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37 posts categorized "Indonesia"

16 June 2017

Malay and Indonesian manuscripts exhibited in 1960

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Until 1972 the British Library formed part of the British Museum. Its exhibition cases were located in the great King’s Library wing, built in 1827 to house the royal collection of over 60,000 books formed by King George III (1760–1820) and given to the nation in 1823 by his son King George IV. From July to August 1960, the King’s Library hosted ‘Books from the East: an exhibition of Oriental Manuscripts and Printed Books’ which aimed ‘to show something of the richness and variety of oriental literature’ through ‘books and manuscripts which stand out from the rest on account of their beauty, rarity, early date or unusual form’.

Interior of the King's Library, British Museum, by Frederick Hawkesworth S. Shepherd (1877–1948). The display cases visible continued to be used for books and manuscripts until the 1990s, when the British Library moved to St. Pancras.

One of the 22 cases in the exhibition 'Books from the East' was dedicated to eight Malay and Indonesian manuscripts, described below in the exhibition leaflet:

“In the centre are two Malay manuscripts: a Proclamation of 1811 by Sir Stamford Raffles written in the Malayan Arabic script, called Jawi, which is slowly being replaced by the modern romanised script; and the other – a seventeenth century translation of the Psalms of David – is in an early romanised script used by Dutch missionaries in the Netherlands East Indies. (Or.9484; Sloane 3115.) Two Javanese illuminated manuscripts are shown – A History of Kingdom of Mataram in East Java, which reached the peak of its power in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (Add.12,287); and a Pawukon or Treatise on Judicial Astrology with coloured figure drawings illustrating the text (Add.12,338). The very large Buginese book is an example of the interesting Court Diaries that were kept by the Bugis in the Celebes from at least the seventeenth century. (Add.12,354.) Two Batak bark books with wooden covers, from Sumatra, are also shown (Add.19381 and Or.11761) together with a wooden tubular section cut from a length of large bamboo, and inscribed with the Batak alphabet (Or.5309). Both of the books are manuals of divination and magic.”

This display from 1960 has been reassembled here in photographic form below, with hyperlinks to digitised versions and relevant blog posts.

Proclamation of the capture of Batavia by the British, 11 August 1811, in Malay in Jawi script. British Library, Or 9484

Psalms of David in Malay, late 17th century, probably written in the Moluccas. British Library, Sloane 3115, ff. 10v-11r

Add 12287 (2)
Babad Sejarah Mataram, Javanese history of the kingdom of Mataram from Adam to the fall of Kartasura; this copy early 19th c. British Library, Add 12287, ff. 3v-4r

Pawukon, Javanese calendrical compilation with illustrations of the gods and goddesses associated with each week (wuku), 1807. British Library, Add 12338, ff. 92v-93r

Bugis diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin of Bone (r.1775-1812). British Library, Add 12354, ff. 17v-18r

Add 19381 (5)
Pustaha in Mandailing-Batak from north Sumatra, containing esoteric texts on divination and protection, showing on the right pictures of a labyrinth and the seal of Solomon, early 19th c. British Library, Add. 19381

Or 5309 - b
Bamboo cylinder with Batak syllabary, 19th c. British Library, Or. 5309

Or 11761 (1)
Pustaha in Simalungun-Batak, with nicely decorated wooden covers, a plaited bamboo strap, and carrying string. British Library, Or. 11761  noc

In subsequent years the King's Library witnessed more exhibitions of maritime Southeast Asian material, including Early Malay Printing 1603-1900, held from 20 January to 4 June 1989, and Paper and Gold: illuminated manuscripts from the Indonesian archipelago, held from 11 July to 27 October 1990. But 'Books from the East' appears to have been the first occasion on which Malay and Indonesian manuscripts were included in a thematic temporary exhibition in the British Museum.

Further reading:

M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014. 

Golden Letters: writing traditions of Indonesia / Surat Emas: budaya tulis di Indonesia. Annabel Teh Gallop with Bernard Arps.  London: British Library; Jakarta: Yayasan Lontar, 1991

Download 1989-Early Malay Printing

Download 1990-Paper and Gold

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

20 December 2016

Old Javanese copper charters in the British Library

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One of the greatest periods of building in stone ever known commenced in central Java in the late 7th century, and reached a climax with the construction of Borobudur – the largest Buddhist monument in the world – in the 8th century, and the Prambanan temple complex in the 9th century. During the 10th century, for reasons that are still not entirely clear, the centre of activity shifted from central Java to east Java, where Hindu-Buddhist temples were built in stone and then brick through to the late 15th century, until halted with the spread of Islam throughout the island. Neglected and uncared for, the temples fell into disuse and thence decay, hastened by the unchecked growth of vegetation and volcanic and seismic activity.

The traditional writing material in Java was palm leaf or paper made from the beaten bark of the mulberry tree. Although if treated with great care organic materials may survive for several hundred years in the tropical climate, most of what we know about the early Javanese civilisations responsible for these great monuments is necessarily gleaned from a study of inscriptions engraved on more durable materials such as stone and copper.  The earliest known inscriptions from Java were written in Old Malay and Sanskrit, but by the 9th century Old Javanese was used. The Old Javanese language differs from modern Javanese in the very high proportion of Sanskrit words, while Old Javanese script, sometimes known as Kawi script, also differs from that used for modern Javanese. The earliest dated inscription in Old Javanese is the Sukabumi inscription of 804 AD, and Old Javanese continued to be used until the 15th century.  Hundreds of inscriptions survive, engraved on stone and copper. Some of the copper charters are later copies of earlier inscriptions, or more portable copies of inscriptions originally engraved on stone.

Mount Sumbing, a volcano in central Java, shown with a selection of Javanese antiquities in the foreground. From the Java-Album by Franz Wilhelm Junghuhn (1809-1864). Leipzig: Arnoldische Buchhandlung, 1856. British Library, 1781.a.21, Plate 5.

The British Library holds three separate copper charters in Old Javanese, all of which have now been digitised.  The two charters held as Ind. Ch. 57, both incomplete, relate to a man named Ugra in a village called Pabuharan. Although undated, there are textual indications that these charters may date from the 9th century. The plate which can properly be termed the ‘Pabuharan inscription’ (Prasasti Pabuharan), Ind. Ch. 57 (B), records a grant of the attributes of the Brahman-order and Kṣatriya-order by the king to Ugra's children named Dyah Kataywat and Dyah Nariyama in the domain (sima) of Pabuharan.  On this occasion several ceremonial gifts of cloth and gold were presented to various officials, and are listed in the inscription.

Pabuharan inscription, copper charter, in poor condition, possibly 9th century AD. British Library, Ind. Ch. 57 (B), f. 2v.

The accompanying plate, Ind Ch 57 (A), records the making of a canal in the lěmah asinan of Pabuharan by Ugra, who is described as a a teacher, with some rights and regulations to be maintained for it.

Both plates were in the possession of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Java from 1811 to 1816, but there is no information on how Raffles acquired them in Java. The plates were originally held in the British Museum before being transferred to the British Library.

Old Javanese charter recording the digging of a canal in Pabuharan. British Library, Ind. Ch. 57 (A), f. 1r.

The third charter was issued by King Siṇḍok, who reigned in Java from ca. 929 to 947, and it was probably during his reign that the main shift from central to east Java took place. Known as the Sobhāmṛta inscription (Prasasti Sobhāmṛta), the complete charter consists of seven plates, of which the first and third plates are held in the National Museum of World Cultures in Leiden, while the five remaining plates are held in the British Library as MSS Jav 106.  On the basis of the style of script, this is clearly a copy made sometime between the late 13th and 15th centuries of the original charter.  The inscription records that on 11 Suklapaksa in the month Waisakha 861 Saka ( 2 May 939 AD), the king – named in the text as Sri Maharaja Rake Hino Mpu Sindok Sri Isanawijaya Dharmottunggadewa – gave orders that rice fields, orchards, and house lands in Sobhāmṛta were to become a freehold area, in return for the duty of maintaining a temple.  The charter was discovered in 1815 in a village south of Surabaya in East Java during work on a water supply.  The name of this village was Betra, which could possibly be a corrupt version of the Sanskrit name Sobhāmṛta, meaning ‘splendid holy water’, from nine centuries earlier.

The beginning of Plate 2 of the Sobhāmṛta inscription, dated śāka 861 (A.D. 939), in Old Javanese. A copy made in the Majapahit period (1293 - ca.1500). British Library, MSS Jav 106, f. 1r

The last plate ends with a series of decorative motifs marking the end of the text, including two floral motifs probably derived from the lotus blossom.

Floral motifs marking the end of the text of the Sobhāmṛta inscription. British Library, MSS Jav 106, f. 5v  noc

For a full list of digitised Malay and Indonesian manuscripts in the British Library, click here.

Further reading:
M.C. Ricklefs, P. Voorhoeve & A.T.Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: EFEO, 2014; p. 257.

Ind. Ch. 57
Albertine Gaur, Indian charters on copper plates. London: British Museum, 1975; p. 32.
OJO (Oud-Javaansche Oorkonden) no. CXV in: J.L.A. Brandes, 'Oud-Javaansche oorkonden: nagelaten transcripties', edited by N.J. Krom. Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, 60 (parts 1 and 2), 1913. Batavia; ’s-Hage: Albrecht; Nijhoff; pp. 250-251.
Boechari, and A.S. Wibowo. Prasasti Koleksi Museum Nasional. Vol. 1. Jakarta: Proyek Pengembangan Museum Nasional, Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan, 1985-1986; inscription E.1.II (reading based on a cast).

MSS Jav 106
A.T. Gallop with B. Arps, Golden letters: writing traditions of Indonesia. London: British Library; Jakarta: Lontar, 1991; pp. 74-75.
Titi Surti Nastiti. Prasasti Sobhāmṛta. Jakarta: Pusat Penelitian dan Pengembangan Arkeologi Nasional, Departemen Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata, 2007

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

28 November 2016

Batak manuscripts in the British Library

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The Batak peoples of north Sumatra are associated with a distinctive writing culture, with manuscripts written on a range of organic materials, primarily tree bark, bamboo and bone.  Most characteristic are the bark books known as pustaha, written on strips of bark of the alim (Aquilaria malaccensis) tree, which is folded concertina-fashion, and sometime furnished with wooden covers, which can be beautifully decorated.  Probably because of their intriguing appearance, Batak manuscripts are encountered in more libraries and museums in Britain than manuscripts in any other Indonesian language.

MSS Batak 10
Batak pustaha in Simalungun script, containing a text on divination by means of a chicken that is put under a basket after its head has been severed. When it no longer moves, the datu (magician) lifts the basket and observes its position. British Library, MSS Batak 10.  noc

The term ‘Batak’ covers a number of different linguistic groups, most prominently the southern cluster of Toba, Angkola and Mandailing, and the northern group of Karo and Dairi-Pakpak, with Simalungun generally treated as a separate category.  The Batak alphabet, which is written from left to right, is related to other Indonesian scripts all ultimately of Indian origin, including Lampung, Rejang and rencong in south Sumatra, Bugis and Makassar in Sulawesi, and Javanese and Balinese.

Or.16736 (2)
Batak divination text in Karo Batak script, incised on a bamboo container.  British Library, Or. 16736.  noc

In Batak society literary works ranging from myths and legends to histories were composed and transmitted orally. The use of writing was restricted to certain specific purposes: for laments and letters, which were generally incised on bamboo, and for recording the esoteric knowledge of the datu, the shaman or medicine man, in the tree-bark books called pustaha (Kozok 2009: 15). In all Batak regions, the bark books are written in a fairly uniform arcane language called hata poda, the language of instruction. The subject matter encompasses protective or ‘white’ magic, which includes remedies and amulets and charms, destructive or ‘black’ magic, and divination. Pustaha may record the names of the writer or the datu from whom the knowledge was learned, but they are never dated, and therefore the year of acquisition by a library or museum is often the only reliable guide to dating a Batak bark book.

The British Library holds a pustaha, Add. 4726, which was presented to the British Museum by Alexander Hall in 1764, making it the oldest known Batak book to have entered a European collection. This manuscript consists of 18 folds of tree bark and two wooden covers, and has just been fully digitised and can be read here, and by clicking on the hyperlinks below the images.

Batak manuscript on the lemon oracle (panampuhi), in Toba Batak script. On the first page is written: Ompoo Nee Ha ee doo pun / Harryen Soocoonya / Punnampoo Hee wrote this / witness Raja Muntaggar, while the Batak text explains that 'this is an instruction from my grandfather ... Haidupan who lived in Poriaha, a man of the clan Haraan'. British Library, Add. 4726, f. a 1. noc

Drawing of a figure, from Batak text on the lemon oracle (panampuhi). British Library, Add. 4726, f. b 15  noc

Wooden covers of the Batak pustaha. British Library, Add. 4726.  noc

This manuscript contains the text of the lemon oracle (poda ni panampuhi), with instructions on how to tell from the way two sliced ends of a lemon drop into a bowl of water whether or not a prospective sweetheart is suitable, or to fortell the results of war.  The text is written from left to right parallel to the folds of the book, in black ink with a pen made from twigs (tarugi) found in the fibre of the sugar palm (Arenga saccharifera) tree.  The text starts with and is punctuated with decorative section headings called bindu, and includes several drawings in black ink.

The British Library holds 32 Batak manuscripts, including 28 pustaha, all of which are described in a published catalogue (Ricklefs, Voorhoeve & Gallop 2014).  Kozok (2009: 15) estimates that between one and two thousand pustaha are known today, held primarily in Dutch and German collections, as well as in the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta, including 31 copies of panampuhi, the lemon oracle.

Further reading:

Uli Kozok, Surat Batak: sejarah perkembangan tulisan Batak. Jakarta: EFEO & KPG, 2009.
Uli Kozok, 'Bark, bones and bamboo: Batak traditions of Sumatra', pp.231-246 in: Illuminations: the writing traditions of Indonesia, ed. by Ann Kumar and John H. McGlynn. New York: Weatherhill; Jakarta: Lontar Foundation, 1996.
Annabel Teh Gallop with Bernard Arps, Golden Letters: writing traditions of Indonesia. London: British Library; Jakarta: Yayasan Lontar, 1991; see 'Batak bark books', pp.113-117.
M.C. Ricklefs, P. Voorhoeve & A.T. Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: EFEO, Perpustakaan Nasional Republic Indonesia & Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014
R. Teygeler, ‘Pustaha; A study into the production process of the Batak book’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1993, ‘Manuscripts of Indonesia’,149 (3): 593-611

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

10 October 2016

The Archive of Yogyakarta digitised

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The ‘Archive of Yogyakarta’ refers to a collection of some four hundred manuscript documents in Javanese dating from 1772 to 1813, originating from the court of Yogyakarta. A highly important source for the political, economic, social, administrative and legal history of central Java in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the archive comprises official reports, letters, accounts and other documents as well as the private papers of Sultan Hamengkubuwana II (r. 1792-1810, 1811-1812, 1826-1828) and his successor Sultan Hamengkubuwana III (r. 1812-1814). Together with many other Javanese manuscripts on literary, historical and religious subjects held in the royal library, the documents were taken during the British assault on the palace of Yogyakarta in June 1812, and subsequently entered the private collections of three senior officials of the British administration in Java (1811-1816): Thomas Stamford Raffles, Lieutenant-Governor of Java; Colin Mackenzie, Chief Engineer; and John Crawfurd, then Resident of Yogyakarta. The documents were evidently selected by Crawfurd, whose collection was later acquired by the British Museum in 1842, and is now held in the British Library. Currently bound in four volumes (Add. 12303, Add. 12341, Add. 12342 and Add. 14397), the Archive of Yogyakarta has recently been fully digitised and can be accessed directly through the hyperlinks in this post or on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website.

Anonymous sketch of the Water Palace (Taman Sari) of Yogyakarta, 1812. Mackenzie Private collection. British Library, MSS Eur. E118, f.29.   noc

The ‘Archive of Yogyakarta’ is the name given to this treasure trove of documents by the historian Peter Carey, who stresses the extraordinary and perhaps unique historical value of the collection: ‘For almost the first time in Javanese, and perhaps even in Southeast Asian, history, pre-colonial studies can be based on the activities of local actors themselves documented by their own records’ (Carey & Hoadley 2000: 435). Under the auspices of the British Academy, the complete Archive has been published in two volumes, with detailed summaries of the contents and full transliterations of the Javanese text for each document. The first volume presents 106 documents on politics and internal court matters (Carey 1980), while the second volume focuses on economic and agrarian affairs (Carey & Hoadley 2000).  But the second volume also draws on the first in presenting all 420 documents as sources for the history of the Yogyakarta administration in the following five categories: 1) governmental decisions, including letters of appointment, royal orders, legal digests, documents on statute law, treaties and judicial decisions; 2) material resources in the form of appanages [i.e. sources of provision for members of the royal house] and military resources of the realm; 3) court correspondence, both incoming and outgoing; 4) accountancy records, showing both credit in the form of taxes, loans and contributions, and debit from allowances and cash outlays; and 5) miscellaneous documents, including those relating to religious affairs. This thematic presentation was achieved with considerable effort, for three of the four volumes were bound by Crawfurd in a completely random order: ‘land grants for royal officials and lists of revenue payments are mixed up with sumptuary laws [i.e. laws to limit extravagant consumption], political correspondence between the Sultan and the Residents and notes on disputes over villages. More intimate items such as allowances for court ladies, petty kraton accounts, payments for pradikan officials, challenges to cockfights, instructions on fasting (amutih, patih geni) and letters of praise with imagery from the wayang are also interspersed indiscriminately throughout the three volumes’ (Carey 1980: 3).

Appanage grant from Sultan Hamengkubuwana II to Bendara Raden Ayu Srenggara, the principal unofficial wife of Sultan Hamengkubuwana I and the mother of Pakualam I, granting her 56 manpower units (cacah) in named villages, 21 Sura A.J. 1721 (18 August 1794) (Carey & Hoadley 2000: 14). British Library, Add. 12342, f. 253r   noc

List of hajis, palace santris [religious scholars], and their followers sent to Mecca in 1806 by Sultan Hamengkubuwana II [4 February 1806], begins: Punika pémut pratélangipun utusan-Dalem ingkang badhé dhateng Mengkah … (Carey 1980: 172-3). British Library, Add. 12341, f. 78r  noc

Letter from Sultan Hamengkubuwana II and the Crown Prince of Yogyakarta to John Crawfurd, 18 Dulkangidah A.J. 1738 (4 Dec 1811), written in Javanese in Pégon (Arabic) script (Carey 1980: 79-81). This is one of a number of letters from the sultan and senior court officials to British officials not from the court library, but which were evidently taken by Crawfurd from the British Residency archives in Yogyakarta to add to his private collection. British Library, Add. 12341, f. 146v  noc

The historical value of this archive is beyond doubt, primarily for - as highlighted by the compilers of the second volume - 'the lack of correspondence between what contemporary European accounts deemed important and what the contents of The Archive of Yogyakarta seems to suggest is vital from a Javanese perspective' (Carey & Hoadley 2000: 4). But the documents are also an exceptionally rich source for the study of formal Javanese diplomatics, to be mined for data on the palaeography, phraseology, nomenclature and internal structure of different types of governmental documents, as well as guiding principles on the use and placement of seals, choice of script (whether the Indic-derived Javanese script, read from left to right, or  Pégon, the adapted form of Arabic script which is read from right to left) and materials (whether imported Dutch or other European rag paper, or dluwang, Javanese paper made from the beaten bark of the paper mulberry tree).

Octagonal seal of Sultan Hamengkubuwana II, inscribed in the centre in Javanese: Ingkang pratandha Kangjeng Sinuhun Hamengkubuwana Sénapati Ingalaga Ngabdurrahman Sayidin Panatagama Kalipatulah (Carey 1980: 76), 'This is the seal of the exalted majesty who carries the world in his lap, the commander of the army in war, servant of the Most Merciful One, lord of the faith, protector of religion, vicegerent of God' (cf. Carey & Hoadley 2000: 436). The tiny inscription in Arabic script in the border has not yet been read. British Library, Add. 12342, f. 208r (detail)   noc

The four volumes of the Archive of Yogyakarta have been digitised by the British Library as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Libraries and Archives Board of the Special District of Yogyakarta (Badan Perpustakaan and Arsip Daerah Istimewa Yoyakarta, BPADIY), focusing on those Javanese manuscripts in the British Library identified by Carey as originating from Yogyakarta. On a recent visit to Yogyakarta, on 22 September 2016 copies of the digitised images of the Archive of Yogyakarta were presented to His Excellency the Governor of Yogyakarta, H.M. Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwana X (the sultan of Yogyakarta is the only hereditary ruler in Indonesia also accorded a constitutional role, in recognition of the heroic support of Sultan Hamengkubuwana IX for the fledgling Republic of Indonesia during the Indonesian revolution, 1945-1949).

With H.E. the Governor of Yogyakarta, H.M. Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwana X (third from left) and staff of the Libraries and Archives Board (BPADIY) including head of BPADIY Budi Wibowo (second from left), at the 18th-century Kadipaten, former premises of the Crown Prince of Yogyakarta and now the gubernatorial office. Photo by Suhardo, 22 September 2016.

Looking at manuscripts in the Widya Budaya library in the palace of Yogyakarta, with royal librarian K.R.T. Rintaiswara (second left) and staff of the Libraries and Archives Board of Yogyakarta. Photo by A.T. Gallop, 24 September 2016.  noc

After the British sack of the court of Yogyakarta, only three manuscripts were left in the royal library: a copy of the Qur’an (copied in 1797), the Serat Suryaraja (1774), and a copy of Arjuna Wiwaha (1778) (Carey 1980: 13, n. 11). The manuscripts currently held in the Widya Budaya library therefore mostly postdate 1812, and Romo Rinto shows here a volume of archive documents in Javanese dating from the mid-19th century. Photo by A.T. Gallop, 24 September 2016.  noc


Carey, P. B. R. (ed.), The archive of Yogyakarta.  Volume I.  Documents relating to politics and internal court affairs.  Oxford: published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1980 (Oriental Documents; 3).
Carey, Peter and Hoadley, Mason C. (eds.), The archive of Yogyakarta.  Volume II.  Documents relating to economic and agrarian affairs.  Oxford: published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 2000. (Oriental Documents; 11).

One other Javanese manuscript from the Yogyakarta palace library now held in the British Library which has been digitised is the beautifully illuminated Serat Jayalengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24), described in another blog post: A Javanese manuscript artist at work.

For a full list of Malay and Indonesian manuscripts in the British Library which have been digitised, see our Digital Access to Malay and Indonesian manuscripts webpage.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

17 August 2016

The Indonesian Proclamation of Independence

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Today marks the 71st anniversary of the Proclamation of Independence of the Republic of Indonesia. On the morning of 17 August 1945, the Indonesian nationalist leader Sukarno read out before a small audience gathered outside his own house at Jalan Pegangsaan Timur 56 in Jakarta a simple statement which was broadcast throughout the country:
Proclamation: We the people of Indonesia hereby declare the independence of Indonesia. Matters concerning the transfer of power, etc., will be carried out in a conscientious manner and as speedily as possible.  Djakarta, 17 August 1945. In the name of the people of Indonesia, Soekarno - Hatta
The red-and-white flag, ‘Sang Merah Putih’, was raised and the song ‘Indonesia Raya’ – now the national anthem – was sung.

The rare handbill shown below, in the shape and colours of the national flag and measuring 17 x 11 cm, bears the type-written text of the proclamation:
PROKLAMASI  Kami bangsa Indonesia dengan ini menjatakan KEMERDEKAAN INDONESIA. Hal-hal jang mengenai pemindahan kekuasaan, dan lain-lain diselenggarakan dengan tjara saksama dan dalam tempo jang sesingkat-singkatnja.  Djakarta 17 Agustus 1945. Atas nama bangsa Indonesia. Sukarno - Hatta
Although it is not known on which occasion this handbill was produced, it probably dates from very shortly after the original event. 

Typewritten handbill with the text of the Proclamation of Independence of Indonesia. British Library, RF.2005.a.465  noc

Just two days earlier, on 15 August 1945, the Japanese occupying forces in Java had surrendered unconditionally to the Netherlands East Indies.  Since no Allied forces had yet landed to reconquer Indonesia, the country was in a state of political turmoil, and the opportunity to proclaim independence was seized. But the armed struggle was only just beginning, and for the next four years Indonesian nationalists were forced to wage a revolution against returning Dutch forces attempting to reimpose colonial rule, and it was only in 1949 that the Dutch finally acknowledged the independence of Indonesia.

It is hardly surprising that the British Library has few publications or papers deriving from the chaotic earliest days of the new republic. But thanks to the personal interest of a former curator of Dutch collections in the British Library, Dr Jaap Harskamp, in the late 1980s and 1990s the British Library slowly began to build up an important collection of papers, documents, books, pamphlets and posters relating to the Indonesian struggle for independence, many deriving from the heirs of Dutch soldiers and officials fighting against the Indonesian forces.  The Indonesia Merdeka Collection, which now numbers around 1,500 titles, is in size and scope second only to the holdings of the KITLV in Leiden.  The collection has been fully catalogued in a published volume (Harskamp 2001), with all the individual items also accessible through the Library’s online catalogue Explore.  The rare copy of the proclamation shown here is one of the highlights of the collection.

Reverse of the handbill containing the text of the Indonesian Proclamation of Independence. British Library, RF.2005.a.465  noc

Further reading:

Jaap Harskamp, The Indonesian question: the Dutch/Western response to the struggle for independence in Indonesia 1945-1950: an annotated catalogue of primary materials held in the British Library. Introduction by Peter Carey. Boston Spa: British Library, 2001.
Dorothée Buur, Persoonlijke documenten Nederland-Indië/Indonesië.  Leiden, 1973.
Dorothée Buur, Indische jeugdliteratuur. Geannoteerde bibliografie van jeugdboeken over Nederlands-Indië en Indonesië. Leiden, 1992.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

14 April 2016

A gold letter from Bali

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Currently on display in the exhibition case just outside the Asian and African Studies Reading Room in the British Library at St Pancras is a small letter from Bali, written entirely on a sheet of gold.  The letter was sent in 1768 from two princes of Bali – Kanjeng Kyai Angrurah Jambe of Badung (site of the present-day capital Denpasar) and Kyai Angrurah Agung of Mengwi – to Johannes Vos, the Dutch Governor of Semarang, on the north coast of Java.  In the letter, the princes affirm their everlasting friendship with the Dutch, and agree not to allow any enemies of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to pass through their territory without an official pass from the Company. The manuscript, Egerton 765, has just been digitised and can be read here.

Balinese letter on gold, 1768. Egerton 765, f.1r  noc

The letter’s shelfmark, Egerton 765, links it to Francis Henry Egerton, 8th Earl of Bridgewater, who on his death in 1829 bequeathed his collection of manuscripts to the British Museum together with a legacy for purchasing additions to the collection. Our little Balinese letter has in fact no direct connection with Francis Egerton himself, for it was acquired after Egerton’s death through his bequest. According to departmental records, on 4 December 1839 the MS was offered to Sir Frederic Madden, Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum, by one J. Sams of Darlington and Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn, London.  Mr Sams wrote that he “having sometime ago met with a curious Eastern MS., written on a sheet of Gold - & thinking a specimen or two of such an object, would be interesting, & desirable in our national repository, he writes a line to Sir F.M., as the respected Principal of the MS department, to mention that he gave for this scarce, & curious article, five pounds, without the case, which cost him some four shillings, - & that, if Sir F. please, it shall be the property of the Museum, at the price J.S. paid for it.” There is no further information on how J. Sams acquired the letter.

The letter is written in Balinese language and script, with the text incised with a thin stylus on both sides of the sheet of gold, with six lines on the front and five lines on the reverse.  Although the small size of the letter forms and the reflective nature of the gold sheet make the letter hard to read, the Dutch scholar J. Kats persevered, and in 1929 published the entire text in Balinese script with Dutch translation (Kats 1929). The little letter is well-travelled: as well as having been on public display at the British Library in London, it was shown in New York in 1990 at the ‘Court Arts of  Indonesia’ exhibition, and also in Rotterdam in 1993 (Jessup 1990: 30-31, 236-7).  In 1991 it travelled back to Indonesia for the exhibition ‘Golden Letters: writing traditions of Indonesia’, and was displayed at the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta and at the Palace of Yogyakarta (Gallop & Arps 1991: 104).

Measuring 5.5 cm high and 24 cm wide, in its proportions the letter emulates a piece of palm leaf, the standard writing material throughout Southeast Asia before the wide availability of paper, and still the main medium for sacred texts in Bali today.  The use of gold as a writing material has a long tradition in Southeast Asia.  The National Museum in Jakarta has examples of Buddhist texts in Sanskrit from the 10th century inscribed on gold strips similar in size to the Balinese letter, and comparable Buddhist gold inscriptions are known from Burma.

BL Or.5340A-B (1)
Pali Buddhist text from Burma, written on a strip of gold. British Library, Or. 5340  noc

Gold was also used for diplomatic letters, and its use can be interpreted as honouring the recipient while also emphasising the status of the sender. Perhaps the most exceptional example known today is a Burmese letter on gold from King Alaungphaya sent to George II of Great Britain in 1756. Dating from just a decade earlier than our Balinese letter, the Burmese epistle is however immeasurably grander: not only was it written on a sheet of gold, but each end was studded with a row of 12 rubies, and a gold impression of the king’s seal was affixed to the letter, which was then rolled and placed within an ivory receptacle for delivery. King George was of German origin, and he prized this letter enough to send it back to his ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ in home town of Hanover, where it is still held today in the Gottfried Willem Leibniz Library.  Recently, with the support of the British Library, this letter was inscribed on the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ Register.

Burmese gold
Burmese letter on gold from King Alaungmintaya to King George II, 1756. Copyright Gottfried Willem Leibniz Library, Hanover.

Hanover Leibniz Burmese seal
Detail of the Burmese letter showing the king's seal stamped in gold, with the row of rubies at the beginning of the letter. Copyright Gottfried Willem Leibniz Library, Hanover.

Further reading

J. Kats, Een Balische brief van 1768 aan den Gouveneur van Java’s Noordkust. Festbundel uitgegeven door het Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen bij gelegenheid van zijn 150 jarig bestaan, 1778-1928. Vol. I, pp. 291-6. Weltevreden, 1929.
Helen Ibbitson Jessup, Court arts of Indonesia.  New York: The Asia Society, 1990.
Annabel Teh Gallop with Bernard Arps, Golden letters: writing traditions of Indonesia.  Surat emas: budaya tulis di Indonesia.  London: British Library; Jakarta: Yayasan Lontar, 1991.
Jacques P. Leider, King Alaungmintaya’s Golden Letter to King George II (7 May 1756): the story of an exceptional manuscript and the failure of a diplomatic overture. Hannover: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek, 2009.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

07 January 2016

From Samarkand to Batavia: a popular Islamic catechism in Malay

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On a recent visit to Indonesia, I was informed by Professor Oman Fathurahman of the State Islamic University of Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta, of plans to set up a ‘Museum Islam Betawi’, which would explore aspects of the practice of Islam in Batavia, the old Dutch name for Jakarta. We discussed what might be exhibited in such a museum, and the first thing that came to mind was Islamic manuscripts written in Batavia, representative of the texts that were taught and studied in the locality, and which shaped beliefs and daily life.

A warung, or small coffee-stall, in Gunung Sari, Batavia, very close to Salemba, where the manuscript discussed below was copied. Watercolour by John Newman, 1813. British Library, WD 953, f.82 (93).  noc

Among the Malay manuscripts in the British Library which have recently been digitised there is only one which was definitely written in Batavia, but it is probably an excellent example of the type of work used for Islamic instruction in the city. It is a copy of Bayān ‘Aqīdah al-Uṣūl, ‘Elucidation of the fundamentals of faith’, also known as Masa‘il, ‘Questions’, a simple catechism written in question-and-answer form by Abū al-Layth Muḥammad b. Abī Naṣr b. Ibrāhīm al-Samarqandī (d. 983), a jurist of the Hanafi school of law from the ancient city of Samarkand, located in present-day Uzbekistan. What was originally a single manuscript has now been separated into two parts, one consisting of the Arabic catechism of al-Samarqandī with interlinear translation into Malay (IO Islamic 2906), and a second volume (MSS Malay C.7) containing texts wholly in Malay.  The Malay volume starts with a catechism on prayer (sembahyang) also in question-and-answer form, and is followed by instructions on prayers for the dead (Ini niat sembahyangkan mayat laki-laki) and a text on marriage (Inilah kitab pada menyatakan hukum nikah), which is left incomplete as the manuscript ends abruptly.

Islamic catechism of al-Samarqandī, in Arabic with interlinear Malay translation, Batavia, early 19th c. IO Islamic 2096, ff. 1v-2r.  noc

Islamic catechism in Malay, Batavia, early 19th c. MSS Malay C 7, ff. 2v-3r.  noc

Both parts are written in the same hand, and a note on the cover, now housed with the Malay volume, identifies the scribe. The owner of the manuscript is named as Mister Alperes of Kampung Salemba in Batavia, and the scribe introduces himself as Duljabar, who had come to Batavia from Cirebon. With conventional modesty he apologises for his poor handwriting “like chickens’ scratchings” (cakar hayam); in fact, as can be seen, his hand is quite stylish, with sophisticated layerings of certain letters, such as in the initial word alamat. Although the manuscript is undated it was most likely acquired during the British administration of Java (1811-1816) and therefore probably dates from the early 19th century.

Note by the scribe of the manuscript: ‘This is the book of Samarqandi, belonging to Mister Alperes, who lives in Kampung Salembah. This book was written by Master Duljabar, from Cirebon, who came to Batavia when he was very young, and who learnt to write from Mister Alperes. I was set to write all sorts of things and I wrote them to the very best of my ability, fearful of being accused of refusing or being lazy; and so this is the result, but my humble apologies are offered to those gentlemen who will read it, because the writing is like chickens' scratchings’ (Alamat surat kitab Samarqandi Tuan Alperes yang empunya dia yang telah duduk dalam daerah Kampung Salembah adanya. Dan yang menyurat kitab ini Enci' Du al-Jabar anak Cerebon, kecil ia datang di Betawi baharu belajar menyurat daripada Tuan Alperes menyurat apakan dia dengan seboleh2 hamba suratkan takut hamba dikatakan tiada mau serta malas inilah akan rupanya melainkan maaf jua perbanyak2 kepada tuan2 yang membaca dia karena suratannya bagai cakar hayam demikian adanya.) British Library, MSS Malay C.7, f.1r  noc

Michael Laffan (2011: 33) has noted that by the mid-19th century the catechism of al-Samarqandī was one of the two most popular Islamic texts throughout Indonesia, the other being Sifat Dua Puluh, ‘Twenty Attributes’ of God, derived from the ‘Umm al-Barāhīn of al-Sanūsī (d.1490), which also featured in a recent blog. Al-Samarqandī ’s work seems to have been particularly well-regarded in Java, and the British Library holds three copies of parts of the text with Javanese translations (MSS Jav 43, MSS Jav 77 and Or. 16678). Another manuscript in Arabic with Javanese translation is found in Cambridge University Library (Or. 194) while the Royal Asiatic Society holds a full translation into Javanese (Raffles Java 22). In Leiden University Library, of the 14 Arabic manuscripts of Bayān ‘Aqīdah al-Uṣūl, 13 have an interlinear translation in Javanese, while one has a Makassarese translation (Voorhoeve 1980: 45). The Endangered Archives Programme has also documented four manuscripts of the work with Javanese translations, two held at an Islamic boarding school in East Java, the Pondok Pesantren Tegalsari in Jetis, Ponorogo, and two in Cirebon on the north coast of west Java: one in the royal collection of Sultan Abdul Gani Natadiningrat  and another held by Muhammad Hilman. It is thus interesting to note that Duljabar's manuscript copied in Batavia is relatively rare in presenting al-Samarqandī's Bayān ‘Aqīdah al-Uṣūl with a Malay translation.

The start of al-Samarqandī's catechism, in Arabic with small interlinear Javanese translation, and with the beginning of each question highlighted in red, late 18th century, from the collection of Colin Mackenzie. British Library, MSS Jav 43, f.89v  noc

Bayān ‘Aqīdah al-Uṣūl by al-Samarqandī, in Arabic with interlinear translation in Javanese. Collection of Muhammad Hilman, Cirebon. EAP211/1/4/1

Further reading:

J. van Ess, Abu'l-Layt Samarqandi, Encyclopædia Iranica, I/3, pp. 332-333.
Oman Fathurahman, Museum Islam Betawi. Republika, 24 Oktober 2015.
Michael Laffan, The makings of Indonesian Islam: Orientalism and the narration of a Sufi past. Woodstock: Princeton University Press, 2011.
M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve† and Annabel Teh Gallop, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, 2014.
P. Voorhoeve, Handlist of Arabic manuscripts in the library of the University of Leiden and other collections in the Netherlands. 2nd enlarged ed. Leiden: Leiden University Press, 1980.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

27 August 2015

Early Malay trading permits from Borneo

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In November 1714, three British merchants from the East India Company ship Borneo were granted permits to trade by the sultan of Banjar on the south coast of the island of Borneo, now known as Banjarmasin in present-day Indonesian Kalimantan. The issuing of trading permits was a common occurrence, but what was exceptional in this case was the form of the permit itself: a thin piece of gold stamped with the sultan’s seal, with a personalised inscription naming each of the three officers.

At this time the ruler of Banjar was Sultan Tahmidullah (r.1712-1747), and the presentation of the permits took place at his palace at Caytongee or Kayu Tangi, about a hundred miles upriver from the port of Banjarmasin. The occasion was described by Captain Daniel Beeckman in his travelogue, A voyage to the island of Borneo in the East-Indies, published in London in 1718:

He caus’d three Gold Plates to be made of the Form and Size here mark’d, of which he gave one to me, another to Mr. Swartz, and the third to Mr. Becher; and told us, that was a Token of the Friendship, and a Chop, or Grant of Trade, having the Stamp of his Great Seal on it; that on the producing it at our return, he would not only protect us, but grant us the liberty of Trade in any part of his Dominions; Then he wish’d us, in a hearty manner, a good Voyage, and a speedy Return. I have here inserted the Words that are on the Gold Chop, as also the English of them, as near as I can, viz. De ca Tawon Zeib, daen ca Boolon Dulcaidat, Eang Sultan Derre Negree Caytongee, dea Casse enee Chop pada anacooda Beeckman. That is, In the Year Zeib, and the Moon Dulcaidat, The Sultan of Caytongee gave this Chop to Captain Beeckman’ (Beeckman 1718: 110-111).

Daniel Beeckman, A voyage to and from the island of Borneo in the East-Indies (London, 1718). British Library, T 11938 4.  noc

Hardly surprisingly, none of the original gold tokens is known to have survived. But tucked inside a manuscript volume of miscellanea in the British Library’s department of western manuscripts is a document with a tracing of the token granted to Bartholomew Swartz, supercargo of the Borneo. As part of the Harleian collection, this manuscript dates from before 1753, and was therefore probably drawn up not long after the return of the ship Borneo from the East Indies. The piece of paper is inscribed: 'The Contract with the Emperor of Borneo (in the East Indies). Mr. ... Swartz's Agent from the East India Comp. London. This was an agreement to settle & Trade or Commerce with full liberty to the Subjects of England or great Britain'. In the middle of the sheet of paper is a drawing of the token, which is labelled, 'This is on a gold plate, impressd. by the Emperor, almost as thinn as this paper, whereby it is plainly seen on the other side'.

Traced copy of the gold trading permit bearing the seal of Sultan Tahmidullah of Banjar, with a presentation inscription in Malay to Bartholomew Swartz dated 1714. British Library, Harley MS 6824, f. 194r.  noc

The outline of the original gold plate has been traced with a sharp implement, and the inscription on the seal and the token copied out in black ink. The scored outline shows that the gold plate was rectangular on the three lower sides but rounded at the top, and measured 87 mm high by 48 mm wide. Impressed at the top of the token was the round seal of the sultan, measuring 45 mm in diameter with a triple-ruled outline, with an inscription in the middle and in a border around the edge.

This drawing is doubly significant, not only as a record of a rare seal impressed in gold, but also because it depicts the oldest Islamic seal known from Borneo. In Malay seals, the main inscription giving the name of the seal owner is invariably located in the centre, while the border houses a secondary inscription, often religious in character. However, in this seal, the only logical way of reading the inscription is to proceed from the border inwards to the centre: Sultan Tahmidullah ibn Sultan Tahirullah ibn // al-Malik[?] Allah, ‘Sultan Tahmidullah, son of Sultan Tahidullah, son of // al-Malikullah’. [It is probably significant that the only other Malay seal known where the inscription should be read from the border inwards is also from Banjar.]

Detail of the drawing of the gold sealed trading permit. British Library, Harley MS 6824, f. 194r.  noc

Underneath the seal impression, the gold plate was inscribed in Malay in Jawi script with the date and the name of the recipient: Pada tahun zai pada bulan Zulkaidah hijrat [a]l-nabi seribu seratus enam tahun, Sultan Banjar mengasih cap kepada Batalomu Suwas, ‘In the year Zai, the month Zulkaidah, the year of the migration of the Prophet one thousand one hundred and six, the Sultan of Banjar gave this seal to Bartholomew Swartz’. Although the date on this copy is given as Zulkaidah 1106 (June/July 1695) it should, without doubt, read Zulkaidah 11[2]6 (November/December 1714), which accords exactly with the dates of the Borneo’s visit to Banjar.

No other reference is known to trading permits from the Malay archipelago in the form of gold tokens, and another East India Company ship, Dragon, which visited Banjarmasin in 1746 during the reign of Sultan Tahmidullah's son, Tamjidullah (r.1746-1756), received more conventional trading permits, written on paper in Malay in very stylish Jawi calligraphy, and bearing the sultan's seal stamped in red wax.

IOR-L-Mar-C-324, f.65r-ed
Trading agreement for pepper issued by the Sultan of Banjar to the East India Company, received on 24 October 1746: 'This is our royal decree to Mr Butler, Mr Stewart and Captain Kent; as your trading vessels sail in and out we agree that they will not be searched; you must not allow any nobles or notables to board your ship, or anyone at night, and during daytime only two or three merchants may board (at any one time); and we promise the Company to supply six thousand pikul of pepper, this is not negotiable, and each year whether two or three ships come, it will be [only] six thousand' (Bahwa ini titah kami kepada Mister Butel dan Mister Asdut serta Kapitan Kin jikalau ada perahu masuk atau perahu keluar tiada kami berikan diperiksa yang jenis perahu dagang dan lagi pula kalau raja2 atau orang besar2 hendak bermain ke kapal jangan dinaikkan atau orang henda naik pada malam melainkan orang berdagang dua tiga orang beroleh naik pada hari siang dan akan perjanjian kita dengan Kompeni memuat lada enam ribu pikul tiada kita mengubahkan tiap2 tahun jikalau kapal datang dua atau tiga enam ribu jua). British Library, IOR L/Mar/C/324, f. 65r.  noc

IOR-L-Mar-C-324, f.64r text-ed
Financial surety issued by the Sultan of Banjar, 1746: 'This is our surety issued to Mister Butler for the rials, valid only as far as Batavia; if Mister Butler does not return to Banjar our friendship with the East India Company will be revoked' (Bahwa ini surat kami akan Mister Butel mengganti rial itu sehingga ke Betawi saja, jikalau tiada kembali ke Banjar adalah Mister Butel menceraikan sahabat kami dengan Kompeni). British Library, IOR L/Mar/C/324, f. 64r.  noc

IOR-L-Mar-C-324, f.64r, seal a   IOR-L-Mar-C-324, f.65r, seal
Two red wax seals bearing the name Sultan Tamjidullah, both inscribed from the bottom up so that the word Allah is elevated to the position of honour at the top of the seal. British Library, IOR L/Mar/324, f. 64r (left) and f. 65r (right).  noc

Further reading

A.T. Gallop & V. Porter, Lasting Impressions: Seals from the Islamic World. Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2012.

A.T. Gallop, Elevatio in Malay diplomatics, Annales Islamologiques.  Dossier: Les conventions diplomatiques dans le monde musulman.  L’umma en partage (1258-1517), ed. Marie Favereau.  41 (2007), pp. 41-57.

Malay manuscripts from Borneo

With thanks to Richard Morel who discovered the two permits of 1746.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork