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Thai

Digital Access to Thai Manuscripts

For a list of digitised Thai manuscripts, click here

British relations with Thailand date back to 1612, when the East India Company ship The Globe arrived in Siam carrying a letter from King James I for the Siamese king. The British Library's collections relating to Thailand include the original account by Peter Floris written in 1612, a member of The Globe expedition, and other records of early East India Company trading activities in Siam.

Thai manuscripts and historic accounts first came to Britain as a result of trade contacts, and documents from the earliest period include official letters and materials received from Thai counterparts. Some manuscripts were brought from Thailand by travelers, missionaries, and traders, and include Buddhist scriptures and literary works, as well as manuscripts on traditional medicine, law, cosmology, fortune-telling and animal treatises.

OR6630 Phra Malai1
Phra Malai.  British Library, Or.6630, folio 42.  noc

Although the first fine illustrated Thai manuscript came into the India Office Library in 1825 (MS Pali 207), and some other Thai manuscripts were transferred from the British Museum Library to the British Library in 1973, the Thai manuscript collection was mainly built up from 1973 onwards. Most of the manuscripts are paper folding books and palm-leaf manuscripts, but there are also some textile manuscripts.

Most of the manuscripts in our Thai collections have been catalogued and can be searched in the Manuscripts and Archives Catalogue.

Detailed descriptions of individual items may be found in the following publications:

Ginsburg, Henry. Thai manuscript painting. London: The British Library, 1989 [YV.1990.b.799]
Ginsburg, Henry. Thai art and culture: historic manuscripts from Western collections. London: The British Library, 2000 [LB.31.b.20500]
Zwalf, W. (ed.) Buddhism: art and faith. London: British Museum, 1985
See 'Thailand and Cambodia', pp.175-186, for details of manuscripts from the British Library [X 205/1792]

During an ambitious five-year pilot project (2008 to 2012), which had been funded by the Royal Thai Government on the auspicious occasion of the 80th Birthday Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, over 8,500 folios from 59 Thai manuscripts and the Chakrabongse Archive of Royal Letters were digitised. All these manuscripts and Royal Letters are now freely available online via the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts site (please see also list of digitised manuscripts below).  
 
The manuscripts that were selected for this project are important resources for research in the field of Thai Studies, particularly Thai Buddhist and manuscript art. The scope of the chosen manuscripts ranges from Buddhist literature, history and philology to astrology, traditional medicine and biology. Included were the most notable highlights of the British Library's Thai collection.

The project took great care to ensure that the digitization of the manuscripts had as little physical impact on the selected items as possible. A detailed risk assessment of the digitization of the manuscripts was undertaken. Where it was possible to repair manuscripts in the short term, such repair works had been carried out before digitisation works commenced.

Or 15596 Yantras
Yantras.  British Library, Or 15596, folio 17.  noc

One complete set of digital images in master file quality was given to the National Library of Thailand in June 2013, providing the opportunity to make these images available to library users in Thailand and the wider research community. The Board of the British Library acknowledges with gratitude the generosity of the Royal Thai Government in making the digitisation of these Thai manuscripts possible.

Since 2013, over twenty more manuscripts and manuscript chests from the Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections have be digitised and made freely available on the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts viewer thanks to funding from the Henry Ginsburg Legacy.

Jana Igunma
Henry Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian

List of digitised Thai manuscripts

Add MS 11624 A
Dictionary of the Lao language (vol. 1)
Paper folding book, 74 ff. 19th century, Lao buhan script, Lao language.

Add MS 11624 B
Dictionary of the Lao language (vol. 2)
Paper folding book, 71 ff. 19th century, Lao buhan script, Lao language.

Add MS 11624 C
Dictionary of the Lao language (vol. 3)
Paper folding book, 74 ff. 19th century, Lao buhan script, Lao language.

Add MS 15347
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 73 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali and Thai languages.

Add MS 27370
Mythological drawings.
Unbound leaves of paper, 14 ff., dated 1824 A.D., Thai and Latin scripts, Thai and English languages.
 
IO pali 207
Ten birth tales ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 64 ff., 18th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 1044
Sārasaṅgaha
Palm leaves, 759 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 1245
Vessantara Jataka พระเวสสันดรชาดก (part 1)
Palm leaves, 67 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 1245 b
Vessantara Jataka พระเวสสันดรชาดก (part 2)
Palm leaves, 82 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 1245 c
Vessantara Jataka พระเวสสันดรชาดก (part 8)
Palm leaves, 52 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 3494
Kuasala ainmakan
Scrolled paper book, 42 ff. 19th century, Khamti Shan script, Shan and Pali languages.

Or 3593
Phrommachat / horoscope manual พรหมชาติ.
Paper folding book, 54 pp., dated 1885 A.D., Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 4736
Alphabets and inscriptions by Henry Mouhot.
Leaves of European paper, bound, 40 ff., dated 1860-1861 A.D., Thai, Khmer, Lao, Latin and various ancient scripts, various languages.
 
Or 4830
Phrommachat / horoscope manual พรหมชาติ.
Paper folding book, 59 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.

Or 5107
Yojana pathamasamantapasadika, Padatthayojana, Samantapasadika-atthakatha
Palm leaves, 449 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 6630
'Phra Malai' พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 88 ff., dated 1875 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 8848
Phra Aphai Mani พระอภัยมณี, vol. 7.
Paper folding book, 55 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 8849
Phra Aphai Mani พระอภัยมณี, vol. 3.
Paper folding book, 61 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 8851
Manora มโนห์รา.
Paper folding book, 137 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 9770
Astrological diagram.
Mulberry paper, 1 f., 19th century, Shan script, Shan language.
 
Or 11827
History of Thailand ประวัติศาสตร์ไทย.
Leaves of European paper, 1201 ff., hardcover binding by British Museum, 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 11828
Thai-English dictionary พจนานุกรมไทย-อังกฤษ.
Leaves of European paper, 517 ff., hard cover binding by British Museum, 19th century, Thai and Latin scripts, Thai and English languages.

Or 12040
Buddhanussati
Paper folding book, 142 ff. 19th century, Shan script, Shan and Pali languages.
 
Or 12524
Pannasa Jatakas ปัญญาสชาดก.
Palm leaves, 470 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.
 
Or 13389
Ratchathirat ราชาธิราช.
Leaves of European paper, 786 ff., hard cover binding by British Museum, dated 1847 A.D., Thai script, Thai language.

Or 13650
Phrommachat / horoscope manual พรหมชาติ.
Paper folding book, 74 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 13652
Elephant treatise ตำราช้าง.
Paper folding book, 62 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 13703
Phra Malai พระมาลัย, with extracts from the Vinaya Pitaka.
Paper folding book, 83 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 13912
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 78 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 13922
Massage treatise ตำรานวด
Paper folding book, 50 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 14025
Kammavaca กรรมวาจา.
Paper folding book, 16 ff., 19th century, Northern Thai script, Pali language.
 
Or 14027
Abhidhamma extracts พระอภิธรรมปิฎก.
Paper folding book, 68 ff., late 18th century, Khom script, Pali language.
 
Or 14068
Mahabuddhagunam มหาพุทธคุณ.
Paper folding book, 54 ff., late 18th century, Khom script, Pali language.
 
Or 14114
Medical treatise on tumours ตำราแพทย์.
Paper folding book, 34 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 14115
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 97 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 14117
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 95 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 14229
Thai character drawings ตำราลายไทย.
Leaves of paper, 36 ff., hard cover binding, 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 14255
Ten birth tales with extracts from the Tipitaka ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 50 ff., 18th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 14389
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 95 ff., 19th century. Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 14447
Yogavacara.
Paper folding book, 9 ff., 18th century, Khom script, Pali language.
 
Or 14526
Extracts from the Tipitaka with Ten birth tales ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 52 ff., 18th century, Khom script, Pali language.
 
Or 14559
Phra Malai พระมาลัย and The Ten Birth Tales ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 94 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 14664
Phra Malai พระมาลัย and extracts from the Tipitaka. Paper folding book, 94 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 14704
Abhidhamma พระอภิธรรมปิฎก and Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 75 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 14714
Nang Kaki นางกากี (กากาติชาดก).
Paper folding book, 50 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 14723
Medical treatise ตำราแพทย์.
Paper folding book, 76 ff., dated 1893 A.D., Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 14731
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 92 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 14732
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 93 ff., dated 1857 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 14793
Elephant album ตำราช้าง.
Paper folding book, 29 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 14838
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 97 ff., dated 1849 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 14859
Ramakien รามเกียรติ์ and Vessantara Jataka พระเวสสันดรชาดก.
Paper folding book, 102 ff., dated 1880 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 14956
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 98 ff., dated 1875 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15207
Phra Malai and Ten Birth Tales พระมาลัย, ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 91 ff., dated 1881, Khom (Khmer) script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15245
Traiphum ไตรภูมิพระร่วง. 
Paper folding book, 100 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.
 
Or 15246
Buddhist texts and Sutras สูตร.
Paper folding book, 78 ff., dated 1880 A.D., Khom script, Pali language.

Or 15257
Extracts from the Tipitaka and Phra Malai ส่วนพระไตรปิฎก, พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 50 ff., 19th century, Khom (Khmer) script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15258
Extracts from the Tipitaka and Phra Malai ส่วนพระไตรปิฎก, พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 93 ff., 19th century, Khom (Khmer) script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15351
Phrommachat (horoscope manual) พรหมชาติ.
Paper folding book, 13 ff., 19th century, Shan script, Shan language.

Or 15370
Extracts from the Tipitaka and Phra Malai ส่วนพระไตรปิฎก, พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 99 ff., dated 1903, Khom (Khmer) script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15371
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 86 ff., 19th century, Khom (Khmer) script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15372
Mahabuddhaguna and Phra Malai มหาพุทธคุณ, พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 74 ff., 19th century, Khom (Khmer) script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15568
Yantras ตำราเขียนยันต์.
Paper folding book, 40 ff. 19th century, Thai and Khom scripts, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15595 a
Sutras สูตร (part 1)
Paper folding book, 80 ff. 19th century, Thai and Khom scripts, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 15595 b
Sutras สูตร (part 2)
Paper folding book, 59 ff. 19th century, Thai and Khom scripts, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 15596
Yantras ตำราเขียนยันต์.
Paper folding book, 28 ff., 19th century, Thai and Khom scripts, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 15749: search with keyword 'Chakrabongse' on the Digitised Manuscripts site.
Chakrabongse Archive of Royal Letters.
European paper, 256 letters, dated 1896-1915 A.D., Thai script, Thai language.

Or 15760
Tamra phichai songkhram
Paper folding book, 76 ff. 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.

Or 15925
Mahābuddhaguna มหาพุทธคุณ with Ten birth tales ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 71 ff., dated 1841 A.D., Khom script, Pali language. Colophon in Thai script and Thai language.
 
Or 16007
Phra Malai พระมาลัย.
Paper folding book, 93 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 16008
Cat treatise ตำราแมว.
Paper folding book, 12 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 16009
Buddhist texts and Sutras สูตร.
Paper folding book, 80 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 16077
Mahā Mullasattha มหามูลสทฺธา
Palm leaves, 74 ff., dated 1851 A.D., Northern Thai Tham script, Pali language.

Or 16079
Sangkhara bhajani kyam.
Paper folding book, 278 ff., dated 1916, Shan script, Shan and Pali languages.

Or 16100
Buddhist texts and Phra Malai พระมาลัย, illustrations from The Ten Birth Tales ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 97 ff., dated 1894 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 16101
Buddhist texts and Phra Malai พระมาลัย, with illustrations of The Ten Birth Tales ทสชาติ.  Paper folding book, 97 ff., dated 1894 A.D., Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.
 
Or 16102
Konlabot กลบท.
Paper folding book, 21 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 16288
Medical treatise ตำราแพทย์.
Paper folding book, 55 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 16353
Extracts from Abhidhamma พระอภิธรรมปิฎก and Phra Malai พระมาลัย, with illustrations from the Vessantara Jataka พระเวสสันดรชาดก.
Paper folding book, 103 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Thai and Pali languages.

Or 16455
Phrommachat (horoscope manual) พรหมชาติ.
Paper folding book, 22 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.

Or 16482
Fortune telling ตำราโหราศาสตร์.
Paper folding book, 65 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.
 
Or 16552
Buddhist texts พระอภิธรรมปิฎก with illustrations from the Ten birth tales ทสชาติ.
Paper folding book, 78 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 16734
Kammawacha กมฺมวาจา
Palm leaves, 49 ff., dated 1921 A.D., Northern Thai Tham script, Pali language.
 
Or 16753
Sutras สูตร.
Palm leaves, 3 ff., 19th century, Khom script, Pali language.

Or 16790
Kammawacha กมฺมวาจา
Palm leaves, 51 ff., dated 1876 A.D., Northern Thai Tham script, Pali language.

Or 16797
Cat treatise ตำราแมว.
Paper folding book, 12 ff., 19th century, Thai script, Thai language.

Or 16820/B
Lacquered and gilded manuscript box.
Thailand, 19th century.

Or 16840
Lacquered and gilded manuscript box.
Thailand, early 20th century.

Or 16863
Lacquered and gilded manuscript box for collection of Buddhist texts on palm leaves.
Thailand, box dated 1953.

Or 16893
Ticivarena Avippavasa Kammavaca
Palm leaves in a gilt and lacquered wooden box, 32 ff., early 20th century, Northern Thai Tham script, Pali language.

Or 16916
Lacquered and gilded manuscript box.
Thailand, early 20th century.

Or 16917
Lacquered and gilded manuscript box.
Thailand, ca. 1900.

15344.d.10/6
Hua yi yi yu. Vocabulary arranged under 17 categories of the Lao / Northern Thai language, with meaning and pronunciation in Chinese.
 
Foster 1055
Lacquered and gilded manuscript chest.
Burma, 19th century.

Foster 1056
Lacquered and gilded manuscript box
Northern Thailand (Lanna), 19th century.
 
Foster 1057
Lacquered and gilded manuscript cabinet.
Thailand, 19th century.