Asian and African studies blog

News from our curators and colleagues


Our Asian and African Studies blog promotes the work of our curators, recent acquisitions, digitisation projects, and collaborative projects outside the Library. Our starting point was the British Library’s exhibition ‘Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire’, which ran 9 Nov 2012 to 2 Apr 2013 Read more

22 June 2018

The Bugis diary of the Maqdanrang of Bone

The most well-known Bugis manuscript in the British Library is the diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin of Bone (r. 1775-1812), covering the two decades from the start of his reign in 1775 to 1795. This treasury of information on daily life at the court of Bone in south Sulawesi was made accessible through the doctoral study by Rahilah Omar (2003), and the full diary, Add. 12354, is accessible online.

Now a second Bugis court diary from Bone, Or. 8154, covering the years 1790 to 1800, has also been digitised. A. A. Cense identified the diarist as the Maqdanrang, one of the highest Bone officials: “it was he who dealt with all kinds of state affairs and through whose hands all important letters passed. The notes for the years 1795-8 give much information on the struggle between Bone and Sidenreng, the attitude of the other south Sulawesi states, and Dutch efforts to maintain peace. Some notes refer to battles, the erection of strongholds, and chiefs who died in action. For the rest the diary contains notes on legal questions, especially on matrimonial law and property. Events in the royal family and the ruling classes receive great attention” (Ricklefs and Voorhoeve 1977: 34). Rahilah (2003: 58) has named the Maqdanrang as Muhammad Ramallang (the Bugis form of the Arabic Ramaḍān), Arung (Lord) Ponre, father-in-law and maternal uncle of the ruler, Sultan Ahmad al-Salih. An entry in the Sultan's diary for 7 July 1775 announces the appointment of Muhammad Ramallang as Maqdanrang or private secretary to the ruler, one of the three most senior officials in the Bone administration, along with the Tomarilalang, head of the advisory council, and the Maqkedangngetana, 'Spokesman of the Land' (Rahilah 2003: 196).

Or_8154_f077r   Add_ms_12354_f143v
The diary of the Maqdanrang is much more sparsely filled, with an average of 5 entries per month, than that of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih, which has around 22 entries per month (Rahilah 2003: 34),  as shown above in a comparison of the same month. Left, diary of the Maqdanrang for March 1794. British Library, Or. 8154, f. 77r . Right, diary of the Sultan of Bone for March 1794. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 143v  noc

As was usual for Bugis court diaries, the pages were prepared in advance, with one month per page according to the Gregorian (AD) calendar, with one line allocated for each day of the month, and Fridays (Jumaat) highlighted in red. If the events of the day took up more than one line, the scribe would write in a rectangular labyrinthine pattern, as shown above. In between each year, a few pages were always originally left blank, and these could be filled with miscellaneous jottings and copies of important documents. Found in the Maqdanrang's diary are notes on a wide variety of subjects, including on alliances and war activities, correspondence with the Dutch, and on the astronomical, meteorological, and agricultural calendar.

On the left-hand page are notes on names of days and their auspicious or inauspicious natures, and on the right-hand page are rules for people who pay homage to the Arumpone (the sultan), as well as calligraphic sketches of letter headings. British Library, Or. 8154, ff. 7v-8r  noc

Stored alongside this diary is a second volume, Or. 8154*, which contains 103 letters, fragments of letters, and scraps of paper in Bugis, Makasarese, Malay and Arabic, said to have been found inside the binding of Or. 8154, presumably when the volume was rebound in the British Museum bindery in the early 20th century. Both volumes were presented to the British Museum in 1916 by a Miss E. G. Wren. It is probable that these two volumes - like the other Bugis manuscripts in the British Library from the collection of John Crawfurd - were acquired during the British military campaign against Bone in 1814.

Among the miscellaneous notes found in the diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih are sketches for his seal, and a similar feature is encountered in the Maqdanrang's diary. As can be seen on the left-hand page above, nestled amongst notes is a circular sketch of a seal, inscribed in Arabic al-wāthiq billāh Muhammad Ramadan ibn al-Sultan Jalaluddin, ‘He who trusts in God, Muhammad Ramadan, son of the Sultan Jalaluddin’, referring to his father Sultan Abdul Razak Jalaluddin of Bone (r. 1748-1775). This inscription can be linked with a 12-petalled seal of which numerous faint  impressions are found in Or. 8154*, while a much clearer impression can be seen on a contract between Bone and the Dutch of 27 December 1794, signed and sealed by the Sultan, Maqdanrang and Tomarilalang of Bone. The original silver seal matrix is held today in the Museum Lapawawoi in Watampone, Bone. 

Sketch for a seal in the name of Muhammad Ramadan in the diary of the Maqdanrang of Bone. Or. 8154, f. 8r   noc

Scan0021-det    #416-28
Left: lampblack impression of Muhammad Ramadan's seal, on a renewal agreement with the Dutch of 27 December 1794, annotated Het zegel van der Madanrang, 'the seal of the Madanrang'. National Archives of the Republic of Indonesia, Makassar 375/45.
Right: original silver seal matrix of Muhammad Ramadan. Museum La Pawawoi, Watampone, Sulawesi Selatan; photograph courtesy of Mukrimin, October 2017.

Faint impressions of the seal of Muhammad Ramadan on a document. British Library, Or. 8154*, f. 40v   noc

Further reading:
Rahilah Omar, The history of Bone AD 1775-1795: the diary of Sultan Ahmad as-Salleh Syamsuddin. [Ph.D. thesis]. University of Hull, 2003.
M.C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Southeast Asia collections in the British Library

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

20 June 2018

Sir Hans Sloane’s Old Javanese manuscript, Sloane 3480

Today’s post, by Ida Bagus Komang Sudarma in Bali, Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan in Sydney, and Arlo Griffiths in Paris, was written following yesterday’s post on the Javanese manuscripts in the Sloane collection. The speed of this response, identifying and transliterating for the first time this manuscript fragment in Old Javanese, illustrates well how collaborative scholarship across oceans is enabled by digitisation.

Detail of line v2, showing the characters // bhraṣṭaṅkaḍa, with an elegantly knotted tail of the subscript (gantungan) grapheme . British Library, Sloane 3480, f. 1v  noc

Sloane 3480 is a manuscript fragment which represents less than half of the right side of a single palm leaf (lontar), and would originally have had a string hole in its middle, as it still does in its right margin. In its original condition, the leaf would have had four lines of writing on each side.

The text, incised into the palm leaf in Balinese characters, is written in Old Javanese language. The fragment contains parts of stanzas 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 (but not of stanza 13) from canto 10 of the Arjunavijaya, a court poem (kakavin) authored by Mpu Tantular in the second half of the 14th century, describing a scene of confrontation between Śiva’s attendant Nandīśvara and the demon Rāvaṇa. The fact that it was collected during the lifetime of Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753) means that the manuscript must be older than 1753, which makes this one of the oldest known witnesses for this important classic of Old Javanese literature (cf. Arps & van der Molen 1994). A critical edition of the text and English translation was published by Supomo (1977).

In our diplomatic edition below, we transliterate according to the system proposed by Acri & Griffiths (2014), which is based on the ISO standard 15919. The original is written in scriptio continua. We apply word breaks generally in conformity with the edition by Supomo, but with some adaptations in the light of our different understanding of how word boundaries in Old Javanese are to be represented in transliterated text. In the lines r2 and v3, where the top/bottom parts of all akṣaras (syllabic characters) are lost, we act as though a given grapheme is present unless no trace of the expected grapheme remains at all; in the latter case, we indicate the restored grapheme(s) in square brackets. Such restorations are uncertain at all the edges of the fragments, where parts of akṣaras are missing and it is often difficult to be sure whether this witness agreed with the critical edition or had a variant reading. In the parts that are well preserved, this witness does show several variant readings vis-à-vis Supomo’s critical edition. The sign # represents the breaks in the text on the right end of each line as they exist today.

British Library, Sloane 3480, f. 1r  noc

(r1) lost
(r2) # nr[i] °l̥ṅk[ā] / mva[ṁ van]duva[rg]gamu kabeḥ[n]ya mah[ə]ntya [d]e[n]ya / n[ā liṁn]ya / [h]e[t]u[ni h]uyu[ṁ] daśavaktrar[ā]ja
(r3) #-ānaṁ tapodhara haneṅ giriparśva māvr̥g· / mvaṅ siṅha bharvaṅ alayū sahananya meṅas· / yatnā bha
(r4) #ri taṅannira lvat· / krodheya makrak ikanaṁ daśavaktrarāja // humyaṅ kabeḥ haliliṅi

British Library, Sloane 3480, f. 1v  noc

(v1) # sira harṣacitta / yekan vinehnira vənaṁ munuseṁ taṅanya / hyunhyun sire vuvus ikan varara
(v2) # len taṁ pravīrabala rakṣasasaṅghya mahyaṁ // bhraṣṭaṅ kaḍatvan ika siṅ kaparaḥ ya curṇna / gəmpu
(v3) # hat i patapan s[u]ramya / ramyaṅ [k]ap[u]ṇ[ḍu]ṅ ika d[u]ryan ike j[u]raṁnya / maṅ[gu]ṣ[ṭa] la[s]b ika poḥ paṇaśāg[ṅ] aby[u]
(v4) lost

Supomo’s translation (1977, II: 203–4) of the relevant stanzas – depicting the confrontation between Nandīśvara and the demon Rāvaṇa (here designated several times by his epithet ‘the Ten-faced one’, Daśāsya or Daśavaktra) – was as follows:

12 ‘Hey, Daśāsya, you [have committed the sin] of despising others by laughing at my appearance. Therefore, in time to come, monkeys will destroy your kingdom of Ləṅkā and exterminate all your kinsfolk as well.’ Thus he spoke; and Daśavaktra was now furious.
13 Ferociously clenching his teeth, he put his hands under the base of Mount Girīndra, and took it in his arms, intending to destroy it completely. The Lord, who had just finished making love, was startled, and Pārvatī, who was exhausted, had not even put on her kain.
14 The hermits living on the slopes of the mountain were agitated and distressed, the lions and bears fled in opposite directions. Knowing the reason for what was happening, the Lord carefully pressed down the peak of the mountain with the big toe of his left foot.
15 In short, Daśāsya’s arms were trapped under the mountain, and he was not able to move them. Now he was all the more determined to pull them out, but he could not move them; furiously he cursed, and screamed aloud.
16 The three worlds were stunned by his great voice; the gods and others were astounded, and their shouts could be heard even from the world of Śiva, for his voice was most terrible, booming like turbulent sea, in truth like the sound of a hundred thousand thunderbolts clashing at the same time.
17 The god Jagatguru grinned with delight, and then allowed him to pull his arms free; the God was pleased at the sound of his excellent screams, and so the Lord called him Rāvaṇa.
18 Then Daśāsya departed from Mount Girīndra, after making obeisance to the Lord and asking his pardon. Riding his chariot, he now ranged around the world at great speed, accompanied by all the roaring demon officers and soldiers.
19 All the palaces he attacked were shattered and reduced to dust; the kings and their armies were all exterminated, and all ring-communities, cloister-halls and temple-complexes he seized by force as he swept along boldly throughout the three worlds.
20 Soon king Daśāsya came to Mount Himavan, and was delighted at the sight of beautiful hermitages. The slopes were beautiful with kapuṇḍuṅ, durian, mangosteen, laṅsəb, mango and jackfruit tree, laden with great fruits; …

Acri, Andrea, and Arlo Griffiths. 2014. “The Romanisation of Indic Script Used in Ancient Indonesia.” Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 170 (2/3): 365–78.
Arps, Bernard, and Willem van der Molen (eds.). 1994. Serat Lokapala kawi: an eighteenth-century manuscript of the Old Javanese Arjunawijaya by Mpu Tantular. A facsimile edition of manuscript Cod. Or. 2048 in the Library of Leiden University. Leiden: Indonesian Linguistics Development Project (ILDEP) in co-operation with Legatum Warnerianum in the Library of Leiden University. (Manuscripta Indonesica, 3.)
Supomo, S. 1977. Arjunawijaya: A Kakawin of Mpu Tantular. 2 vols. (Bibliotheca Indonesica 14.) The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Ida Bagus Komang Sudarma, Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan and Arlo Griffiths  ccownwork

19 June 2018

Javanese manuscripts in the Sloane collection

The British Museum was founded through the generosity, intellectual curiosity, and vision of the physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753). On his death in 1753, Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed to the nation his vast collections of natural history specimens, coins, medals and curiosities, as well as 50,000 books, prints and manuscripts, on condition that they be housed in a new and publicly accessible museum. In 1972 the books and manuscripts held in the British Museum, including the Sloane collection, were transferred to the British Library.

Sir Hans Sloane. Stipple engraving by T. Prescott. Wellcome Library, ICV No 5682L. Courtesy Wellcome Images.

The extraordinarily eclectic nature of Sloane's manuscript collection has been described with some understatement as ‘very heterogenous’ (Arnold 2012: 190), and this evaluation could in turn be applied to the selection of his manuscripts from island Southeast Asia. In addition to two manuscripts in Malay, Sloane owned five items from Java, which though fragmentary in nature encompass a wide variety of languages and scripts (Javanese, Old Javanese, Lampung and Chinese) and writing materials (palm leaf, bamboo and paper), and range from commercial documents to a primer of religious law. Sloane's Javanese manuscripts, which are of interest not only for their diversity but also for their relatively early date, have now all been digitised and can be read on the Digitised Manuscripts website. For each manuscript, the first hyperlink below leads to the catalogue entry, and the second directly to the digitised image.

The broken piece of palm leaf shown above, Sloane 3480, contains an unidentified text written in Old Javanese, an early form of the Javanese language marked by a very high proportion of words derived from Sanskrit. Old Javanese was in use from around the 8th to the 13th centuries in Java, but manuscripts in Old Javanese continued to be found in scholarly circles in Bali until recent times. British Library, Sloane 3480  noc

This palm leaf document inscribed in Javanese, Sloane 1035, is a record of a debt between a Chinese, Si Cina Kamasan, and Ratu Kilen. The piece of palm leaf is folded down the middle, with the spine evident along the top. British Library, Sloane 1035  noc

Sloane 1403A is a single piece of palm-leaf is inscribed with Javanese text on one side and Chinese on the reverse. The Chinese text  is a record of the purchase of four cows, and is dated in the Chinese cycle perhaps equivalent to 1715. According to Dick van der Meij, the form of the Javanese characters on this leaf suggests an origin from Bali. British Library, Sloane 1403A  noc

Sloane 1403E is a document written on a piece of bamboo, with two lines of Javanese text and annotations in Javanese and Lampung script on one side, and Chinese on the reverse. The Chinese text is probably a record of an account, dated in the Chinese cycle perhaps equivalent to 1708.  British Library, Sloane 1403E   noc

Sloane_ms_1403a_f001v   Sloane_ms_1403e_f001v
Left: Sloane 1403A, palm leaf, the uninked Chinese inscription on the reverse reads: 乙未年正月初五日買牛四隻艮□廿九文
Right: Sloane 1403E, bamboo, with Chinese text in black ink on the reverse: □甲螺打甲之厘勿殺 〇之厘勿殺同□□再借去鉛子四仟/戊子年四月十四日借去鉛子拾伍仟議还米每文六于冬算〇係去覽榜限至三箇月

The final manuscript, Sloane 2645, is a volume in Arabic with interlinear commentary in Javanese in Arabic (pegon) script, containing the Mukhtaṣar, ‘Commentary’, by the 16th-century scholar from the Hadramaut, ‘Abd Allāh bin ‘Abd al-Raḥmān Bā Faḍl. This work, the Muqaddima al-ḥaḍramiyya, 'Hadrami Introduction', also entitled Masā’īl al-ta‘līm, 'Questions for instruction', is an important text of the Shafi‘ī school of law, which was widely used throughout the Indian Ocean littoral spreading out from Yemen to East Africa and Southeast Asia. This well-preserved manuscript, copied in 1623, is one of the earliest dated manuscripts written on dluwang, Javanese paper made from the beaten bark of the mulberry tree.

Opening pages of Masā’īl al-ta‘līm, with the first word of the title highlighted in gold, and rubrication on the first two pages. British Library, Sloane 2645, ff. 5v-6r  noc

The colophon of Masā’īl al-ta‘līm, giving the name of the scribe as Abdul Qadim, and the date of copying in the Javanese era: hādhā ashkāla (i.e. sengkala) al-jāwī min farāghihi 1545, ‘this is the Jawi (i.e. Southeast Asian Muslim) chronogram of the affluent 1545' (AD 1623/4). British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 116r  noc

The writing of the date 1545 (AD 1623/4) in numerals is of some interest. It shows very clearly the standard Indian form of the numeral 5, like a reversed B, used throughout Southeast Asia until the late 19th century, but barely recognized any longer, having long been displaced by the standard Middle Eastern form of the numeral 5, ۵.  More intriguing is the use of a system of dots indicating the unit place: the 1 is followed by three dots indicating thousands, 5 is followed by two dots indicating hundreds, 4 is followed by one dot indicating tens, and finally 5 is in the unit of ones. Exactly the same protocol is utilised in a decorative roundel found at the start of the manuscript, reproduced below.

Decorative medallion containing the date at the start of the manuscript, 1545 in the Javanese era (AH), equivalent to AD 1623/4. British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 5r  noc

Further reading:
Arnold Hunt, ‘Sloane as a collector of manuscripts’, in From books to bezoars: Sir Hans Sloane and his collections, ed. Alison Walker, Arthur MacGregor and Michael Hunter (London: The British Library, 2012).
M.C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 45.
A.T. Gallop with B. Arps, Golden letters: writing traditions of Indonesia (London: British Library; Jakarta: Lontar, 1991), p.100.

With thanks to Dick van der Meij for advice on the Javanese, and Emma Goodliffe for reading the Chinese inscriptions.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork