THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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12 posts categorized "Seals"

10 February 2017

Some British ‘Islamic’ style seals in Persian manuscripts from India

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The history of manuscript movements, usage and ownership in the Islamicate world is a comparatively underdeveloped subject. Happily, however, paratextual studies especially of seals and ownership inscriptions are now becoming increasingly important in research on the early-modern period. In an earlier post, my colleague Daniel Lowe (Performing Authority: the ‘Islamic’ Seals of British Colonial Officers) gave examples of ‘Islamic’ style seals used by British colonial officers in the Gulf well into the 19th and 20th centuries. I thought I would parallel this with some examples of Europeans’ seals found in our Persian manuscripts from India. These can reflect the official status of the owner of the seal or more simply act as a personal statement of ownership. The list is arranged chronologically and is by no means exhaustive, reflecting very much current work in progress!

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Seal of Archibald Swinton (1731-1804) dated 1174 in the 2nd regnal year of Shah ʻAlam II (1760/61): Archībāld Svīntan Bahādur Rustam Jang, 1174 [year] 2. From a copy of the poem Sūz va Gudāz ‘Burning and Melting’ by Nawʻī Khabūshānī (BL Or.2839, f.1r
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Originally trained as a surgeon Archibald Swinton (1731-1804) began his career in India in 1752 serving under Robert Clive in the Carnatic. From the end of 1759 he participated in the Company’s campaigns against Shah ʻAlam II and at the beginning of 1761 after the battle of Gaya was sent by Major Carnac to negotiate terms with him. Presumably this was when Swinton was awarded the Mughal title Rustam Jang. One hundred and twenty of Swinton's mostly Persian manuscripts were sold after his death by Christie’s on June 6th 1810, however this by no means included all his manuscripts of which the British Library has several.

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Seal of Major James Browne dated 1191 (1777/78): Muʻīn al-Dawlah Naṣīr al-Mulk Jīms Brawn Bahādur Ṣalābat Jang, 1191. From a history of the Kachwaha Rajas of Dhundhar commissioned by Browne in 1784 (BL Or.1271, f.11r)
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James Browne had joined the East India Company in 1765 and in 1782 was chosen to be Warren Hastings representative at the Mughal Court in Delhi on a mission to supplant the Marathas in Shah ‘Alam's loyalties. Due to delays he was not however presented until 5 Feb 1784. This particular manuscript, according to an adjacent inscription, entered Swinton's library at the Capital (Dār al-, at the beginning of the month Rabīʻ II 1198 (February 1784).

It was during his time in Delhi that Browne wrote his History of the origin and progress of the Sicks which he translated from an especially commissioned Persian manuscript. After Warren Hastings’ resignation and return to England in 1785, Browne was withdrawn from Delhi due to policy changes. The British Library has several of his manuscripts, two of which subsequently belonged to the Marquess of Hastings, Governor-General 1813–1823.

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Bookplate of Richard Johnson (1753-1807) based on his seal dated 1780: Mumtāz al-Dawlah Mufakhkhar al-Mulk Richārd Jānsan Bahādur Ḥusām Jang, 1194. (BL IO Islamic 1518)
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Richard Johnson (See ʻWhite Mughal’ Richard Johnson and Mir Qamar al-Din Minnat) arrived in Calcutta as a writer for the East India Company in 1770. In 1780 he was nominated for an embassy to the Mughal Emperor but for some reason this mission did not materialise[1]. This must have been the occasion of his being awarded the titles Mumtāz al-Dawlah (ʻChosen of the Dynastyʼ), Mufakhkhar al-Mulk (ʻExalted of the Kingdomʼ), Bahādur (ʻValiantʼ) and Ḥusām Jang (ʻSharp Blade in Warʼ) by Shāh ʻĀlam II on 4 Rabīʻ I 1194 (10 March 1780). The titles carried with them the rank (mansab) of 6,000 and insignia of a fish and two balls, a kettle-drum and fringed palankeen[2]. Johnson’s 716 manuscripts and 64 albums of paintings were acquired by the East India Company Library in 1807 and today form one of the most important of the British Library Persian and Arabic manuscript collections.

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Seal of James Grant dated 1193 in the Bengali era (1786/7): Jams Grānṭ Ṣadr-i Sarrishtahdār va Mulāḥiz̤-i Kull-i Dafātir az ṭaraf-i Dīvān-i Ṣūbahjāt-i Bangālah va Bahār va ghayrih Madār al-Mahām Sipahsālār Angrīz Kampanī, sannah Bangalah 1193. Unlike the seals above which included Mughal titles, this is an official Company seal though it seems to have been used here in a private capacity. Note the early typographical use of a retroflex <ṭ> in Grant's name, as is also found twice in Richard Rotton's seal below (BL Add. 6574, f.4r)
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James Grant (1750-1808) was from 1782 to 1784 the East India Company’s Resident at the Court of the Nizam at Hyderabad and while there had several important historical works transcribed for him from the library of Ṣamṣām al-Mulk Shāhnavāz Khān (d.1781), minister of the Nizam. After his return to Bengal, in 1785 he was appointed Chief Sarrishtahdār (‘Account Keeper’) of the Board of Revenue and continued his research into the system of land tenure publishing several important works on the subject. The post was abolished in 1789 and Grant returned to Scotland. Several of his manuscripts were acquired by the British Museum in 1825 as part of a bequest of the Rev. John Fowler Hull.

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Seal of Richard Whytell Rotton dated in the 32nd regnal year of Shah ʻAlam II (1790-91): Rawshan al-Dawlah Mubāriz al-Mulk Richārd Vial Rāin Asʻad Bahādur Sābit Jang, [year] 32. The seal is accompanied by Rotton's signature: ʻR.W. Rotton 14 April 1791ʼ (BL Egerton 1016, f.3v)

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Major Richard Rotton (b. 1770[3]) was an English mercenary who, unsuccessful in joining the East India Company in 1801, for economic reasons joined the Marathas. He became one of Richard Wellesley’s most highly prized spies before being discharged and transferring to the Company in 1803 at the beginning of the Second Anglo-Maratha War (Cooper, pp. 241; 264-6). Rotton had obviously been active in India for a long time before this to judge from the date of his seal which presumably corresponded with the date of his being awarded his titles. One of his sons with an Indian mother, Felix, was employed by successive nawabs of Awadh for twenty years or so, commanding part of their artillery, and reaching the rank of captain in 1856 [4].

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Seal of William Yule dated 1213 (1798/99), an example of musanná calligraphy in which the letters of his name are written on each side as mirror images. Yule subsequently developed this design to form a cat-shaped bookplate dated 1805 (BL Add.16802, f3r and flyleaf)
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William Yule  (1764-1839) went to India as a cadet in 1781, returning to Scotland in 1806. During the latter part of his career he was Assistant Resident in Lucknow under Lieut.-Col. William Scott, and afterwards in Delhi under Lieut.-Col. David Ochterlony. His collection of 267 Arabic, Persian, and Urdu manuscripts were given to the British Museum by his sons in 1847 and 1850. It includes many very important works partly derived from the libraries of the Safavid prince Abuʼl-Fath Mirza, the Dīwān of Awadh Maharaja Tikait Rai Bahadur (1760–1808), and of the French General Claude Martin (d.1800), all of whom were his contemporaries in Lucknow.

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Seal of William Price, dated 1811/12: Vilyam Prāʼīs, 1226. This seal occurs on the same manuscript, mentioned above, which was previously owned by James Browne (BL Or.1271, f.2r)
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Although there were several people with this name active in India at the time, this is likely to be William Price (1788-1888) who taught Sanskrit, Bengali and Hindi at the College of Fort William Calcutta between 1813 and 1831.

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Seal of James Skinner (1778–1841): Nāṣir al-Dawlah Karnīl Jams Iskinar Bahādur Ghālib Jang, 1830 (BL Add.27254, f.3v)
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James Skinner (for more on him see James Skinner's Tazkirat al-Umara now digitised) the son of a Scottish soldier father and Rajput mother, like William Rotton above was a mercenary working for the Marathas. When war broke out between the East India Company and the Marathas in 1803, he took advantage of the Company’s offer to come over to its side. He founded the famous regiment of irregular cavalry, Skinner’s Horse, known as the ‘Yellow Boys’. The manuscript in which this seal occurs was Skinner's own copy of his Tazkirat al-Umarāʼ (‘Biographies of Nobles’) which he presented to his friend Sir John Malcolm (1769-1833) who had just retired as Governor of Bombay. The titles Nāṣir al-Dawlah (‘Defender of the Stateʼ) and Ghālib Jang (ʻVictorious in War’) were  granted to him on 3 May 1830 by the Mughal Emperor Akbar II.

There are doubtless many more examples of similar seals waiting to be recorded. Apart from telling us more about the individual seal owners and their taste in reading matter, the dates and titles granted demonstrate the increasing assimilation and integration of the British into the Indo-Persian culture of pre-modern India.


Further reading:
Annabel Teh Gallop, Venetia Porter, and Heba Nayel Barakat, Lasting impressions: seals from the Islamic world. Kuala Lumpur  Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2012.
S.A.I. Tirmizi, Index to titles (1798–1885). Delhi: National Archives of India, 1979.
Lucian Harris,
 “Archibald Swinton, A New Source for Albums of Indian Miniatures in William Beckford's Collection”, The Burlington Magazine 143, no. 1179 (June 2001): 360-366.
Sir Evan Cotton, “The Journals of Archibald Swinton”, Bengal Past and Present 31/1 (Jan-Mar 1926): 13-38.
Krishna Dayal Bhargava, Browne Correspondence. Delhi: National Archives of India, 1960.
Randolph G.S. Cooper, The Anglo-Maratha Campaigns and the Contest for India. Cambridge UP, 2003.


Ursula Sims-Williams, Lead Curator Persian Collections
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[1] Richard Johnson, (1753-1807): nabob, collector and scholar…. London, 1973.
[2] BL IO Islamic 4749, f.13r-v.
[3] MyHeritage
[4] Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, The great uprising in India, 1857-58: untold stories, Indian and British. Woodbridge, 2007, p.60.

04 March 2016

The seals of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih of Bone

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Last year the British Library digitised the personal diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Shamsuddin, 22nd sultan of the kingdom of Bone in south Sulawesi, who reigned from 1775 until his death in July 1812. The diary (Add. 12354), written in the king’s own hand in Bugis language and script, is an extremely important historical source for Bone. Daily entries cover a wide range of subjects from political events and religious ceremonies to notable visitors, births, deaths and marriages in the royal family, and even unusual weather patterns, as revealed in the doctoral study of this diary by Rahilah Omar (2003). 

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In his diary entry for 10 September 1791, Sultan Ahmad al-Salih makes an oblique comment about a seal: ‘Ijiq came at the request of the Tomaraja (Dutch Governor), to show me the seal made by the Sanggalea named Tukamajai. I told Ijiq, “That seal may represent me, but it’s not my seal”.’ (Reading by Rahilah Omar). British Library, Add. 12354, f. 123v (detail).  noc

There are frequent references in the diary to the use of seals in the administration of the state of Bone: at the investiture of officials such as the Arung (Lord) of Timurung and the Sulewatang (Regent) of Palakka, the sultan would grant them seals. Sultan Ahmad al-Salih’s own seal, an eight-petalled circle, is well-known from a number of manuscript letters, including two in the British Library.  It is inscribed in Arabic in the middle, ādāma Allāh Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin fī mulkihi wa-sulṭānihi Bone, ‘may God preserve Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin in his realm and dominion of Bone’, and around the border, ‘Allāh al-Dā’im bilā fanā’ Allāh al-Bāqī bilā zawāl, ‘God, the Eternal One, never ending; God, the Enduring One, never perishing’.

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Seal of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih, 58 mm diameter (#412), stamped in lampblack on a letter in Bugis. British Library, Add.12359, f.11r  noc

But tucked between the pages of Sultan Ahmad’s diary is one of the most intriguing seal-related documents known from Islamic Southeast Asia: a sheet of seal designs, most likely sketched by the sultan himself. Five octagonal seals are drawn, in varying degrees of completeness and orthographic correctness, all in the name of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih of Gowa, and dated 1201 (AD 1786/7). All bear essentially the same inscription, with the most complete manifestation being found in the seal in the centre of the page: al-sulṭān al-‘ārif billāh Ahmad al-Salih jāharat al-millah wa-al-dīn fī baldat Gowa wa-āhlahā // 1201 hijrat al-nabī ‘alayhi afḍal al-ṣalwat wa-azkā al-taslīm // Allāhumma ṭawwala ‘umrahu wa-saḥḥaḥa ajsādahu wa-nawwara qalbahu wa-thabbata a‘mālahu wa-awsa‘ ārzāqahu, ‘The sultan who is wise in God, Ahmad al-Salih, proclaimer of the nation and religion in the state of Gowa and its people // [the year] 1201 of the hijrah of the prophet, on him be pure benedictions and bounteous blessings // O God, lengthen his life, keep all his body healthy, enlighten his heart, strengthen his works, and increase his blessings’

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Seal designs of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih of Bone describing himself as ruler of Gowa, found in his personal diary.  British Library Add.12354, f.160r  noc

This reference to Ahmad al-Salih as the ruler of the Makassarese kingdom of Gowa is quite surprising, as Ahmad does not feature on any acknowledged kinglists of Gowa. Yet intermarriage between royal families was just as rife in south Sulawesi as it was in Europe, and in fact Ahmad al-Salih was descended from the royal families of both Bone and Gowa: his maternal grandfather was Sultan Abdul Razak Jalaluddin of Bone (r.1749-1775), while his paternal grandfather was Sultan Shahabuddin Ismail of Gowa (r.1709-1711).  Sultan Jalaluddin had selected Ahmad as his heir as ruler of Bone partly because of his paternal royal Gowa blood, in the hope that he would one day unite the two thrones (Rahilah 2003: 50-51). However, in 1777 a former ruler of Gowa who had been exiled by the Dutch to Sri Lanka, I Sangkilang, captured Gowa and ruled it until his death in 1785.  After I Sangkilang’s death, the Dutch seized the regalia of Gowa and presented it to Ahmad al-Salih. With both regalia in his possession, Ahmad al-Salih planned to unite the two kingdoms, and it was evidently just around this time that he began designing his new seal as ruler of Gowa.  In the event, though, Sultan Ahmad’s plans were thwarted by the Dutch who belatedly feared that the joint kingdom of Bone-Gowa would be too formidable to control (Andaya 1996: 107).

There is no evidence that an octagonal seal was ever made up for Sultan Ahmad.  However, in the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam we find a photograph of the original seal matrix of Ahmad’s Bone seal, together with an oval seal in his name as sultan of Gowa (KIT 915/2). The border inscription in the oval seal is the same as that in the octagonal sketches. But in the centre panel, rather than describing himself as 'wise', al-'ārif - a word with strong Sufi overtones implying esoteric knowledge of God, reflecting Ahmad al-Salih’s well-known mystical leanings - in the oval seal Ahmad has laid claim to the even more ambitious title al-sulṭān al-kāmil, ‘the Perfect Sultan’, unmistakeably evoking the Sufi doctrine of al-insān al-kāmil, ‘the Perfect Man’ (cf. Arberry 1979: 104).

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Photographs of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih's seals as ruler of Bone (7a) and of Gowa (7b), with transcriptions by Dr Hoesein Djajadiningrat, at the time curator of manuscripts at the Bataviaasch Genootschap, ca. 1930. KIT 915/2 (detail), 'Vijf fotografische reproducties met Arabische transcripties van de rijkszegels van Bone', Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam. Source: Wikimedia Commons  noc

These photographs in the Tropenmuseum document a collection of 43 royal seals from Bone captured by the Dutch in 1905, and placed in the Museum of the Bataviaan Society (Bataviaasch Genootschap). In 1931, the seals were returned from Batavia to Bone for the installation of the last sultan, Karaeng Sigeri, and are today held in the Museum La Pawawoi, a former royal residence in Watampone, Bone, South Sulawesi. Needing to check some details for my forthcoming catalogue of Islamic seals from Southeast Asia, and with little prospect of visiting Watampone in person in the near future, I put up a plea on Facebook in October 2015 requesting help from 'FB friends' in South Sulawesi. I am immensely grateful to Dr Mukrimin, lecturer at IAIN Sultan Amai Gorontalo and an expert on Bugis migration, who, within a few days, went to the Museum and, with the assistance of Mr Irsafril, photographed for me the collection of royal seals. 

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Collection of royal seals from Bone, dating from the 17th to 19th centuries, on display in the Museum La Pawawoi, Watampone. Photograph courtesy of Mukrimin.

And it was only from Mukrimin’s photographs that a final piece of the puzzle fell into place. I could not understand why the Tropenmuseum photographs of seals were all numbered from 1 to 43, except for the two seals of Sultan Ahmad which were numbered 7a and 7b. Mukrimin’s photograph below shows that this is actually a double seal matrix, with Ahmad al-Salih’s 8-petalled seal as sultan of Bone on one face, and his oval seal as sultan of Gowa on the other. But while the Bone seal has been found stamped on over 28 letters and treaties covering the period from at least 1791 to 1809, no documents bearing the Gowa seal have yet been traced, probably reflecting the fact that Ahmad's ambition to wield jurisdiction over both kingdoms was never fully realised.

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The ‘double’ silver seal matrix of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih, showing the face of his 8-petalled seal as ruler of the Bugis kingdom of Bone, and the back of his oval seal as ruler of the Makassarese kingdom of Gowa. Museum La Pawawoi, Watampone. Photograph courtesy of Mukrimin.

Further reading:

Rahilah Omar, The history of Bone AD 1775-1795: the diary of Sultan Ahmad as-Salleh Syamsuddin. [Ph.D. thesis].  University of Hull, 2003.
Annabel Teh Gallop & Venetia Porter, Lasting impressions: seals from the Islamic world. Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, 2012; pp. 90-93.
A.J. Arberry, Sufism: an account of the mystics of Islam. London: Mandala, 1979.

With thanks to Rahilah Omar for information on references to seals in the diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Shamsuddin, Bink Hallum for help with the Arabic transliterations and translations, Ingeborg Eggink and Koos van Brakel of the Tropenmuseum, Mukrimin and Irsafril for  photographs of the seal matrices, and the Director of the Museum La Pawawoi, Andi Baso Bone Mappasessu.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

23 November 2015

Royal Malay letters and seals from Pontianak

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In December 1810, Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826) arrived in Melaka. He bore the title ‘Agent of the Governor General to the Malay States’, having been entrusted with a confidential mission by Lord Minto, Governor-General of Bengal, to prepare for a British invasion of Java, at that time held by Franco-Dutch forces loyal to Napoleon. Raffles immediately began a flurry of diplomatic letter-writing to neighbouring Malay states, appealing for support, in both moral and practical terms, for the forthcoming British campaign. About 120 original Malay letters sent in reply to Raffles from this period have survived in the Raffles Family Collection (MSS Eur D 742/1). All these Malay letters have now been digitised, and have also been published with the full Malay texts accompanied by English translations by Ahmat Adam (2009).

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Entrance archway to the palace of Pontianak, Istana Kadriah, painted in yellow, the Malay colour of royalty. Photograph by A. Gallop, September 2015.

Naturally some Malay rulers were more disposed to help than others, responses being shaped by a variety of considerations, reflecting local political strategies and interests. A very cordial correspondence ensued between Raffles and Sultan Syarif Kasim (1766-1819), who in 1808 had succeeded as the second ruler of Pontianak (now in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan). As has been emphasized by the historian Mary Somers Heidhues, both Sultan Syarif Kasim and his father Sultan Syarif Abdul Rahman, the founder of Pontianak, ‘used, in a way few of their peers could, their personal relations with Westerners to both manipulate them and hold them at a distance’ (Heidhues 1998: 276). This adroitness is apparent in four original Malay letters from Kasim to Raffles, not least in their beautiful illumination. Three letters date from early 1811, when Raffles was based in Melaka, and one from 1814, by which time the British expedition had successfully taken place, and Raffles was ensconced as Lieutenant-Governor of Java. In the early letters Kasim seeks British support against his neighbour the sultan of Sambas, emphasizing the complicity of Sambas in the seizure of a British ship, the Commerce, and the murder of her crew, while in the letter of 1814 Kasim reports that all is now calm around Sambas and that the seas are safe from piracy. Kasim is also most solicitous to respond to any requests Raffles might have made for rarities, and with one letter he sends a pair of orangutans. In the long letter shown below he mentions that he is sending two Malay manuscripts requested by Raffles – a legal text, Undang-undang, and the Hikayat Iskandar Zulkarnain – as well as a golden spear.

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Letter from Sultan Syarif Kasim of Pontianak to Thomas Stamford Raffles in Melaka, 20 Muharam 1226 (14 February 1811). British Library, MSS Eur D 742/1, f. 33a.  noc

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Letter from Sultan Syarif Kasim of Pontianak to T.S. Raffles in Batavia, Java, 15 Safar 1229 (6 February 1814). British Library, MSS Eur E 378/1.  noc

As can be seen from the two letters shown above, royal Malay letters from Pontianak were sometimes beautifully illuminated, with gold patterns stamped by hand on European-made watermarked paper. All four letters bear Sultan Syarif Kasim’s sovereign seal, with a lengthy inscription in Arabic: al-wāthiq billāh al-Khāliq al-Bārī wa-huwa ‘abduka al-Sulṭān al-Sayyid al-Sharīf Qāsim ibn al-marḥūm al-Sulṭān al-Sayyid al-Sharīf ‘Abd al-Raḥman ibn al- marḥūm al-Ḥabīb Husayn al-Qadrī // Yā Budūḥ Yā Maḥḍār Yā Ḥāfīẓ Y[ā] Ḥafīẓ Yā Kāfī Yā Muḥīt Ma‘rūf al-Karkhī, ‘He who trusts in God, the Creator, the Maker, and he is Your servant, the Sultan Sayid Syarif Kasim, son of the late Sultan Sayid Syarif Abdul Rahman, son of the late Habib Husain al-Kadri // O Buduh! O Presence! O Guardian! O All Preserving One! O Sufficient One! O Comprehending One! Ma'ruf al-Karkhi’.

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Seal of Sultan Syarif Kasim, from a letter to Raffles, 16 Safar 1226 (12 March 1811). British Library, MSS Eur D 742/1, f.32 (detail)

In the middle of the seal is Sultan Syarif Kasim’s name and title together with those of his father and grandfather, while the border bears a religious inscription comprising appeals to God, addressed by a selection of His ‘Beautiful Names’ (al-āsmā' al-ḥusnā). The border inscription is not easy to decipher, for the words are written in ‘disconnected letters’, which is in fact an amuletic device often found in Islamic manuscripts believed to strengthen the power of the words so treated. Certain elements of the border inscription are more unambiguously talismanic in nature: Ma‘rūf al-Karkhī (d. 800) was a Sufi saint who lived in Baghdad, whose name is frequently invoked for protection in Malay letters and seals, while Budūḥ is an artificial amuletic word derived from a magic square. This border inscription and the iconic octagonal diamond shape of the seal were introduced by Kasim's father Abdul Rahman, who founded Pontianak in 1772, and all subsequent sovereign seals of sultans of Pontianak, up till the end of the 19th century, exhibit these characteristic features.

Sultan Syarif Kasim’s seal is also notable for its fine calligraphy, with certain letters (such as the yā’ of Bārī and the lām-sīn ligature of al-Sulṭān) dramatically extended to ‘support’ the lines of the inscription. These ‘extended letter lines’ are a characteristic feature of some seals from Pontianak and neighbouring Mempawah. In two of Kasim’s earlier seals, from his time as crown prince of Pontianak and ruler (Panembahan) of neighbouring Mempawah, the inscriptions appear to be placed on ruled lines. A close inspection reveals, however, that the straight lines are in fact stylized letters, which are indicated with asterisks in the reading of the inscriptions given below.

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(Left) Seal of Syarif Kasim as ruler of Mempawah, inscribed: al-wāthiq billāh al-Malik al-Bārī* Panembahan Sharīf Qāsim īm bin al-Sulṭān* Sharīf ‘Abd al-Raḥman al-Qadrī*, ‘He who trusts in God, the King, the Maker, Panembahan Syarif Kasim, son of the Sultan Abdul Rahman al-Kadri’. From a letter to the Dutch Governor-General in Batavia, 25 Zulkaidah 1207 (4 July 1793). Leiden University Library, Cod.Or.2239.I.14.

(Right) Seal of Syarif Kasim as ruler of Mempawah, inscribed al-wāthiq bi-‘ināyat Allāh al-Malik al-Bārī* Pangiran* Sharīf Qāsim bin al-Sulṭān* Sharīf ‘Abd al-Raḥman al-Qadrī*, ‘He who trusts in the favour of God, the King, the Maker, Pangiran Syarif Kasim, son of the Sultan Abdul Rahman al-Kadri’.  From a letter from the chiefs of Mempawah to the Dutch Governor-General in Batavia, 1 Rabiulawal 1204 (19 November 1789). Leiden University Library, Cod.Or.2239.I.4.

In compiling data on Islamic seals from west Kalimantan, I was greatly assisted by an eminent local historian of Pontianak, Dato' Drs Hei Abang Zahry Abdullah, after meeting at a conference at the Brunei History Centre in 2006. Although Bapak Zahry sadly passed away a few years ago, on a recent visit to Pontianak in September 2015 to attend the International Conference on Nusantara Manuscripts, I was glad to have the opportunity to meet his widow to express my appreciation of Bapak Zahry's invaluable work.

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With Ibu Zahry in Pontianak in September 2015, with on the wall a photograph with Bapak Zahry in Brunei in 2006.

References
Ahmat Adam, Letters of sincerity: the Raffles collection of Malay letters (1780-1824), a descriptive account with notes and translation. Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 2009. (Monograph; 43); see pp. 286-297 on Pontianak.
Annabel Teh Gallop,The legacy of the Malay letter.  Warisan warkah Melayu. With an essay by E. Ulrich Kratz.  London: published by the British Library for the National Archives of Malaysia, 1994.
Annabel Teh Gallop, The amuletic cult of Ma'ruf al-Karkhi in the Malay worldWritings and writing: investigations in Islamic text and script in honour of Dr Januarius Just Witkam, ed. by Robert M. Kerr & Thomas Milo; pp.167-196.  Cambridge: Archetype, 2013.
Mary Somers Heidhues, The first two sultans of Pontianak.  Archipel, 1998, 56: 273-94.

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).

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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'.

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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.]

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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.

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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

18 August 2015

The travels of a manuscript: Rashid al-Din's Compendium of Chronicles (Add.7628)

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The Jāmiʿ al-tavārīkh or ‘Compendium of Chronicles’ is a monumental universal history composed by Rashīd al-Dīn (d. 1317) in Persian at the beginning of the 14th century. It was originally written for the Mongol Ilkhan of Iran Ghazan Khan (d. 1304) but was finally presented to his brother and successor Oljaytu Khan (d. 1317) possibly in 1307. The work acquired enormous popularity both in medieval and modern times especially for its unique description of the rise of Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire. There are copies of this work in all the major libraries in Europe and the Middle East, including several masterpieces of 14th century manuscript illustration.


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Heading in the hand of Shah Rukh’s third son Baysunghur (1397-1433). Sultan Muhammad's seal is stamped in the margin (British Library Add.7628, f. 410v)
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The British Library has a number of interesting copies of this work. One of the earliest is the recently digitised Add.16688, copied possibly in the late 14th or early 15th century, but incomplete. It has an interesting re-arrangement of the contents and, as has been suggested recently (Kamola, p. 233), contains some unique insights into the composition of the work. Another remarkable copy is IO Islamic 3524, a 16th century copy, but one which contains the entire two volumes of the chronicle [1].

However perhaps the most valuable copy held at the British library is Add.7628. Although now fully accessible online, it is difficult to appreciate its immense size and magnificence. Comprising 728 folios, and measuring 45.72 x 27.94 cm (18 x 11 in), it is written in several different hands in a clear early 15th century naskh script, thus immediately indicating its royal origin. In addition to many other important features, the manuscript includes a number of seals and signatures which provide some interesting insights into the origin and history of the manuscript. It is these on which I shall focus in this post.

Although the colophon lacks a specific date, some of the references to historical figures that appear in the text allow us to approximate a relative date of copy. One of these is a short note mentioning the Timurid Sultan Shah Rukh (d. 1447), who ruled in Khorasan, Afghanistan and Central Asia after the death of his father Timur. This describes how the work was originally copied for the Ilkhan Ghazan Khan (letters in gold) and describes Shah Rukh, the shadow of God on Earth (ظلا الله فی الارضین) etc, as the owner (f. 403v). The royal connection is even more evident on folio 410v, illustrated above, where the words Khaṭ-i Bāysunghur (‘Baysunghur’s handwriting’) are written in golden letters. This name can be easily identified with Shah Rukh son’s Ghiyas al-Din Baysunghur (d. 1433), the well-known patron of the arts who was also a calligrapher himself. Since Baysunghur died in 1433, the manuscript must have been copied before then. The manuscript also includes empty spaces left perhaps for illustrations which were, however, never incorporated.

The manuscript contains a number of interesting seals that help to partially reconstruct its history. It is not surprising that some of these seals belong to members of the Timurid royal family, who had this copy in their personal libraries. A seal that appears four times belonged to the above-mentioned Sultan Shah Rukh. In addition, a seal belonging to his grandson Sultan Muhammad (d. 1452), who ruled after his grandfather until he was executed by a rival family member (Manz, p. 270), sometimes appears next to that of his grandfather.

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Top: seal of Shah Rukh (d. 1447):  
من کتب خزانة السلطان الاعظم شاه رخ بهادر ‘From the library of the greatest Sulṭān Shāh Rukh Bahādur’
Bottom: seal of his grandson Muhammad Sultan (d. 1451-2):
حسبی الله ولی الاحسان واناالعبد محمد سلطان ‘Sufficient for me is God, the Source of all Goodness, and I am [his] slave Muḥammad Sulṭān’
(British Library Add.7628, f.623r)
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This suggests that the manuscript remained in Herat at least until the middle of the 15th century. However, the fate of the book is less certain when trying to reconstruct what happened to it in the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries. A seal of possible Aq Quyunlu origin appears on folio 414r mentioning a certain ʻAbd al-Wahhāb bin Luṭf Allāh Sangalākhī (?)[2]. If this is the case, then the manuscript could have been taken as booty during one of several Aq Quyunlu raids in the area of Herat during Uzun Hasan’s reign (r. 1453-71) or be part of a diplomatic gift between the Timurids and the Aq Quyunlu confederation before that date (Woods, pp.112-3). In either case, the manuscript might have travelled west from Khurasan around the middle of the 15th century.

Add.7628_f414r
Late 15th or even early 16th century seal, most probably Aq Quyunlu:
 ﺍلمتوكل على الله اﺍلفقیر ﺍلر[ا]جي عبد اﺍلوﻫاﺏ بن لطف الله سنگلاخي؟
‘Confident in God, the needy one hoping [for God's help] ʻAbd al-Wahhāb bin Luṭf Allāh Sangalākhī (?)’
(British Library Add. 7628, f. 414r)
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Another puzzling seal is one in kufic script which occurs on the first leaf of the manuscript. Kufic seals were sometimes used as personal seals, even without specifying any personal names [3], but in this case the seal is found next to an Ottoman seal containing the name of a certain Muṣṭafá Ṣidqī. The two seals could date from different periods but luckily for us, the same two seals are found together in another British Library manuscript (RSPA 59). This is an allegedly 14th century copy of the Javāmiʻ al-ḥikāyāt va lavāmiʻ al-rivāyāt, a work on ethics containing anecdotes and tales in Persian by Muḥammad ʻAwfī (fl. 1228). The identical seals appear on folio 7v, suggesting that the kufic seal actually belonged to the bibliophile Muṣṭafá Ṣidqī  (d. 1769/70) [4]. These two seals also occur together as a pair in British Library Or.13127, f. 1r and in a number of other manuscripts listed in the Chester Beatty Islamic Seals database (for example CBL Ar 3008 f1a).

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British Library Add.7628, f. 3r
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British Library RSPA 59, f 7r
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Small kufic seal: ما شا الله لاقوة ﺍلا بالله  'What God Wills. There is no Power except by God'
Larger oval Ottoman seal: من متملكات اﺍلفقیر اﺍلحاج مصطفى صدقي غفر له ۱۷۹  ‘[One] of properties of the needy al-Ḥājj Muṣṭafá Ṣidqī, may [God’s] mercy be upon him [1]179 (1765/66)

The Ottoman seals together with two ownership notes in Ottoman Turkish at the beginning of the manuscript on folio 3r suggest that the book travelled even further west in the 18th century. The first note mentions that the manuscript was bought by Ahmed Resmi, a Greek Ottoman diplomat, from a bookseller at the Imperial camp in Babadağı (present day Rumania) in AH 1185 (April 1771). It was subsequently acquired by a certain ʻĀrif, who signed the second note dated AH 1210 (1795/6). In 1818 Claudius James Rich purchased the manuscript in Baghdad (f. 1r). As was common among British colonial officials [5], Rich had his seal written in Arabic script, with his name in the central panel surrounded by an Arabic text in praise of the Prophet Muhammad taken from Saʻdī’s Gūlistān. Finally the manuscript was sold to the British Museum from Claudius Rich's estate in 1825.

Add.7628_f002r
Seal of Claudius James Rich (1786-1821), resident at Baghdad 1808-21, dated AH 1227 (1812/13). His name is in the centre, surrounded by a verse in Arabic quoted from Saʻdī’s Gulistān: 
بلغَ العلی بِکمالِه کشفَ الدُّجی بِجَمالِه        حَسنتْ جَمیعُ خِصالِه صلّوا علیه و آله  (British Library Add. 7628, f. 2r)
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Despite the popularity of the Jāmiʿ al-tavārīkh and the amount of secondary literature that has been written about it, the study of individual manuscripts can reveal aspects of its history which are lost if we only consider published editions. In this case, by looking at the seals in Add.7628, we can trace the travels of this manuscript from the Timurid court in early 15th century Herat all the way to colonial Britain via the Ottoman Empire.

 

Further reading

Text editions:
Rashīd al-Dīn Ṭabīb, Jāmiʻ al-tavārīkh, ed. Bahman Karīmī, 2v. Tihrān: Iqbāl, 1959
Rashīd al-Dīn Ṭabīb, Jāmiʻ al-tavārīkh, eds. Muṣṭafá Mūsavī, and Muḥammad Rawshan, 4v. Tihrān: Nashr-i Alburz, 1994

Other works:
Stefan T. Kamola, “Rashīd al-Dīn and the making of history in Mongol Iran.” PhD. Diss., University of Washington, 2013
Beatrice Forbes Manz, Power, Politics and Religion in Timurid Iran. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007
John Woods, The Aqquyunlu : clan, confederation, empire. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999

Bruno De Nicola, University of St. Andrews, European Research Council project: The Islamisation of Anatolia (ERC grant number 284076)
 ccownwork

with thanks especially to Manijeh Bayani for her help with the inscriptions, and also to Daniel Lowe and Ursula Sims-Williams

 



[1] Other copies in the British Library Collection are IO Islamic 4710 (early 19th century) containing only the section on Ghazan Khan; Add.18878 (vol. 2 only, also 19th century, copied in India); IO Islamic 1784 (undated).
[2] Special thanks to Manijeh Bayani for this suggestion and the reading of the seal.
[3] Personal communication from Annabel Gallop.
[4] See François Déroche, Islamic codicology: an introduction to the study of manuscripts in Arabic script. London: al-Furqan, 2006, p. 341, fig. 133.
[5] See Daniel Lowe, “Performing Authority: the ‘Islamic’ Seals of British Colonial Officers.

05 December 2014

George Percy Churchill’s Biographical Notices of Persian Statesmen and Notables

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In 1906, the Government of India Foreign Department published (and republished in 1910) an index of prominent Qajar statesmen, compiled by George Percy Churchill, Oriental Secretary at the British Legation in Tehran. According to Cyrus Ghani, this collection of notes and genealogical tables, entitled Biographical Notices of Persian Statesmen and Notables, is the only document of its kind and serves an ‘indispensible source to ascertain who the British held in high regard and who they considered to be pro-Russian or independent’ (Ghani, pp. 78-79). Indeed, the importance of the work is attested to by numerous references in monographs and in entries in, for example, the invaluable reference tool Encyclopædia Iranica.

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Left: 'Biographical Notes' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746)
Right: 'Biographical Notices of Persian Statesmen and Notables', 1910 (British Library, IOR/L/PS/20/227)
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Copies of the Biographical Notices are available in the records of the India Office and Foreign Office held at the British Library and National Archives respectively. Only three further copies appear to be held in libraries at Bamberg, Cambridge and Canberra, though a 1990 translation into Persian is more widely available (Mīrzā Ṣāliḥ, 1990).

Churchill’s Draft Text
However, a little-known manuscript draft of the Biographical Notices exists in the archive of the Bushire Residency, a part of the India Office Records (‘Biographical Notes’, IOR/R/15/1/746), and is now digitised and available online.

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Manuscript note in 'Biographical Notes' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746, f. 3v)
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In a signed note (f. 3v), Churchill remarks that he compiled his work from a variety of sources, in particular from Lieutenant-Colonel H. Picot’s, Biographical Notices of Members of the Royal Family, Notables, Merchants and Clergy (1897), which he endeavoured to update and amplify. The draft has the appearance and feel of a scrap-book, with cut-outs of entries from Picot’s work and other printed reports, juxtaposed with up-to-date information written in Churchill’s own hand, as well as seal impressions, signatures, photographs and other elements pasted in.

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'Tree of the Royal Kajar House' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746, ff. 28v-29r)
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In addition to the biographical entries, the draft includes an impressive hand-written genealogical ‘Tree of the Royal Kajar House’ (ff. 28v-29r); a list of words used in the composition of Persian titles (ff. 4r-5v); a list of Persian ministers, provincial governors and others receiving Nowruz greetings in 1904 (ff. 33v-34r); and a list of the principal of Persian diplomatic and consular representatives (ff. 30v-31r). Appearing on folios 32v-33r, quite incidentally with notes written on the back, is a seating plan for a dinner of the Omar Kháyyám Club on 23 November 1905.

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Seating plan for the Omar Khayyam Club Dinner, 23 November 1905 (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746, ff 32v-33r)
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An Abundance of Seals
What stands out most in Churchill’s draft is the abundance of seal impressions – over 300 of them –  that appear to have been cut out from Persian correspondence and envelopes. These appear next to the biographical entry of the seal owner, and, in some cases, a single entry is accompanied by multiple seal impressions reflecting the use of different seal matrices at different dates and containing personal names or official and honorific titles. In addition, there are three clusters of seal impressions that are not associated with specific biographical entries, and these include seals of Qajar rulers, such as Fath ‘Ali Shah (r. 1797-1834) and Muhammad Shah (r. 1834-1848), as well as other Qajar statesmen.

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Draft entry and print entry for Arfa' ud-Daulah (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746, f. 66v; IOR/L/PS/20/227, p. 10)
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Entry for  Mirza ʻAli Asghar Khan Amin us-Sultan in 'Biographical Notes' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746, f. 55r)
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Seals Set within Illuminated Frames
Two clusters of seal impressions on folios 2v and 29v contain three examples of seals set in ornately decorated illuminated frames that have been cut out from firmans of Farmanfarma Husayn ‘Ali Mirza, Governor-General of Fars, dated 1229 AH (1813/14 CE). This art form developed in Iran during the later Safavid and Qajar eras, spreading throughout the Islamic world. Annabel Gallop and Venetia Porter note such illuminated framed seals with ‘their own architectural constructs’ or else ‘nestling within a bed of petals, sitting at the heart of a golden flame or sending forth rainbow-hued rays’ (pp. 170-172).

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Seal impressions on folios 2v (left) and 29v (right) from 'Biographical Notes' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746)
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Embossed Seals and Printed Stationery
The other cluster of cut-outs found on folio 3r are in fact not ink seal impressions, but impressions of embossed (blind-stamped) seals and decorative printed letterheads of specially-printed stationery. These are variously dated and include those of Amin al-Dawlah and Mas‘ud Mirza Zill al-Sultan, and contain decorative symbols such as laurel reefs, crowns, and the lion and sun national emblem (shir u khurshid).

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A collection of embossed and printed seals in 'Biographical Notes' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746, f. 3r)
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Embossed seals made with metal presses came into use in Europe in the latter part of the eighteenth century mainly among companies and institutions, but also by individuals. In the nineteenth century, this practice had become widespread in Ottoman bureaucracy. This collection, taken together with seal presses in museum collections in Iran (Jiddī, p. 75), demonstrates that the practice had become well-established in Qajar administration. Moreover, the embossed seals juxtaposed with traditional ink seal impressions in this volume point towards the ‘changing relations of production and advancing commercialization’ as a result of colonialism and globalisation that affected Islamic diplomatics in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Messick, pp. 234-235). Indeed, it has been noted that such embossed seals appeared at around the same time as other developments, such as the widening use of printed letterheads and rubber stamps (Gallop and Porter, p. 122).

Photographic Images
A number of the biographical entries are also accompanied by photographs of the subject in official dress. These are found on folio 48 for Mirza ‘Ali Asghar Khan Amin al-Sultan; two cut out photographs of Hakim al-Mulk Mirza Mahmud Khan and one of Hakim al-Mulk Ibrahim Khan on folio 114v; and one of Muzaffar al-Din Shah Qajar (r. 1896-1907) on folio 163v.

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Photographs found in 'Biographical Notes' (British Library, IOR/R/15/1/746)
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The Importance of Churchill’s Work
In one sense, Churchill’s work represents an important work in the context of British colonial knowledge of the political landscape of Qajar Iran at the beginning of the twentieth century. Yet, as has been noted by Gallop and Porter (p. 154), the presence of an abundance of seal impressions reflects the keen eye of an enthusiastic collector. However, we should not necessarily view collecting and colonial intelligence gathering as mutually exclusive fields. As Carol A. Breckenridge has noted: ‘The world of collecting was considerably expanded in the post-enlightenment era. With the emergence of the nineteenth-century nation-state and its imperializing and disciplinary bureaucracies, new levels of precision and organization were reached. The new order called for such agencies as archives, libraries, surveys, revenue bureaucracies, folklore and ethnographic agencies, censuses and museums. Thus, the collection of objects needs to be understood within the larger context of surveillance, recording, classifying and evaluating’ (p. 195-96).

Indeed, seal impressions were collectable not only as objects of Orientalist curiosity and research, but also as the preeminent symbol of personal and political authority, power and hierarchy, as well as ownership. Although Churchill’s collection of seal impressions was absent from the final printed version of the Biographical Notices, the draft text provides researchers with a valuable source for the study of Qajar seals and sealing practices at the turn of the twentieth century, at a time in which the Islamic seal was being replaced by other instruments of textual and visual authority, such as embossed seal and photographs.

 

Primary Sources
British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, ‘Biographical Notes’, IOR/R/15/1/746
British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, ‘Biographical notices of Persian statesmen and notables’, IOR/L/PS/20/227
British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, ‘Persia: biographical notices of members of the royal family, notables, merchants and clergy’, Mss Eur F112/400
The National Archives (TNA), ‘PERSIA: Biographical Notices. Persian Statesmen and Notables’, FO 881/8777X and FO 881/9748X

Further Reading
Carol A. Breckenridge, ‘The Aesthetics and Politics of Colonial Collecting: India at the World Fairs’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 31, No. 2 (April, 1989), pp. 195-216
Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, New York, 1996-
Cyrus Ghani, Iran and the West: A Critical Bibliography (London: Kegan Paul International, 1987)
Annabel Teh Gallop and Venetia Porter, Lasting Impressions: Seals from the Islamic World (Kuala Lumpur, 2012)
Muḥammad Javād Jiddī (trans. M. T Faramarzi), Muhrhā-yi salṭanatī dar majmūʻah-i Mūzih-i Kākh-i Gulistān [Royal seals in Golestan Palace Museum collection] (Tihrān, 1390 [2011])
Brinkley Messick, Calligraphic State: Textual Domination and History in a Muslim Society (Berkley, 1993)
George Percy Churchill (trans. Ghulām Ḥusayn Mīrzā Ṣāliḥ), Farhang-i rijāl-i Qājār (Tihrān, 1369 [1990])

 

Daniel A. Lowe, Arabic Language and Gulf History Specialist (@dan_a_lowe)
 ccownwork

02 October 2014

Heirloom manuscripts from Jambi

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Throughout island Southeast Asia, the hot and humid tropical climate with attendant rodent and insect life is usually judged hostile to the preservation of manuscripts. And yet in certain highland communities in the province of Jambi in east Sumatra, manuscripts can and do survive for centuries, as reflected in a recent Endangered Archives project, EAP117, Digitising ‘sacred heirlooms’ in private collections in Kerinci, Sumatra, Indonesia.  
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Buffalo horn manuscript inscribed with the story of the journey of Uti Unduk Pinang Masak and Dayang Berani, written in the Kerinci incung script, in the collection of Depati Singolago Tuo (the text is transliterated in Tambo Kerinci no.37). British Library, EAP117/2/1

In many villages in the interior of Jambi, manuscripts in Malay on paper, horn and bamboo, written in Arabic or the Indic incung script, have been preserved as sacred village heirlooms along with other auspicious objects such as weapons, coins, pieces of porcelain and elephant teeth. Usually carefully stored in a wooden box in the loft of the house of the village headman, these precious items could only be brought out on occasional ritual feasts to celebrate the origins of the village (Watson 2009).  In retrospect, it can be seen that the combination of secure storage of these manuscripts at the top of the house, where smoke from the kitchen below would act both as an insect repellent and as a natural dehumidifier, together with very occasional ‘airings’, was an extremely effective form of preservation.  In one spectacular case, a code of laws from the village of Tanjung Tanah written on treebark paper has been carbon-dated to the 14th century, making it the oldest known surviving Malay manuscript in the world (Kozok 2006).

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Heirloom edict from Jambi dated 1794. When it was seen by P. Voorhoeve in 1941 and transliterated in Tambo Kerinci (no.43), the first line could still be read (Inilah cap serta tapak tangan Pangeran (Suria) Kesuma dan Pangeran Ratu serta Raja Sultan Ahmad Badruddin ... marhum). By the time the document was photographed in 2008 for the Endangered Archives Programme, it had been slightly damaged. British Library, EAP117/2/1/7.

In early 1941 a survey of village heirlooms of Kerinci was carried out by Petrus Voorhoeve, a Dutch language officer working for the colonial administration.  Voorhoeve and his team documented and photographed some 260 manuscripts, and then produced the 'Tambo Kerintji', an unpublished volume containing transliterations of all the texts into latin script. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Voorhoeve was imprisoned and sent to work on the Burma railway.  At the end of the war, all his notes were feared lost – until 1973, when C.W. Watson discovered in Kerinci one surviving copy of ‘Tambo Kerintji’, and arranged for this to be retyped and distributed to a few libraries. And in 2006, Uli Kozok uploaded the Tambo Kerinci on to the website of the University of Hawaii, where it can now be freely consulted. 

Kozok returned to Kerinci in 2007 with an Endangered Archives grant to document the sacred heirlooms of 65 villages, including some of the very items seen by Voorhoeve in 1941; the results can be consulted online here. In addition to locally-produced manuscripts, there are copies of the Qur’an and songs in praise of the Prophet (the well-known Mawlid Barzanji) printed in Bombay in the second half of the 19th century, and colourful maps of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, evidently brought back to central Sumatra after the hajj pilgrimage.

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Map of Mecca and Medina, probably brought back to Kerinci by a pilgrim returning from the hajj, in the collection of Mangku Suka Rame.  British Library, EAP117/11/1/4

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A selection of copies of the Qur’an, printed in Bomby in the 19th century, in the collection of Mesjid Keramat, Kerinci. British Library, EAP117/22/1/8.

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Liha or rehal, stand for a copy of the Qur’an, from the collection of Mangku Rajo Perang. British Library, EAP117/46/2/23

Among the most historically significant manuscripts documented in these heirloom collections are royal edicts issued by the sultan and nobles of Jambi, to local leaders (dipati) upstream. For centuries, valuable products from the highlands such as gold, ivory and resin were brought downstream to the coastal regions for trade.  The economic and political relationship between the lowland court of the sultan of Jambi and the peoples of the highlands was formalised and cemented through the issuing of royal edicts (piagam) in Malay.  In these edicts, the sultan or his nobles would grant an honorific title and jurisdiction over a certain territory to highland leaders, who in return would be bound to uphold the law and respect the royal prerogative to certain types of forest produce.

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Sealed decree (piagam) issued by Pangeran Sukarta, probably 18th c., rolled and stored in a bamboo tube, from collection of Depati Lindo Indah Jati. Britsh Library, EAP117/9/1/2.

Some royal piagam contain detailed descriptions of the territory awarded to certain village leaders, and it is the boundary lists in these centuries-old documents that have ensured their contemporary relevance, particularly with the increasing threat of encroachment by commercial interests. While I was researching a group of 17th-century royal edicts found in Serampas, south of Kerinci, I was very interested to find out that in 2006, KKI Warsi - an Indonesian NGO promoting community-based forest management - had made use of an heirloom edict dated 1756 to support the village of Guguk in neighbouring Merangin in its successful struggle to manage its own ancestral lands.

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The heirloom royal edict (piagam) dated 1756 of Guguk, Merangin, Jambi. Photo: Kumiadi / KKI Warsi, 2006.

And so on a recent visit to Indonesia, I was delighted to be invited by the journal of Jambi studies, Seloko, to deliver a workshop on manuscripts, to be co-hosted by KKI Warsi.  The workshop was held in Jambi from 15-16 September and was attended by about 15 participants from KKI Warsi and educational establishments in Jambi. While covering the basics of philology (the study of the content of manuscripts) and codicology (the study of their outer form), and the 'social lives' of manuscripts, we focussed on royal edicts from Jambi, and in particular, the perceptible increase in importance of boundary lists in these piagam over time.

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At the manuscripts workshop held on 15-16 September 2014, Mrs Zarfina Yenty, a lecturer at IAIN Sultan Thaha Saifuddin Jambi, brought in a Qur'an manuscript inherited from her grandfather in Kerinci.  Copied on European paper and probably dating from the late 18th or early 19th century, despite lacking beginning and end, it is a fine example of penmanship.

Further reading:

Tambo Kerintji: disalin dari toelisan Djawa Koeno, toelisan rentjong dan toelisan Melajoe jang terdapat pada tandoek kerbau, daoen lontar, boeloeh dan kertas dan koelit kajoe, poesaka simpanan orang Kerintji.  P.Voorhoeve, dengan pertolongan R.Ng.Dr. Poerbatjaraka, toean H.Veldkamp, controleur B.B., njonja M.C.J. Voorhoeve Bernelot Moens, goeroe A.Hamid.  1941.  [Typescript, reproduced by C.W.Watson in 1973].
Tambo Kerinci, with updated spelling, uploaded to the internet by Uli Kozok in 2006:
http://ipll.manoa.hawaii.edu/indonesian/research/tambo-kerinci/

P. Voorhoeve, ‘Kerintji documents’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1970, 126 (4): 369-99. [Before the re-discovery of the 'Tambo Kerintji' in 1973, Voorhoeve published an article drawing on his memory and surviving notes to reconstruct his expedition to Kerinci in 1941.]

A.T.Gallop, ‘Piagam Serampas: Malay documents from highland Jambi’, From distant tales: archaeology and ethnohistory in the highlands of Sumatra, ed. Dominik Bonatz, John Miksic, J. David Neidel, Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz.  Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009, pp. 272-322.

A.T. Gallop, ‘Piagam Muara Mendras: more Malay documents from highland Jambi’, Seloko, 2013, 2 (1): 1-50.

Uli Kozok, Kitab undang-undang Tanjung Tanah: naskah Melayu yang tertua. Jakarta: Yayasan Naskah Nusantara, 2006.

C.W.Watson, ‘Tambo Kerinci’, From distant tales: archaeology and ethnohistory in the highlands of Sumatra, ed. Dominik Bonatz, John Miksic, J. David Neidel, Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz.  Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009, pp. 253-271.

Indonesian media coverage of the Manuscripts Workshop, 15-16 September 2014, Jambi.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia

11 August 2014

The British capture of Java, 1811

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In 1795, the Dutch ruler William V fled to Britain to escape Napoleon’s advances. There he issued the ‘Kew Letters’, giving Britain temporary authority over Dutch possessions overseas, in an attempt to keep them out of French hands. Over the next decade, the Napoleonic war arena spilled across the Indian Ocean and into Southeast Asia, and by 1800 the British had captured the Dutch territories of Padang in west Sumatra, and Ambon and Ternate in the Moluccas.  In October 1810 Lord Minto, the Governor-General of Bengal, sent Thomas Stamford Raffles to Melaka as ‘Agent of the Governor General to the Malay States’, with the confidential mission of planning for the British invasion of Java, at the time in Franco-Dutch hands.

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View of Batavia from the sea.  From J. Nieuhof, An embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Grand Tartar Cham Emperour of China (London, 1669).  British Library, X.1202.  noc

The British expeditionary force set sail from Melaka in June 1811 and on 4 August 1811 landed at Cilincing in West Java. The city of Batavia fell on 8 August, and within six weeks the British had conquered the whole of the island of Java.  This proclamation in Malay announcing the capture of Batavia is dated 11 August 1811, exactly 203 years ago today. The manuscript (Or.9484), which has just been digitised, was issued in the name of Lord Minto and bears his seal but is signed by Raffles.  The document reflects the British desire to see trade return to normal as soon as possible, and invites the people of Batavia to compare conditions under British and Dutch rule, seemingly confidently anticipating a favourable response:
‘It is announced that Batavia is now British territory and is once again open to all ships, of whatever size and of any nationality, carrying trade goods and foodstuffs, who are all welcome to come and trade freely. There will be no obstruction by warships, because the port of Batavia is now controlled by the British and will be administered with justice. His Excellency the Governor General cordially welcomes merchants of all nationalities to trade in Batavia, and invites them to see how well their business and profits fare under the British administration of Java, and how this compares with Dutch rule.’ (Maka hendaklah diketahui bahwa sekarang ini negeri Betawi sudah menjadi bandar Inggeris dan adalah sedia terbuka akan menyambut segala kapal dan keci dan sebarang perahu yang ada bermuat dagangan dan makanan pada tiap2 bangsa dagang, supaya boleh datang berniaga dengan sukanya.  Maka tiada lagi boleh diadang oleh kapal perang sebab sud(ah) terdiri bandar Inggeris di dalam tanah Betawi serta dengan adilnya.  Adapun sekarang ini bahwa Seri Maharaja Gawarnur Jenderal Yang Maha Mulia dipersilakan segala bangsa orang dagang datang ke Betawi berniaga, serta boleh melihat untung dan laba dari sebab kedatangan Inggeris ke tanah Jawah dan bolehlah sekalian menimbangkan perintah Inggeris dengan Belandah atau persamaan.)

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Malay proclamation of the capture of Batavia by the British, 8 August 1811.  British Library, Or. 9484.  noc

The proclamation is stamped with a red ink seal, inscribed in Malay. The seal was probably commissioned by Raffles while in Melaka as part of the preparations for the Java expedition. The inscription may have therefore have been calligraphed by Ibrahim, head of Raffles’s secretariat, the brother of Ahmad Rijaluddin whose account of a visit to Calcutta appeared on this blog recently. As discussed in another posting on this blog, there was a tradition of the use of ‘local’ seals in Arabic script by British officials in Asia and the Middle East, due to the long-established custom of using Persian seals by British East India Company officials serving in Mughal India.

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Lord Minto’s seal, inscribed in Malay, ‘This is the seal of His Excellency the Maharaja, Gilbert Elliot Lord Minto, Governor General of Bengal, ruler of the whole of Hindustan, above the winds [and] below the winds’ (Inilah cap Paduka Seri Maharaja Gilbetelet Lard Minto Gurnur Jenral Benggala raja pada sekalian tanah Hindustan atas angin bawah angin adanya).  British Library, Or. 9484 (detail).  noc

Further reading

W. Thorn, Memoir of the conquest of Java.  London: Robert and Wilkes, 1815.
Victoria Glendinning, Raffles and the golden opportunity. London: Profile, 2012
Tim Hannigan, Raffles and the British invasion of Java. Singapore: Monsoon, 2012.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia

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