and square line used during my school days.

I only have vague knowledge on the history of some of these exercise books that were used before 1970 and also after 1985. The simple reason is: I was not there in school. Please correct me if you find any inaccuracies by leaving a comment below.

Prior To 1970

Exercise Book 1970 By New Asia Book Co - Front

Exercise Book 1970 By New Asia Book Co - Back
S.M.I. Exercise Book (before 1970) - Front & Back Cover (Book Dealer: New Asia Book Co.)

Exercise Book 1970 By United Book Co - Front

Exercise Book 1970 By United Book Co - Back

S.M.I. Exercise Book (before 1970) - Front & Back Cover (Book Dealer: United Book Co.)

The pictures above are the front and back cover of the exercise books that belonged to my eldest brother when he was in the Fifth Form. His work inside were dated 1970. I believe these exercise books were last sold in 1969 as my eldest brother was also using another set of exercise book with a different cover design, also when he was in the Fifth Form (see below). Quite possibly, my eldest brother must have bought some extra copies in 1969 and was just using them in 1970.

I have always thought that the "New Asia Book Co." was the only book dealer for S.M.I. exercise books. But this was not the case. Prior to 1970, there was also another - "United Book Co.". This I could tell by looking at the back cover where the logo and the name of the dealer is clearly printed. I only have single line and square line in my possession and as far as I could tell, only the 120 pages square line was being supplied by "United Book Co.". The others were by "New Asia Book Co.". I stand corrected, obviously.

The front cover of the exercise books from "New Asia Book Co." and "United Book Co." looks similar at first glance. But upon closer inspection one will realize that this is not. Most notable difference is in the type of font used, as you can see in the pictures above.

With the similarity of the school crest used on the front cover and the S.M.I. school badge, there is a strong likelihood that this exercise book was introduced after the redesigned S.M.I. school badge in 1958. But of interest to note is the use of the word "Standard" on the front cover (just after "Subject") to identify the class to which a student belongs to. The "Form" and "Standard" classification system were already in use since 1954 in the Secondary and Primary schools, respectively. So, is it possible that this exercise book design is in fact much older than 1954?

Also, take note on how the Latin inscription "Quis Ut Deus" is spelt - "QVIS VT DEVS". I have always wondered about this when I was a young lad. A quick search on the Internet recently reveals that at one time in the ancient past, "U" and "V" were being used interchangeably as vowels, and it was only later that "V" was being used as a consonant. Can somebody elaborate further on this? I am no expert in Latin.

1970 - ????


S.M.I. Exercise Book (1970 - ????) - Front Cover

I believe the exercise book design above was introduced in the year 1970. My eldest brother was also using this exercise book when he was in the Fifth Form, as mentioned above. I still remember using exercise books with this cover when I was in kindergarten, primary and secondary school. As can be seen, the school crest has shrunk (and in better looking proportion too, in my opinion) and the words got reshuffled around. Note that the word "Standard" has been replaced by "Form/Standard" - as it should to reflect the Malaysian school system. On the back is printed with the name and logo of "New Asia Book Co.", which is identical to the one shown in the previous section.

Note, the Latin phrase is still written as "QVIS VT DEVS".


A Change To The S.M.I. Exercise Book's Back Cover In 1983

If I am not mistaken, the "Rukun Michaelian" was first introduced in the year 1982. Every student in S.M.I. was given a credit-card sized card printed with the "Rukun Michaelian" in 1982.

In 1983, a slight alteration was made to the exercise book's back cover. The front cover remained unchanged. Printed on the back is the 5 pledges of the "Rukun Michaelian", both in the Malay and English language. And this is something that will remain until today.

For some reason, the name of the book dealer was not printed. Perhaps there was a slight oversight somewhere. One can only assume that it is still "New Asia Book Co.".

In Recent Years

Here are some S.M.I. exercise books that I managed to get my hands on that were used in recent years. Can somebody fill me in on the year when they were first used? I do not have the slightest clue.

Primary School


S.M.I. Primary School Exercise Book (2006(?) - ????) - Front Cover

The exercise book above was in use between 2006 and 2011 by the S.M.I. Primary schools. It is quite obvious that during this time the Primary and Secondary schools do not share the same exercise books any more, as it once did some 40 or 50 years earlier. As to when this was done, I do not know.

On the back cover, we find the "Rukun Michaelian" together with the name, address and the telephone number of the book dealer, "Edaran Jayamas", at the very bottom. The inner covers for both the front and the back are blank.

Secondary School


S.M.I. Secondary School Exercise Book (2012 - ????) - Front Cover

Beautifully done I think - the exercise book design commemorating the school's centenary for the S.M.I. Secondary school in the year 2012. I believe this cover design was also used in the following year 2013. I am not sure about 2014.


S.M.I. Secondary School Exercise Book - Front Inner Cover


S.M.I. Secondary School Exercise Book - Back Inner Cover

On the front inner cover is printed with the S.M.I. Secondary school's vision and the Michaelian Mission. While on the back inner cover we find the lyrics to the "School Rally" and "Michaelian Welcome Song". I do not recall hearing the "Michaelian Welcome Song" while I was in school. All that I know is that this song has been around since 2002, maybe even earlier. I wonder how the song goes?

The back cover is printed with the "Rukun Michaelian", together with the name and telephone number of the book dealer "Perniagaan Kam Benar" at the very bottom.


S.M.I. Secondary School Exercise Book (???? - 2011(?)) - Front Cover

I cannot be certain but I believe that the exercise book above was used before 2012 by the S.M.I. Secondary school. Except for the front cover, the inner front, the inner back and the back cover are all the same as the exercise book celebrating the school's centennial year in 2012.

Do take note on how the Latin phrase is being spelt in recent years. Yes, something that is more familiar to most of us Michaelians: QUIS UT DEUS.


  1. An impressive collection of exercise books and a great write-up. The article was forwarded to me by an old Michaelian, Mr Joseph Michael Lee. I have a few exercise books in the school gallery which we can talk about as well. There's one which carries the printer's name, "Nabco Pendidekan", a company located in Lebuh Pasar. Quis Ut Deus is "Who Is Greater Than God" or "Who Is Like God". We always remind Michaelians to be humble and always look to God for wisdom and strength. Chuah, you left school in which year? my email:
    Do contact us.

    1. I have actually dug up some additional information which makes this post somewhat outdated and inaccurate. I was suppose to update this post but didn't quite got round to doing so.

      Lets keep our communication channels open here rather than taking it private via email. There might be others who is interested in what is going on and might want to contribute.


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