MPH has stood for different names in the past, but they still sell books

More than 100 years in the local book business.

By Tanya Ong | October 12, 2017

Before e-books and e-devices came along and ruined everything, people actually read real books with proper paper pages.

And they would buy these proper books from good old bookstores.

Bookstores have played a huge part in many book lovers’ lives, and they were once a common sight in Singapore.

One of these is none other than MPH.

Stocking a wide range of books and stationery, MPH is a household name here. But have you ever wondered what MPH stood for?

Depending on the time period, MPH had different names. However, one thing stayed the same — its abbreviation.

Started out not as MPH

The book store started out as a mission press in Singapore in 1890 publishing both Christian literature and secular works.

Throughout the late 1800s, it operated under very different names. In fact, its very first name was not “MPH”, but Amelia Bishop Press.

The bookstore started out in a shophouse at the junction of Selegie Road and Sophia Road, but later shifted to Raffles Place in order to be closer to the business centre.

It was during its shift to Raffles Place in 1893 that it was also renamed American Mission Press.

The very first MPH

“MPH” first came into being when the organisation was renamed Methodist Publishing House in 1906. Thereafter, the “MPH” acronym was born.

To cope with its immensely successful operations and expansion of its roles, the organisation moved to a three-story building at the junction of Armenian Street and Stamford Road in 1908.

Photo from NAS

The building was eventually sold in the 21st century and it ceased to be the flagship store.

However, it still remains standing and currently serves as the SMU Labs. This is what it looks like today:

Photo from Wikimedia

Many names, one abbreviation

Over the years, the publishing house underwent several other name changes to reflect the changing times.

Because of its commercial success, its original role of printing solely for the missions became overshadowed.

In 1927, it was bought over by Malaya Publishing House, which allowed it to retain its MPH acronym.

Another name change occurred in 1963 with Singapore’s merger with Malaysia. MPH became known as Malaysia Publishing House (still MPH). Bookstore branches also popped up in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Either by a stroke of luck, or through deliberated considerations, its abbreviation remained unchanged throughout all the name changes. It was eventually registered as just “MPH Limited” in 1968.

Photo from NLB.

The next time you visit MPH bookstore, you now know all the names it once stood for.

Here are some totally unrelated but equally interesting stories:

Apparently, there’s a headless ghost that will deliver booze to you this Halloween

5 times Singaporeans ownself scared ownself with hoaxes

I let a 20-year-old Tarot card reader inside my mind and it was nothing like I expected


Top photo collage from Wikimedia and photo by Joshua Lee.

1819 is a labour of love by where we tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

About Tanya Ong

Tanya knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

Morning Commute

Interesting stories to discuss with your colleagues in office later