THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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16 posts categorized "Language studies"

30 December 2016

A Rose by Any Other Name: Turkish in its Various Apparitions

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For those who have learnt foreign languages, the presence of a loanword can be both comforting and surreal. In languages written in non-Roman scripts, a borrowed word – take computer as an example – greatly eases the task of building vocabulary; it is far simpler to remember the Japanese konpyutaa than the Hungarian számítógép. However, such loan-words can also be disorienting, triggering memories of one’s mother tongue while confronting it with the sight of a totally foreign representation. Now imagine that nearly every word in a text was much the same. This phenomenon is referred to as allography, and, in the period before standardized orthographies, state-sponsored schooling and the mass media, it was an exceptionally common occurrence. Among the most famous of cases are the Jewish languages of Yiddish and Ladino, but in the Ottoman Empire, where secular, state-directed education was not enforced until the 20th century, Turkish in scripts other than Arabic was a matter of routine business.

14400c4
Ahd-i Atikten On Yedi Kitap, yani Doğuş Kitabından Ester Kitabınadek, or The Old Testament from Genesis to the Book of Esther. Izmir: Grifilyan Basmahanesi, 1841 (BL 14400.c.4)
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The two largest allographic communities were the Armenians and the Greeks. Armeno-Turkish – a rendering of Ottoman Turkish in Armenian letters – gave rise to a vibrant publishing industry and cultural community. The orthography was largely phonetic and based upon Western Armenian readings of the letters. It was in Armeno-Turkish that many French and other Western European works came into Turkish. This was a situation assisted by the reticence of the Sublime Porte to authorize Ottoman Turkish printing presses, despite the expansion of Armenian, Greek and Jewish ones. Many volumes printed were religious works, for example BL 14400.c.4, shown above, a copy of the Old Testament. The growth of an Armenian middle class gradually permitted the flourishing of secular publication as well, allowing for the appearance of translations, adaptations and original works. A case in point is the collection of şarkılar, or folksongs, in Armeno-Turkish shown below, BL 14499.a.14(5). That the Armeno-Turkish cultural sphere was a world in its own right is attested to by an Armeno-Turkish guide to the works of Professor Bezjian published in Aleppo in 1932, four years after the introduction of a Latin script for Turkish, and more than a decade and a half after the tragic events of 1915.
14499a14(5) Uncatalogued Armenian Book
Left: Yeni Şarkiler Mecmuası, or The Journal of New Folk Songs. [Istanbul?]: n.p., 1871 (BL 14499.a.14(5))
Right: Prof. Y. A. Bezciyan ve Bazi Onun Eserleri, or Prof. Y. A. Bezjian and Some of His Works. Aleppo: Halep Kolej Matbaası, 1932
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Turkish written in Greek characters also laid the foundation for a vibrant publishing industry, with a heavy emphasis on religious materials. The language, known as Karamanlidika in Greek and Karamanlıca in Turkish, was the everyday idiom of the Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox Christians of Anatolia. Despite being ethnically and linguistically Turkish, their religion required them to be classified as Rum or Greek Orthodox under the Ottoman system. The Orthodox clergy controlled education, and a tradition of literacy in Greek letters, rather than modified Arabic script. Although many of the Library’s holdings in Karamanlidika are translations of the New Testament – usually published by British missionaries, for example BL 14400.a.28 below – there are also a few non-scriptual examples. One is a play based on the story of Abraham’s sacrifice, a story that is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike (BL 14469.c.4).
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Left: Incili Şerif, yani Ahd-i Cedid, or The Holy Gospel, or the New Testament. London: Rildert and Rivington Publishers, 1873 (BL 14400.a.28)
Right: Hazreti Avraamin: Ziyade Cok Cana Menfaatı Kurban Hikayesi, or Saint Abraham: The Sacrifice Story, of Great Use to Many Souls. Istanbul: Ignatious Basmahanesi, 1836 (BL 14469.c.4)
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The final example of allography from the Ottoman Empire is a much less common one, but no less interesting. It is of the newspaper Leshānā d’umthā, Syriac for Voice of the Nation (BL 753.k.35). This bi-weekly was produced in Beirut, Lebanon from 1927 until 1946 and had articles in Syriac, Arabic and Turkish. Arabic written in Syriac script is a common occurrence throughout the Christian Orient, and is referred to as Garshuni. Turkish written in Syriac characters, however, is far rarer, and represents a unique view into the linguistic, political and cultural identity of Beirut’s Christian communities decades after the end of Ottoman sovereignty. Unlike Armeno-Turkish, the author of the Ottoman Turkish articles in this periodical adhered to Ottoman orthography as much as possible, even when it did not conform to the spoken language. This indicates that the compiler of the articles was educated in Ottoman Turkish, yet opted to write in Syriac script; a reminder of just how powerful the visual aspects of language were and are in the Middle East.

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Left: The Syriac-script, trilingual (Syriac-Arabic-Turkish) biweekly Leshono d’Umtho, or Tongue of the Nation. Beirut, 1928 (BL 753.k.35(2))
Right: İlm-i Hal, or Catechism. The complete collection of faith-based knowledge for Muslims, printed in a modified Perso-Arabic script. Istanbul: Tevsi-i Tabaat Matbaası, [1910?](BL ITA.1994.a.128)
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Questions of script, orthography and language were not limited to the minority communities. Indeed, perhaps the most vibrant discussions were held about the majority language itself. Ottoman intellectuals frequently debated script and grammar reforms in discussions that impinged on issues of identity, power and connectivity. The edition of the Islamic theological tract, İlm-i Hal, produced by the Society for the Teaching of a New Script in the second decade of the 20th century, exemplifies this latter push for change (BL ITA.1994.a.128). One of only three publications by the Society, it sought to reconcile orthographic efficiency with tradition by adding vowel characters to the Arabic script, some of which were based on Old Turkic runes. Like the allographies of the Armenians, Greeks and Syriac Christians, this attempt would fall victim to the drive for standardization and generalization of the new age of nations ushered in by the end of the First World War. Today these publications remain as memorials to the colourful and pluralistic cultural milieus of the age of empires.

Michael Erdman, Curator Turkish and Turkic Collections
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14 January 2016

A Dictionary Packed with Stories from Eighteenth-Century Delhi

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In a previous post (When Good Literary Taste Was Part of a Bureaucrat’s Job Description) I introduced readers to the high-ranking courtier, poet and writer Ānand Rām Mukhliṣ (1697?-1751). Here I focus on his idiosyncratic dictionary, the Mirʾāt al-iṣt̤ilāḥ (ʻMirror of Expressionsʼ) completed in 1158/1745, which provides us with a delightful hodgepodge of cultural and social information about eighteenth-century India

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Decorative shamsah followed by the opening page of Mirʾāt al-iṣt̤ilāḥ (British Library Or.1813, f. 11)  noc

The biographical note on a certain Rājah Harīsingh from Sialkot, for example, which describes him as peerless in archery and entertaining (ʿilm-i majlis), is a little unusual in its detail but unremarkable for this book:

On dark nights he shot by torchlight at a target made from knot of horsehair. He had a servant named Gopī… [Gopī] would place a piece of candle on the tip of his finger, set a lentil on it, place a grain of rice on top, and stand facing the Rajah, and the Rajah bent his bow. First he knocked the rice then the lentil then the candle from his finger. Neither did the Rajah make a mistake nor did the unjust [sic] servant frown. Now I come to his knowledge of entertaining...
(Mukhliṣ 2013: 238, my translation).

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Biography of Rājah Harīsingh from Sialkot inserted into an explanation of the phrase tīr-būtah ʻarchery rangeʼ (British Library Or.1813, f. 90r)  noc

The account continues by explaining that the Rajah had not studied Persian but could make conversation so impressively in the language that Iranians praised him. He also recited poetry in Hindi and Persian. He was a musician himself, and kept qawwāls (Sufi singers) and dancing girls in his retinue. This was a man who clearly knew how to throw a good party.

Historians delight in such specific descriptions of particular people in history, but it is of course unusual to find them in a text that purports to be a dictionary. In this case, the account of the Rajah fits into an entry on tīr-būtah (meaning an archery range). An elegantly written copy of this remarkable dictionary—or perhaps it is better to see it as a miscellany cast in the form of a dictionary—is available at the British Library in manuscript (Or.1813) and has recently been printed in a critical edition (Mukhliṣ 2013). Besides providing us with details about life in eighteenth-century Delhi, even a cursory reading of the text demonstrates the richness of Persian scholarship and literary society in late Mughal India.

The historical importance of Persian in India has all but faded from modern cultural memory, but it was undeniably the key medium of expression among north Indian elites during the Mughal period. Though Persian is written in the same script as Arabic and therefore often pigeonholed as an Islamic language, Persian was a secular language in pre-modern India in the sense that all communities had access to it (though there was a class divide—it was mostly an elite language) and many Hindus like Mukhliṣ made their living by mastering it. The parallels between the Persian of pre-colonial times and the English of today as languages of personal advancement in South Asia are striking. (For more on this, see my new book Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History (Dudney 2015), which addresses the history of Persian in India in far more detail than I can here.)

The composition of Mukhliṣ’s dictionary came at a time of great uncertainty for Delhi’s elite. Patronage for poets and indeed the whole political system was being renegotiated in the wake of Nādir Shāh’s conquest of Delhi in 1739. Nādir, ethnically a Turk, had conquered the whole of Iran and the region that became Afghanistan and turned next to India. It is undeniable that politics were by then quite different from how they were in the Empire’s glory days, but it is almost eerie to trace how literary culture not only carried on but arguably shone with greater brilliance in the aftermath of the worst bloodshed Mughal Delhi had ever seen.

Nadir Shah
Three-quarter length portrait of Nādir Shāh, Shah of Iran (r. 1736–1747), painted by an anonymous artist ca. 1740. Oil on canvas (British Library F44)  noc

Mirʾāt al-iṣt̤ilāḥ has a particular interest in administrative terminology as well as in words and expressions having to do with painting, clothing, handicrafts, animals, flowers, hot beverages (particularly coffee), games, and so on. It is different from other Persian dictionaries in that it contains a great number of  ʻproto-anthropologicalʼ observations as well as long digressions describing, for example, particular people that Mukhliṣ knew such as the poet and scholar Sirājuddīn ʿAlī Khān Ārzū (briefly defining the term ārzū as ʻhope and desireʼ in as many words serves an excuse to launch into several hundred words of praise for his friend and teacher) or objects like the Peacock Throne. Additionally, it ends each letter’s section with a series of adages (amsāl), some of which have Urdu equivalents provided.

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In this passage the expression dar jang ḥalvā bakhsh nimīkunand  [During war they don't hand out sweets] is rendered in Hindi (written in a special calligraphic script) as laṛāʾī meṁ koʾī laḍḍū nahīṁ baṭte —Indian laddus have been substituted for halwa (British Library Or.1813, f. 141r)  noc

Despite these unusual features, Mirʾāt fits squarely into a remarkable tradition of Persian lexicography that began in Central Asia and continued in the Indian Subcontinent, with virtually no counterpart in Iran. In fact, there is a gap of nearly three centuries between Surūrī’s Majmaʿ al-furs (first ed. 1008/1599-1600, compiled in Isfahan) and the next major dictionary written in Iran, Riẓā Qulī Khān Hidāyat’s Farhang-i anjuman-ārā-yi nāṣirī (1288/1871, compiled in Tehran). (The fullest account of Persian lexicography in English remains Henry Blochmann’s 1868 article)

Like earlier dictionaries, Mirʾāt bridges different usages around the vast region where Persian was a language of high culture, a region that at its peak stretched from Anatolia (modern Turkey) in the west across Central and Southern Asia to the Chinese frontier in the east. Scholars debate the question of how different Indian Persian was from Iranian Persian—remarkably there has been little dispassionate analysis of this topic since the starting point is usually the misleading assumption that Indo-Persian, whatever it was, could not have been ʻauthenticʼ compared to Iranian usage. That is a discussion for another time but worth mentioning in the context of Mukhliṣ’s scholarship because he was so attuned to how different people used words and expressions.

There is an apocryphal story that Mukhliṣ chased after the Qizilbash soldiers of Nādir Shāh’s army to ask them about points of Persian usage. The logic is that they were native speakers, and he wanted to know how Persian was really spoken. One difficulty in this story is that these soldiers were not actually native speakers in our sense because in daily life they either spoke Turkish dialects (like Nādir Shāh himself) or local variants of Persian. The category of native speaker (usually translating the term ahl-i zabān) is a problem in this context because literary Persian was a learned language. Mirʾāt was part of this economy of teaching Persian. The entry in Encyclopaedia Iranica claims that Mukhliṣ’s dictionary was intended to “to improve the falling standard of Persian in India”—but its preface does not in fact say anything like that (and indeed though there is a reference to īrān-zamīn [the land of Iran] in the colophon, this was written in 1850, a full hundred years after Mukhliṣ, and therefore cannot be assumed to reflect his thinking). Even the editors of the 2013 critical edition claim that “It can be seen from a close reading of the text that after finishing the work, he got it authenticated from speakers of the language just arrived in India” (2013: 33, English introduction). While some of his material comes from such people, the implication is wrong: He was asking them not because he thought of them as ʻnative speakersʼ but because they knew administrative terminology current in the establishment of Nādir Shāh, who having just conquered Delhi had modified the administrative structure to suit his needs. To find positions under the new regime, Mukhliṣ and his colleagues needed to be savvy in the new terms and procedures. It was not that Indian elites were desperate for Iranian native speakers to sort out their degenerate Persian but rather that they sought insider knowledge about the new political dispensation.


Further reading
Anand Ram Mukhlis, Mirʾāt al-iṣt̤ilāḥ, edited by Chander Shekhar, Hamidreza Ghelichkani and Houman Yousefdahi. Delhi: National Mission for Manuscripts, 2013.
—,  Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Medieval India: Mirat-ul-Istilah, translated by Tasneem Ahmad. Delhi: Sundeep Prakashan, 1993.  A complete English translation of the text, this is a useful tool but too ambiguous and inaccurate to be used without consulting the Persian text.
Ahmad, B, “Ānand Rām Mokles: Chronicler, Lexicographer, and Poet of the Later Mughal Period”, Encyclopædia Iranica vol. 2.1, p. 1 (1985).
Blochmann, Henry, “Contributions to Persian Lexicography”, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal 37 (1): 1-72 (1868).
Dudney, Arthur Dale,  A Desire for Meaning: Ḳhān-i Ārzū's Philology and the Place of India in the Eighteenth-Century Persianate World. Columbia University Academic Commons, 2013.
—, Delhi: Pages from a Forgotten History. New Delhi: Hay House India, 2015.

Arthur Dudney, University of Cambridge
add38@cam.ac.uk
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19 May 2015

A Jawi sourcebook for the study of Malay palaeography and orthography

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Mss_malay_b_13_f001v-permulaan
Permulaan
, 'The beginning', first word of Kitab pengajaran. MSS Malay B 13, f. 1v (detail)  noc

Malay manuscripts rarely give full details about when and where they were written, and we are often reliant on the biographies of western collectors in order to date a manuscript or gauge its origin. Little such information is available for one Malay manuscript (MSS Malay B 13), entitled blandly Kitab pengajaran pada segala orang sekalian, ‘A book of instruction for everyone’. It contains moral guidance on all aspects of social behaviour, with sections for example on anger (murka, f.31r), hopes and fears (pengharapan dan ketakutan, f.25r) and love and passion (berahi dan asyik, f.35r), on family relations including the role of fathers (pangkat bapak, f.42r) and sons (anak laki-laki, f.44r), and between layers of society, such as masters and servants (orang yang dipertuan serta yang diperhamba, f.52v). The annotation ‘Hastings MS’ indicates it may have been owned by the Marquess of Hastings, who succeeded Lord Minto as Governor-General of Bengal from 1813 to 1823.

Mss_malay_b_13_f001v-2rOpening pages of Bahwa ini kitab pengajaran pada segala orang sekalian; note the very neat handwriting and use of paragraphing. British Library, MSS Malay B 13, ff. 1v-2r  noc

One possible clue to the provenance of this manuscript may lie in the handwriting. The manuscript is written in a clear, neat and precise hand, with carefully spaced words, meticulous diacritical marks, and - very unusually - paragraphs: all hints that the book was probably specifically written for a European patron and thus needed to be very legible. Such a school of scribes was active in Batavia in the early 19th century, associated with the General Secretariat (Algemeene Secretariaat) of the Dutch administration, founded in 1819. Manuscripts by this group of scribes can be seen in Leiden University Library, the National Library of Indonesia and the Berlin Staatsbibliotheek, all distinguished by great care in the writing, and stylish use of rubrication and bold letters for certain significant words. One highly distinctive letter form found in MSS Malay B 13 which is associated with this school is the ‘squashed’ form of medial ha, with the loops above and below both bent to the right, which suggest that the Kitab pengajaran was copied in Batavia in the early 19th century (despite endpapers of English paper watermarked '1794', which may have been added later when the MS was rebound in Calcutta). If it was acquired during the British administration of 1811 to 1816, this would make it one of the earliest known examples of this characteristic 'Batavia' hand.      

Mss_malay_b_13_f005v-syahdan  Kl.7, pp.441-2-syahdan  IMW125GallopIntro-FigVII-Hk Iskandar-syahdan
The word syahdan, 'then', with distinctive 'squashed' medial ha, in three manuscripts. Left: Kitab pengajaran. British Library, MSS Malay B 13, f.5v; Middle: Hikayat Bujangga Indera Maharupa, copied by Muhammad Cing Saidullah, Batavia, 1830. Courtesy of Leiden University Library, Kl.7, p.442;
Right: Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain, copied by Muhammad Hasan, probably in Batavia in the early 19th century. Courtesy of Leiden University Library, Cod.Or.1967, vol.2, p.249

Awareness of the importance of palaeography – the study of historical styles of handwriting – for the study of manuscripts was the impetus behind the recent publication of ‘A Jawi Sourcebook for the Study of Malay Palaeography and Orthography’ as a special issue of the journal Indonesia in the Malay World in honour of Professor Ulrich Kratz, who recently retired from SOAS after three decades of teaching Malay and Indonesian literature. The Jawi Sourcebook was compiled with the aim of presenting a body of source material to enable a fresh look at Jawi script, and is modelled on a landmark guide to European palaeography by my former colleague Michelle Brown (1990), despite a complete reversal of theoretical grounding. Brown’s book, A guide to Western historical scripts from Antiquity to 1600, presented photographic facsimiles of manuscripts accompanied by comments on the handwriting, in order to illustrate over 50 acknowledged styles of script in Latin letters. Yet in the absence of any recognized categorization of Malay hands, all that the Jawi  Sourcebook aims to do is to to present, in chronological order, the raw material that could be utilised to advance the study of Malay palaeography and orthography. This has been done by selecting a corpus of 60 securely dated or dateable Malay manuscripts from the late 16th to the early 20th century, each of which can be located in a specific part of the Malay world, from Aceh to Aru and from Melaka to Mindanao. Thanks to the recent Malay manuscripts digitisation project, which has enabled full online access to all the Malay manuscripts in the British Library, many of these were selected by international contributors to the Jawi Sourcebook. A selection of sample lines from British Library manuscripts, accompanied by comments on the handwriting by various scholars, is presented below.

ACEH, 1764
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Mirat al-tullab, by Abdul Rauf of Singkel, composed in 1074/1663, this MS copied on 14 Muharam 1178 (14 July 1764) in Aceh. British Library, Or.16035, f.4r.  noc

'In this MS, two dots are connected and look like a short line, while three dots look like ‘one dot and a short line’. Note the unusual appearance of segala, here and elsewhere in this MS, as the ga-lam resembles a capital ‘B’' [at the end of the first and third lines above].   Yumi Sugahara, Osaka University (Jawi Sourcebook, no.17)

SEMARANG, 1797
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Hikayat Raja Pasai, copied in Semarang, central Java, ca. 8 Syaaban 1211 (6 February 1797). British Library, Or. 14350, f. 78r.  noc

'The script is small and neat, and appears to have been written by a professional scribe. The initial sin is in the form of a flowing stroke. In order to preserve a straight left edge, the copyist varies extended and close strokes, resulting e.g. in a relatively long tail of the wau in the pre-final line or in a rather ‘crammed’ way of writing the last words in the final line.' Edwin Wieringa, Cologne University (Jawi Sourcebook, no.21)

PENANG, 1806
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Syair surat kirim kepada perempuan, copied by Ibrahim ca. 18 Syawal 1220 (9 January 1806), British Library, MSS Malay B.3, f. 40 r.  noc

‘Ibrahim does indeed possess ‘characteristic handwriting’ (Teeuw et al 2004: 16): very upright, inscribed confidently and with considerable brio. The letter forms are very distinct, though he is occasionally somewhat cavalier about the dotting. There are no dots to distinguish ga and kaf.’ Mulaika Hijjas, SOAS (Jawi Sourcebook, no.25)

PONTIANAK, 1813
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Kitab ubat-ubat dan azimat, ‘Book on medicine and talismans’. A note on the front cover reads: ‘Tay Segalla obat or The Malay Materia Medica, from the practice of Tama, Physician to the Royal household of His Majesty of Pontiana, copied May 17th 1813’. British Library, MSS Malay B.15, f. 2r.  noc

'The handwriting in this manuscript is neat and clear with a faint slant towards the left. Occasionally letters that follow an alif are raised upwards to link to the top of that alif (e.g. the nga in ‘jangan’). The letter kaf is sometimes written in an elongated form (e.g. ‘manteraku’). Although the hand is legible the spelling is erratic and inconsistent, making it difficult to determine the ingredients and spells used in the treatments. Therefore a comparison with similar texts found in other manuscripts is necessary to determine the correct reading.' Farouk Yahya, SOAS (Jawi Sourcebook, no.28)

SINGAPORE, 1832
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Sejarah Melayu, copied by Husin bin Ismail in Tanah Merah, Singapore, on Saturday 16 Rajab [1248] = 8 December 1832. British Library, Or. 16214, f. 2r.  noc

'The writing is neat and regular which is typical of Husin bin Ismail. In contrast to Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi (no. 38), this scribe has no evidently distinct features in his writing. A characteristic which he shares with other scribes is writing kaf for ga ... Interestingly, in our fragment he writes orang besar differently on both occurrences, first conjoined and then separated. Remarkable is the spelling of cucu, using the number ‘2’ (c.w.2).' Roger Tol, KITLV, Jakarta (Jawi Sourcebook, no.35)

BRUNEI, ca.1900
Or_14549_f003r
Syair Baginda, concerning Sultan Abdul Mumin of Brunei (r.1852-1885). On the basis of the watermark (‘Superfine 1895’) can be dated to ca.1900. British Library, Or. 14549, f. 3r.  noc

‘The syair is written in black ink in two columns, in a characteristic Brunei literary hand familiar from hikayat and syair manuscripts, notable for its extreme horizontal aspect, and very different from the chancery hands evident in royal Brunei letters over the centuries (Nos. 1 and 5). The orthography too reflects Brunei phonetic norms such as the preference for medial a rather than ĕ pĕpĕt.’  Ampuan Haji Brahim bin Haji Tengah, Universiti Brunei Darussalam, and Annabel Teh Gallop, British Library (Jawi Sourcebook, no.56)

Further reading

A Jawi sourcebook for the study of Malay palaeography and orthography’. Contributors Wan Ali Wan Mamat, Ali Akbar, Vladimir Braginsky, Ampuan Haji Brahim Haji Tengah, Ian Caldwell, Henri Chambert-Loir, Tatiana Denisova, Farouk Yahya, Annabel Teh Gallop, Hashim Musa, I.R. Katkova, Willem van der Molen, Mulaika Hijjas, Ben Murtagh, Roderick Orlina, Jan van der Putten, Peter G. Riddell, Yumi Sugahara, Roger Tol and E.P. Wieringa; edited and introduced by Annabel Teh Gallop. Indonesia and the Malay World, Special Issue in honour of E.U.Kratz, March 2015, 43 (125): 13-171.

Cover

Michelle Brown, A guide to Western historical scripts from Antiquity to 1600. London: British Library, 1990.

Teeuw, A., Dumas R., Muhammad Haji Salleh and Van Yperen, M.J.  2004. A merry senhor in the Malay world: Four texts of the Syair Sinyor Kosta. Leiden: KITLV Press.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

24 April 2015

‘White Mughal’ William Fullerton of Rosemount

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Scottish surgeon William Fullerton (d.1805) from Rosemount enlisted with the East India Company and served in Bengal and Bihar from 1744-66. Developing close ties with locals, including the historian Ghulam Husain Khan, he remained in the region after retiring. Although his impressive linguistic abilities brought him attention, Fullerton’s prominence stems from the fact that he was the sole European survivor of the attack by Navab Mir Qasim of Bengal against the British at Patna in 1763!

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Portrait of William Fullerton by Dip Chand, c. 1760-64. Victoria & Albert Museum. Wikimedia Commons.  noc

Living in Patna, Fullerton not only socialised with local historians, he befriended the artist Dip Chand. The artist was commissioned to paint Fullerton’s portrait and those of his acquaintances and members of his household, as well as scenes on religious topics. The British Library’s collection includes four paintings, two of which are illustrated below, and an additional six paintings are in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Each painting is inscribed on the reverse ‘W. F. 1764’ indicating that they were collected by Fullerton.

Little information has been discovered about the identities of artists flourishing in Bengal in the mid-eighteenth century. In fact, Dip Chand is the only major artist to be documented and that is directly through the connection to Fullerton. It is possible to suggest, based on Dip Chand’s portraits of Mir Qasim, that the artist spent some time in Murshidabad before migrating to Patna. While working in Patna he adopted a style that emphasized the effects of lighting and tonality, aerial perspective and experimentation with the saturation of pigments. His delineation of the human form is exceptionally fine, with subtle modelling and visible shadowing. He applied pigments with such precision that he effectively created a remarkable smooth surface.

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Ashraf 'Ali Khan. Attributed to Dip Chand, Patna, 1764. British Library, Add.Or.736  noc

Ashraf ‘Ali Khan (d. 1792), half-brother of the emperor Ahmad Shah, is here portrayed in an atypical manner. Traditional portraiture conventions illustrated the subject either seated on a carpet or standing on a terrace, but he is sitting on a European wooden chair that has been placed on a tidal flat along the banks of the River Ganges. His simple attire includes a white jama with a heavy brown shawl draped over his shoulders, and he sits informally, cross-legged on the chair, his golden slippers removed, while holding up the mouthpiece of the hookah pipe. At a slight distance the hookah is placed on a wooden teapoy (three-legged table); the space permits the artist to accentuate the loops of the extensively long pipe. In the far distance are boats and sandbanks as well as the opposite riverbank.

Add.Or.735
Mutuby, mistress of Ashraf 'Ali Khan. Attributed to Dip Chand, Patna, 1764. British Library, Add.Or.735.  noc

A second portrait in the British Library by Dip Chand is that of a lady named Muttubby. Her identity is inscribed on the reverse and she is very likely to be a courtesan or a favourite mistress of a notable figure in Patna. As in the portrait of Ashraf ‘Ali Khan (fig. 113), she is seated in a European chair, though with her feet firmly on the ground, holding up a hookah pipe to her lips. Positioned in strict profile, with her upper body slightly twisted towards the viewer, her rather slender arms are visible. Although the landscapes in the two compositions are very similar they do not quite marry up, and it is possible that the artist intended these to be a pair, mounted in an album facing one another.

Dip Chand’s other portraits of local women in the Victoria & Albert Museum follow this convention, showing them perched or squatting on their chairs and smoking from a hookah. All of these were also commissioned by William Fullerton and bear his initials, dates and the abbreviated names of the women.

If you enjoyed looking at the paintings and wish to have a copy for yourself, you can order one through the British Library's Fine Art Prints website.

 

Further reading:
J.P. Losty, 'Towards a New Naturalism: Portraiture in Murshidabad and Avadh' in Schmitz (ed.) After the Great Mughals, Marg Publications, Mumbai, 2002.

J.P. Losty and M. Roy, Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, British Library, 2012.

 

Malini Roy, Visual Arts Curator  ccownwork

03 April 2015

Early vocabularies of Malay

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Among the Malay manuscripts in the British Library which have just been digitised are a number of vocabulary lists and dictionaries in Malay, compiled by visitors to the region as aids to learning the language. The study of Malay in Europe dates back to the very first voyages to Southeast Asia in the 16th century, for Malay functioned as the lingua franca for the whole of the archipelago, and was an essential business tool for both merchants in search of spices and missionaries in search of souls.  

68.c.12, Bowrey map, 1701
Map showing the lands where the Malay language was used, from Thomas Bowrey, A dictionary English and Malayo, Malayo and English (London, 1701). British Library, 68.c.12  noc

The earliest Malay book printed in Europe is a Malay-Dutch vocabulary by Frederick de Houtman, published in Amsterdam in 1603, and an English version of this Dutch work became the first Malay book printed in Britain in 1614. However it was only in 1701 that the first original Malay-English dictionary was printed in London, the work of Thomas Bowrey (ca. 1650-1713), an East India Company sea captain, who explained in the Preface the urgent need for such a publication: “… I finding so very few English Men that have attained any tollerable Knowledge of the Malayo Tongue, so absolutely necessary to trade in those Southern Seas, and that there is no Book of this kind published in English to help the attaining of that Language; These Considerations, I say, has imboldened me to Publish the insuing Dictionary …” (Bowrey 1701). A draft manuscript version of Bowrey’s dictionary (MSS Eur A33), in his own hand and probably dating from the late 17th century, has just been digitised. It is probably the very volume which Bowrey mentions in the dedication of his publication, “To the Honourable the Directors of the English East-India Company”: “The following Work was undertaken Chiefly for the Promotion of Trade in the many Countries where the Malayo Language is Spoke, which your Honours having perused in Manuscript, were pleased to approve of; and to Incourage the Publishing of it …”

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Thomas Bowrey’s autograph draft of his Malay-English dictionary. British Library, MSS Eur A33, pp. 6-7  noc

After Bowrey’s pioneering work, it was not until the late 18th century that British studies of Malay developed in earnest, through the efforts of the ‘Enlightenment group’ of colonial scholar-administrators such as William Marsden, John Leyden, John Crawfurd and Thomas Stamford Raffles. The polyglot Leyden gathered together a vast array of linguistic materials, some compiled in his own hand (Or. 15936) and others acquired from different sources (MSS Malay F.2). Raffles too collected vocabularies from all over the archipelago, including a Malay wordlist (MSS Eur E110) which appears to be in the hand of his Penang scribe Ibrahim; this volume is especially valuable for also containing an early register of inhabitants of Penang, listed by street name, with details of origin, occupation, and family members. Raffles also obtained manuscripts as gifts, including a Malay-Javanese-Madurese vocabulary (MSS Malay A.3) from his good friend Pangeran Suta Adiningrat of Madura.  Finally, an English-Malay vocabulary (MSS Eur B37) is of unknown origin but includes at the end hospital lists of treatment with many Indian names such as 'Singh', suggesting the owner might have been a medical officer in the Indian army or of an Indian regiment in Southeast Asia.

Mss_malay_f_2_f004r-det
A vocabulary of Dutch, English, Malay (Jawi script) and Malay (romanised script), provisionally dated to the 18th century on the basis of the Dutch and Romanised Malay handwriting. British Library, MSS Malay F 2, p. 4 (detail)  noc

Or_15936_f069v-det
Vocabulary of Thai and Malay, compiled by John Leyden, early 19th c. British Library, Or. 15936, f.69v (detail)  noc

Mss_malay_a_3_f113v-det
Final page of a Malay-Javanese-Madurese vocabulary, early 19th c. British Library, MSS Malay A 3, f.113v (detail)  noc

Mss_eur_e110_ff002r-003r
Opening pages of a Malay-English vocabulary, with on the left-hand page the variant forms (isolated, initial, medial and final) of the Jawi alphabet, early 19th c., Raffles collection. British Library, MSS Eur E110, pp.2-3  noc

Mss_eur_e110_f147r
Early 19th-century register of the inhabitants in Love Lane, Penang, including a Portuguese fisherman and his family of ten from ‘Junk Ceylon’ (Ujung Salang, or Phuket), who ‘came to the island with Mr Light’, i.e. Francis Light, in 1786. British Library, MSS Eur E110, f.147r (detail)  noc

Mss_eur_b37_f001v-det
English-Malay vocabulary, 19th century. MSS Eur B37, f. 1v (detail)  noc

These manuscripts join three other Malay vocabularies digitised last year, and are listed below in approximate chronological order.  Many other Malay manuscript vocabulary lists are held in the British Library, often comprising only a few pages within larger volumes, but all are detailed in a recently-published catalogue (Ricklefs, Voorhoeve & Gallop 2014).

Digitised Malay manuscript vocabularies in the British Library:

Add. 7043, Malay grammar and vocabulary by William Mainstone, 1682, copied by John Hindley, early 19th c.

MSS Eur A33, Malay-English dictionary, by Thomas Bowrey, late 17th c.

Egerton 933, Two Malay vocabularies, 1731 and early 19th c.

MSS Malay F.2, Dutch-English-Malay vocabulary, ca. 18th c., Leyden collection.

Or. 15936, Various Malay vocabularies, early 19th c., Leyden collection.

MSS Eur E110, Malay-English vocabulary, early 19th c., Raffles collection.

MSS Malay A.3, Malay-Javanese-Madurese vocabulary, early 19th c., Raffles collection.

Or. 4575, French-Malay vocabulary, early 19th c. 

MSS Eur B37, English-Malay vocabulary, 19th c.

Further reading

Frederick de Houtman, Spraek ende Woord-boek in de Malaysche ende Madagaskarsche Talen (Amsterdam, 1603). British Library, C.71.a.32
Augustus Spalding, Dialogues in the English and Malaiane languages (London, 1614). British Library, C.33.b.41
Thomas Bowrey, A dictionary English and Malayo, Malayo and English (London, 1701). British Library, 68.c.12. Digitised version from the National Library of Singapore.
Annabel Teh Gallop, Early Malay printing 1603-1900. An exhibition in the British Library 20 January to 4 June 1989.
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.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

31 March 2015

What to give the English king who has everything?

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Today's post is by one of our readers, Dr. Shamma Boyarin, Assistant Teaching Professor in Religious Studies, Medieval Studies, and English at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada. He specializes in medieval Hebrew and Arabic literatures, with focus on philosophical and astronomical texts and cross-cultural influences between Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities.

Last summer I had the chance to work with some Hebrew manuscripts at the British Library. While I had a few specific items I wanted to examine, I also took the opportunity to look at a variety of books beyond my specific expertise (medieval Hebrew romances and philosophical and astronomical texts). I wanted both to acquire broader exposure to Hebrew scripts of various centuries, regions, and manuscript types, and to see what I might discover by accident as it were. It is one of these “extra” manuscripts I will discuss here: MS Royal 16 A II, a Hebrew book made for King Henry VIII.

One might imagine a book for a king to be big, or lavishly ornamented with many illustrations, or to feature use of gold leaf and other expensive pigments, perhaps to include a depiction of the king’s arms or other decorative elements tying the codex to its royal owner. But this is not at all the case with Royal 16 A II, which is comparatively small (102mm x 66mm, with only 49 paper folios) and contains no images or adornment. It appears to be a rather humble gift for a king.

Spine Binding
Spine and eighteenth century binding with British Museum stamp (Museum Britannicum) of MS Royal 16 A II
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Two things make this little book very special, however. The first is a long Latin encomium of its recipient King Henry VIII (running from folio 2r-22r), and the second is the book’s gift to the king: Hebrew translations of two short books of the New Testament, the Epistle of St James (running from folio 23r-43v) and the Epistle of St Jude (folios 44r-49v).

F23v
F44r

“The Epistle of James [Yaakov] the Apostle” (f. 23r) and “The Epistle of Jude [Yehudah] the Apostle” (f. 44r)
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The codex, which reads right to left, begins with a Latin dedication page (folio 1v), which translated reads:

To the most invincible King of England and France, Lord of Ireland, Defender of the Catholic Faith, and in Earth Supreme Head, Henry, eighth of his name, John Shepreve wishes lasting happiness.

F1v
Dedication to Henry VIII (f. 1v)
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Henry was given the title fidei defensor by Pope Leo X in 1521, after his composition Assertio septem sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum (“Declaration of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther”), and it was officially removed by Pope Paul III in 1535, after Henry broke with the Catholic Church. Although later, in 1544, Parliament restored the title as an expression of the king’s role in the Church of England, this was after John Schepreve (our author and translator) died. We also know that the title “Supreme Head of the Church of England” was used commonly only after the 1534 Act of Supremacy, and that the Latin in terra supremum caput Anglicanae ecclesiae does not seem to appear in the style of the sovereign until 1534. (See J. Frank Henderson’s “Sovereign and Pope in English Bidding Prayers,” especially the “Appendix: Titles of Henry VIII,” collated from David Wilkins, Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae, vol. 3, London, 1737). The presence of the fidei defensor title, the odd use of the in terra supremum caput title without the Anglicanae ecclesiae qualification, and what we know of the author and translator’s biography, suggests a date for this manuscript, then, very close to 1534.

As the dedication indicates, the man who wrote the Latin encomium and translated the New Testament epistles into Hebrew was Johannes Scheprevus, that is, John Shepreve. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Shepreve was Professor of Hebrew at Corpus Christi College, Oxford by 1538. He also had an authoritative command of Greek (having read in Greek at Corpus Christi from 1528), and of course Latin. J. Andreas Löwe’s assessment in the DNB is that, while Shepreve had deep ties to the Roman Catholic Church (his nephew William Shepreve was a Roman Catholic priest), and later in his life  “described pre-Reformation religious practice with … affection” and doubtless remained religiously “conservative,” he nevertheless “probably subscribed to the royal supremacy.” Shepreve died in July 1542.

Shepreve’s Hebrew script in Royal 16 A II is very clear and easily readable, and he vowels words for pronunciation throughout. He does have one interesting characteristic that I have not seen before (perhaps common amongst Christian Hebraists of the time?): he adopts a final form of the letter ל, which traditionally does not have a distinct final form. See here:

Regular ל   Untitled  and “final”  ל   Untitled.

While most of the time Shepreve’s translation is understandable, sometimes it is not, or seems awkward, mainly due to incorrect (though never random) usage. So, for example he uses the word  23v  (f. 23v, in James 1:3-4), tikvah, which means “hope,” where the Douay-Rheims has “patience” (Vulgate patientia) and, likewise, a modern Hebrew translation has “סַבְלָנוּת” (savlanut, straightforwardly meaning “patience”). This suggests, perhaps, that Shepreve is working exclusively from the Greek, where the equivalent (hupomonē), as I understand it, connotes hopefulness as well as patience.

In one case, Shepreve seemingly misses an obvious biblical reference in translating a quotation from Leviticus 19:18 (“love thy neighbor as thyself” in James 2:8) semantically correctly (leaving out “as thyself”), but failing to use the actual corresponding phrase found in the  Hebrew Bible וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵֶעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ (this even though later on the same page he correctly identifies the references to the Ten Commandments in James 2:11):

29v “love thy neighbour” (29v).

However, occasionally he manages a poetic turn in Hebrew that is quite beautiful, such as, on f. 24r:
24r

That is, “A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways” (James 1:8). Shepreve’s Hebrew version rhymes the two clauses of the sentence, and his formulation of nod yanud, literally “wanders,” has a peculiarly biblical lilt (though this specific formulation does not actually appear in the Hebrew Bible). A more contemporary Hebrew translation reads:  בִּהְיוֹתוֹ אִישׁ הַפּוֹסֵחַ עַל שְׁתֵּי הַסְּעִפִּים הֲפַכְפַּךְ בְּכָל דְּרָכָיו (the modern Hebrew translation I am using for comparison can be found here).

Occasionally Shepreve’s translations make sense, but only if you know the original (presumably the Greek) source, for example (f. 47r):
47r

This word, ahavoteychem, means “your loves” or “your beloved things,” from Jude 1:12, and is rendered as “your feasts of charity” in the King James Version. It is, for Shepreve and for the King James translators, from Gk. agapē, which can mean “love” or “charity” but in this context “love-feasts.” Needless to say, the Hebrew word Shepreve chooses does not elsewhere denote feasting or fellowship.

Shepreve has a habit of writing to the end of the line, regardless of space available, but he will start a word over on the next line if he cannot fit it in. These incomplete words are never voweled, as illustrated, for example, by the unvowelled letters at the end of lines on folio 47r:

47r
Unvowelled letters at the end (on the left) of lines on folio 47r
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But Shepreve is clearly very careful about his work: on occasion, he skips a word and goes back to add it upon realizing the omission or checking his work, as here (f. 44v):
44v

It seems likely that further examination of this little codex will prove fruitful to both scholars of Henry VIII and scholars of Christian Hebraism in the sixteenth century, a time when Jewish scholars (still under the 1290 edict of expulsion) were almost certainly absent from England. What exactly was Shepreve translating from? Are the idiosyncrasies of his script and translation common among Christian Hebraicists of the era, or are they particular to English practice? Would Henry VIII have requested Hebrew translation of New Testament books? Why these two epistles, and could the king have used this book, or might he have wanted to learn, to pronounce Hebrew himself? Henry VIII established the Regius Professorship of Hebrew at Oxford in 1546 (four years after Shepreve’s death), so it is not impossible that the he held a longstanding intellectual and religious interest in the language. Perhaps John Shepreve and his book had a part in shaping that interest.

Because of current academic disciplinary divides and archival practices (for example, the separation of reading rooms for western manuscripts and manuscripts in “Asian and African” languages), experts on Henry VIII and the Reformation may not easily share or glean knowledge from experts in Hebrew (or Greek) manuscripts or scripts. Exploration of books like this, however, reminds me that pooling our expertise is often necessary in manuscript studies—and such scholarly collaboration will no doubt yield dividends for understanding this fascinating little gift, fit for an English king.

A fully digitized copy of MS Royal 16 A II can be explored here.

Those interested in Christian Hebraism might also like to peruse Sloane MS 237, a seventeenth-century translation into Hebrew of a small portion of the Book of Revelation; Harley MS 5239, a seventeenth-century Hebrew Book of Genesis with interlinear French translation; or Add MS 11659, an early-nineteenth-century translation of the gospels into Hebrew.

 

Shamma Boyarin,  University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada
 ccownwork

My thanks to Adrienne Williams Boyarin and Justine Semmens Ash for their help with Latin and with dating issues. 

13 February 2015

Southeast Asian manuscripts digitised through the Ginsburg Legacy

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The world of scholarship has been revolutionised by numerous digitisation programmes undertaken in libraries throughout the world. Now, instead of having to travel thousands of miles for expensive and extensive visits to cities where unique historical sources are housed, it is ever more possible to make a detailed study of a manuscript from one’s own home, in any country, via the internet. Digitisation programmes are usually shaped both by the interests of patrons and the strengths of an institution’s collections, and among the exciting projects to digitise material from the Asian and African collections of the British Library are those of Malay manuscripts in collaboration with the National Library of Singapore supported by William and Judith Bollinger, Thai manuscripts funded by the Royal Thai government, Persian manuscripts in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation, and Hebrew manuscripts with the Polonsky Foundation. However, with the emphasis on large projects, it is not always easy to prioritise the digitisation of other important manuscripts from smaller language groups, or from regions for which funding proves difficult to source.

Add_ms_12354_f002r
Note in the Bugis language and script, from the diary of the king of Bone, south Sulawesi, 1775. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 2r (detail).

The Southeast Asia section of the British Library is fortunate in that a legacy from the estate of the late Henry D. Ginsburg (1940-2007), who was for over thirty years the Library’s curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections, has enabled the digitisation of a small number of significant manuscripts, some representing writing traditions rarely accessible on the internet. In 2013, seven of the most important illuminated and illustrated manuscripts in Vietnamese, Burmese and Javanese were digitised. In 2014 we completed the digitisation of a further 15 manuscripts from Southeast Asia, in Vietnamese, Burmese, Shan, Khamti, Lao, Thai, Bugis, Javanese and Arabic, which this month have been made accessible through the Digitised Manuscripts website.

Artistically, the highlights are probably six Burmese folding book (parabaik) manuscripts, all lavishly and exquisitely illustrated. Three of the manuscripts depict scenes from the Life of the Buddha (Or. 4762, Or. 5757 and Or. 14197) while the other three contain Jataka stories (Or. 13538, Or. 4542A and Or. 4542B, and MSS Burmese 202).

Or13538.20-22.Lelukika
The Jātaka stories about the previous lives of the Gautama Buddha are preserved in all branches of Buddhism. These stories show how he gradually acquired greater strength and moral stature as his soul passed from one incarnation to the other. Shown above is a scene from the Latukika Jataka. The Bodhisatta, the leader of the elephants (gilded) protects the offspring of a quail who had laid her eggs in the feeding ground of the elephants. British Library, Or. 13538, ff. 20-22.

Also in folding book format is a lavishly decorated Buddhist manuscript, Buddhānussati, in Shan language (Or. 12040), a copy of Tamrā phichai songkhrām in Thai language (Or. 15760), and a rare Lao dictionary in three volumes from the 19th century (Add. 11624).

Or_12040_fblefv
This Shan folding book (pap tup), dated 1885, with the title Buddhānussati contains a text on recollections of the Buddha, explaining mindfulness with the Buddha’s virtues as objects. The embossed gilded covers are studded with multi-coloured mirror glass for ornate floral decoration. British Library, Or.12040, front cover.

Or_15760_f016r
Folio 16 of the Tamrā phichai songkhrām, explaining various appearances of sun and how to interpret them. This Thai divination manual for the prediction of wars, conflicts and natural disasters also contains explanations of the shapes of clouds, the moon and planets. British Library, Or.15760, folio 16.

Another rarity that has been digitised in this project is a bound and scrolled paper book (pap kin) in Khamti Shan script, Kuasala Ainmakan (Or. 3494). The book, dated 1860, is sewn in a blue cotton wrapper with a white and pink braided cotton string. It contains the Mahāsupina Jātaka about the dreams of King Pasenadi, the King of Kosala.  

From the Vietnamese collection was selected ‘The Northwards Embassy by land and water’, a rare pictorial manuscript map, Bắc Sứ Thủy Lục Địa Đô (Or. 14907), illustrating the journey from Hanoi to Beijing in 1880. This manuscript is currently on display in the exhibition ‘Geo/Graphic: celebrating maps and their stories’, at the National Library of Singapore (16 January – 19 July 2015).

Or_14907_f011r
Tai Ping City , located by Gu Fang Mountain. The city was well fortified with a fortress and could be dated back to the Ming dynasty.British Library, Or. 14907, f. 11r.

Two very different Javanese manuscripts were digitised. The first, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24), contains ethical teachings of the royal house of Yogyakarta, with many fine examples of illumination. The other manuscript (Sloane 2645) is a work on Islamic law, Mukhtasar Ba Fadl or Muqaddimat al-Hadrami, here going under the title Masa'il al-ta'lim, written in Arabic with interlinear translation and marginal commentary in Javanese in Arabic (Pegon) script. The manuscript, which is dated 1623, is from the founding collections of Sir Hans Sloane, and may be one of the earliest dated examples of a Javanese manuscript in Pegon script, and written on Javanese paper dluwang) made from the bark of the mulberry tree.

Mss_jav_24_f022v
Illuminated architectural section heading from a Javanese manuscript, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yoygyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav. 24, f. 22v.

Sloane_ms_2645_f034r
Start of a new chapter (bab) in Masa'il al-ta'lim, in Arabic with interlinear translation in Javanese, 1623. British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 34r (detail).

The final manuscript, also from Indonesia, is in the Bugis language and script (Add. 12354). This is the personal diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin of Bone, in south Sulawesi, covering the years 1775-1795, and written in his own hand. The diary contains a wealth of detail on the social, political, economic and cultural life of Sulawesi in the late 18th century.

Add_ms_12354_f052r
Entries for the first few days of August 1781, in the Bugis diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 52r (detail).

Annabel Teh Gallop, San San May, Jana Igunma, Sud Chonchirdsin

Southeast Asia section curators

16 January 2015

Inscriptions in the Iskandar Sultan Miscellany (Add.27261)

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A previous posting on this remarkable manuscript, one of the British Library’s greatest treasures, introduced the volume and discussed a few of its pages. In this piece we discuss the inscriptions which it contains, beginning with the elaborate illuminated double-pages opening (folios 2v-3r) which contain the dedication of the manuscript to its patron.
Add27261 ff2v-3r
The opening of Timur’s grandson Iskandar Sultan’s pocket miscellany containing 23 works. Copied 813-4/1410-11 (Add.27261, ff. 2v-3r)
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The opening of Timur’s grandson Iskandar Sultan’s pocket miscellany containing 23 works. Copied 813-4/1410-11 (BL Add.27261, ff 2v-3r)
http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/.a/6a00d8341c464853ef01a73d64de59970d-pi - See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2014/03/the-miscellany-of-iskandar-sultan-add27261.html#sthash.UxOo0y4y.dpuf

The text in the upper and lower panels is written in an especially ornate version of floriated Kufic script (compare, for example, the much clearer decorative title headings for two poems, Kitāb Jām-i Jam (f. 420v) and Sa‘ādat-nāma (f. 504v). The text appears to consist of supplicatory phrases. The present writer has begun, but not completed, the struggle to decipher them. Perhaps some readers of this blog can do better, in which case we should be glad to hear from them. In any case, the contents complement the prayer in Arabic for the manuscript’s patron, Iskandar Sultan, inscribed in thulth script in the lobed circular central panel on the right hand page (f. 2v):

O God, perpetuate the rule of the most mighty Sultan, the most just and noble emperor, sovereign of the sovereigns of the Arabs and non-Arabs…

The continuation, in the panel on the left hand page (3r), reads:

…the Shadow of God upon all regions of the Earth, the Champion of Water and Clay [i.e. Defender of the Interests of Mankind], the Reliant [upon God], the Supreme King, Glory of the Nation and Faith [of Islam] Iskandar, may God make his dominion eternal.

F3r F2v
Close up of (left) f. 3r and (right) f. 2v

Among the special ‘personal touches’ found elsewhere in the manuscript are the inscriptions half-concealed in the ornately illuminated margins of three pages: folios 343v, 344r, and 345r. All are in verse, and here they appear to be addressed to Iskandar Sultan, although that does not necessarily mean that they were originally composed for him; their authorship has yet to be established.

Folio 343v, which incidentally is featured (as are folios f. 2v and f. 3r) in the ‘Turning The Pages’ presentation of selected pages of this Miscellany, contains geometrical theorems from the first Book of Euclid’s Principles. Written in gold, half-hidden within the decorative cartouches ranged along the margins of this and the following page (f. 344r), are verses praising the manuscript's royal patron using imagery entirely appropriate to a bibliophile:

Add. 27261, f. 343v
1
Ay daftar-i iqbāl-rā naqsh-i ḥavāshī nām-i tū3
bar lawḥ-i taqdīr az qaẓā nukḥustīn ḥarf kām-i tu
2
Dawlat ba-kilk-i ma‘dalat āyāt-i fal u makramat
4
binvishta matn u ḥāshiya bar ṣaḥfa-’i ayyām-i tu.

O you whose name has been marked down
   in the margins of Success’s book!
Your will is, by the decree of Fate,
   the first letter on Destiny’s Tablet.
With the pen of Justice, Good Fortune
   wrote the signs of virtue and greatness
upon the page of these, your times,
   in both the text space and the margins.

The inscription contained within four cartouches in the margin of folio 344r is much easier to read:

Add. 27261, f. 344r
Screenshot 2015-01-15 17.48.43
Screenshot 2015-01-15 17.49.34
Nigīn-i sa‘ādat
/ ba-nām-i tū bād
Screenshot 2015-01-15 17.50.33
Screenshot 2015-01-15 17.51.26
Hama kār-i dawlat / ba-kām-i tū bād

May Fortune’s signet ring
    be [inscribed] with your name;
and all matters of state
    accord with your desire.

As if the preceding eulogies were not enough, they are followed by a still more flattering single bayt or couplet on f. 345r, together with the name ‘Alī in gold on blue, calligraphed in square Kufic.

Add. 27261, f. 345r
Screenshot 2015-01-15 18.35.45 

Screenshot 2015-01-15 18.37.34Screenshot 2015-01-15 18.37.56
Screenshot 2015-01-15 18.35.11
Ay az bihisht / tu juzvī / va
z ramat āyatī / aqq-rā ba-rūzgār-i / tū bā mā ‘ināyatī

You who are a part of Heaven, a portent of [Divine] Mercy;
in this your era, God [has shown His] favour and concern for us.

Let us now turn our attention to the various colophons in Add. 27261. The first of these occurs on f. 112v, at the end of Ilāhī-nāma (‘Book of the Divine), a didactic poem by the great mystical poet Farīd al-Dīn ‘Aṭṭār (d. ca. 1220). In it, one of the two calligraphers who worked on this Miscellany, Muḥammad al-Ḥalvā’ī, states that he finished copying the text in Jumādā l-avval (sic: normally in the feminine form Jumādā l-ūlā) 813, which month began on September 9th 1410. Here, as in another of his colophons (see below), which are in Arabic as convention dictates, this scribe employs phrases which show him to have been an admirer of the mystical Path and its people, and perhaps a Sufi himself.
Add_ms_27261_f112v
Colophon in the margin at the end of ʻAṭṭār's Ilāhī-nāma (‘Book of the Divine), dated 813/1410. Add.27261, f. 112v
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[This copy of] “The Book of the Divine”, by the Sultan of the Knowers and Lovers [of God], Protector of the Protégés of the Ancients and Moderns, the Unique One of the World and the Faith (Farīd al-Dunyā wa l-Dīn) Muḥammad known as ‘the Perfumer’ (‘Aṭṭār) – may God cool his resting-place, illumine his dwelling-place (mathwā), and make the Pool of Paradise his drinking-place (ma’rā) – was completed on Saturday 27th of Jumādā l-awwal 813. Praise is due to God alone, and God’s salutations and innumerable greetings be upon the Best of His Creation Muḥammad and his goodly, pure Family, one and all. By the hand of the weak and feeble servant, wholly reliant upon [God] the Eternally Self-Sufficient Sovereign: Muḥammad known as al-Ḥalvā’ī (‘The Sweetmeat Man’), may God improve his condition and put his mind at rest.

By contrast, the colophon written by al-Ḥalvā’ī on f. 294r at the end of Niẓāmī’s Khamsa (‘Five Poems’) is exiguous and looks as though it may have been composed and executed in haste. No acknowledgement to the Creator, salutations to the Prophet, or honorifics for the author; the scribe’s name is there, but has just been squeezed in at the end of a line:

End of the book known as the Khamsa of Niẓāmī. Written by Muḥammad, and [may Divine] forgiveness [be his], in Jumādā l-ūlā of the year 814’ (equivalent to late August-September 1411.

Another inscription of interest, which occurs on f. 302r, appears in the form of a flattering addition to what is announced as Niẓām al-tavārīkh, an abridgement and continuation of this short history of Persia from earliest times down to 674/1275 by ‘Abd Allāh al-Bayẓāvī. Immediately after a brief notice of the Mongol Īlkhān Abū Sa‘īd (d. 736/1335) we find this:

And [today, God’s] creatures are in the shade (sāya, repeated again on the next line) of the justice and the shadow of the compassion of the Just King…Jalāl al-Dunyā va l-Dīn Iskandar Bahādur, may God perpetuate his rule…’ (the remainder of the text resembling that of the prayer on f. 340r translated below).

The colophon (f. 340r) which concludes a selection of ghazals or lyric verses by several different poets, is almost as long as that on f. 112v and yet contains no date; in this respect the volume exhibits no standard style. In it we read:

The ghazals have been completed, with the help and goodly aid to success of God, Transcendent and Exalted is He. Salutations and peace be upon Muḥammad, the Best of His Creation, and his Pure Family. Written by the poor servant Muḥammad, scribe to the Majestic Sovereign Iskandar (al-kātib al-Jalālī al-Khāqānī al-Iskandarī), may God perpetuate his (i.e. the sovereign’s, not – as the syntax suggests – the scribe’s) kingship and establish his justice and beneficence throughout the universe, by the Prophet and his goodly descendants.


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Colophon concluding a collection of ghazals. Add.27261, f 340r
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After this point in the manuscript there are no further lengthy colophons. Whereas the opening of the more famous Manṭiq al-ṭayr and Ilāhī-nāma, found earlier in the volume, are marked only by episode headings, the poems Jām-i Jam and (part of) Sa‘ādat-nāma both have ornamental title headings. Neither of the latter, however, has any kind of inscription at the end. And although there remain some artistic pyrotechnics to come, as regards the textual content the Miscellany rather peters out. The last colophon (f. 542v) consists of two lines of text directly below the end of the treatise on astronomy with which the Miscellany concludes. Instead of being configured in the conventional keystone form, these two lines are written exactly as if they were part of the text. The first line announces the conclusion of of Rawat al-munajjimīn (‘Astronomers’ Garden’), while the second reads:

Katabahu turāb al-fuqarā’ va l-sālikāin Nāir al-Kātib, asana Llāh ‘avāqibahu, fī salkh Jumādā l-sānī 814

Written by [one who is] dust [at the feet] of the dervishes and the [spiritual] wayfarers, Nāṣir the Scribe – may God grant him a goodly life Hereafter – at the end of Jumādā l-sānī 814 (equivalent to early October 1411).

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Colophon at the end of Rawat al-munajjimīn (‘Astronomers’ Garden’), dated 814/1411. Add.27261, f. 542v
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Lastly, there are two very different inscriptions which were added by later owners of the manuscript at the end of it. These have been described and discussed in the ‘Turning The Pages’ presentation of the Miscellany of Iskandar Sultan, together with a selection of 74 other pages.

A detailed catalogue description with links to the individual works and paintings can be read or downloaded here.

Muhammad Isa Waley, Asian and African Studies
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