THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

28 January 2019

Javanese manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection: the publication of Weatherbee’s 'Inventory'

The Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project is currently digitising 76 manuscripts now held in the British Library which originate from the palace library of Yogyakarta. The largest portion, comprising 46 manuscripts, derive from the collections of Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), a Scottish army officer in the British East India Company who later became the first Surveyor General of India.  From 1811 to 1813 Mackenzie served in the British administration of Java under Thomas Stamford Raffles, and was Chief Engineer of the British army during the attack on Yogyakarta in June 1812. After the assault on the kraton (palace) of Yogyakarta, the manuscripts taken from the royal library were shared out between Raffles, John Crawfurd and Mackenzie. Following Mackenzie’s death in Calcutta in 1821, his Javanese manuscripts, together with his vast collections relating to the history, languages and cultures of south India, were sent to the India Office Library in London, and now form part of the British Library collections.

MSS.Jav.24  ff. 92v-93r
Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, copied in Yogyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 92v-93r  noc

The name of Donald E. Weatherbee, from the University of South Carolina, will be familiar to scholars of Javanese from the many descriptions of Javanese manuscripts from the Mackenzie collection in the India Office Library which are credited to ‘Weatherbee, forthcoming’ in the catalogue of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain published in 1977 by M.C. Ricklefs & P. Voorhoeve. In the bibliography, this important source by Weatherbee is identified as ‘An inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles MSS’ (Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1977: 201). But ‘Weatherbee, forthcoming’ never forthcame, although Donald Weatherbee did shortly thereafter publish an article in the Cornell journal Indonesia, on ‘Raffles’ sources for traditional Javanese historiography and the Mackenzie Collections’ (Weatherbee 1978).

A photocopy of Weatherbee’s original 1972 typescript of the ‘Inventory’ is however held in the British Library as MSS Photo Eur 107.  Although many portions of Weatherbee's descriptions of the Javanese manuscripts from the Mackenzie collection are reproduced verbatim in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), the ‘Inventory’ often contains further information, notably Mackenzie’s own descriptions of the title and contents, annotated on the volumes themselves, as well as comments on styles of handwriting and bindings.  Thus, despite the partial duplication with information already published in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), I felt it would still be of value to make available the original text of the ‘Inventory’, and in November 2018 I contacted Professor Weatherbee to request his permission to reproduce it in the SEALG Newletter. Permission was kindly granted, and so the ‘Inventory’ has just been published in  the special issue of the SEALG Newletter for 2018, marking the 50th anniversary of the Southeast Asia Library Group, which is freely accessible online via the link. The only editorial changes made to the ‘Inventory’ are the addition to each manuscript description of the current British Library shelfmark in bold square brackets.

In the introduction of the ‘Inventory’, Weatherbee explains the formation and ordering of the Mackenzie Collection. According to Mackenzie’s own account, in 1813 his collection consisted of 171 ‘sections rather than volumes’ of manuscripts in the Javanese language, and on his return to Calcutta, many of the smaller works were bound together in single volumes. Following Mackenzie’s death in 1821, an inventory was compiled of his collections from Java, listing two groups of manuscripts: (A) 33 ‘Malay’ books, namely Javanese manuscripts written in pégon (Arabic) script, and (B) 67 ‘Javanese’ books, in Javanese script. Together with 94 manuscript volumes in Dutch and English containing many translations of the Javanese texts, and 19 printed Dutch works, these were all shipped to the East India Company Library in London.  Weatherbee also documents how the IOL numbers – source of many of the present-day British Library ‘MSS Jav’ shelfmarks – derive from the randomly-assigned numbering system made by Keyzer in 1853.

MSS.Jav.83  ff.1v-2r
A volume of Shaṭṭārīya tracts, Yogyakarta, from the 'A' group of 'Malay' books (i.e. Javanese works in Arabic script) in Mackenzie's collection. British Library, MSS Jav 83, ff. 1v-2r  noc

In terms of the collection profile, Weatherbee notes that the Mackenzie collection seems to have a higher proportion of older manuscripts than the Raffles or Crawfurd collections, and includes some literary texts – including the Islamic romances Jati Kusuma, dated 1766 (MSS Jav 27), Asmara Supi, 1769 (MSS Jav 26) and Ahmad-Muhammad, possibly 1785 (MSS Jav 35), all from the Yogyakarta kraton library – not represented in the Raffles and Crawfurd collections. The Mackenzie collection is especially strong in the wayang genre, ‘pakěms and lakons from the wayang purwa and wayang gěḍog traditions forming the contents of at least 48 “sections” scattered through 20 bound volumes’, all most probably dating from the last quarter of the 18th century.

MSS Jav 27  f.6v
Opening lines of Jati Kusuma, dated 1766. British Library, MSS Jav 27, f. 6v   noc

Manuscripts from the palace library of Yogyakarta probably account for half of Mackenzie's collection; in his own words, ‘others were purchased and collected on the tour through that island: some were presented by Dutch colonists and by regents, and others are transcripts by Javanese writers employed by Colonel Mackenzie to copy them from the originals in the hands of the regents and with their permission’ (Weatherbee 2018: 82). On a tour of Central and East Java he received manuscripts from the regents of Grěsik (MSS Jav 12) and Lasěm (MSS Jav 29), and in Madura from Panembahan Nata Kusuma of Suměněp.  In Semarang in July 1812, MSS Jav 17, containing two texts, Panji (Angrèni) and Angling Darma, was copied from an original belonging to the Adipati of Kudus, and it was in Semarang that Mackenzie met Kyahi Adipati Sura Adimanggala, who also presented him with manuscripts.

MSS.Jav.17  ff.154v-155r
Angling Darma, copied in Semarang, 1812, from an original manuscript belonging to the Adipati of Kudus. British Library, MSS Jav 17, ff. 154v-155r   noc

Two of the most beautiful manuscripts in Mackenzie’s collection were received from Mackenzie’s colleague on the land commission, F. J. Rothenbühler, in 1812. Serat Sela Rasa (MSS Jav 28), dated 1804, and Serat Panji Jaya Kusuma (MSS Jav 68), dated 1805, were both said to have originally belonged to a Madam Schaber[?] of Surabaya. Both are filled with exceptonally fine illustrations in the wayang style.

Mss_jav_28_f138v-139r
Serat Sela Rasa, 1804. British Library, MSS Jav 28, ff. 138v-139r   noc

Weatherbee notes three major types of binding in the collection. ‘The most common, that which can be called Mackenzie’s binding, is like that of B-10 [MSS Jav 36] in which a pencilled note on the flyleaf states: "Bound by Mr. Ferris January 1815"; thus in Calcutta.’ Paul Ferris (1768-1823) was a well-known printer who had been established in Calcutta from at least 1793. These ‘Ferris’ bindings have three-quarters brown leather bindings with blue-brown marbled paper boards; over the intervening years a certain number have been rebound (including MSS Jav 36) or refurbished, but many are still intact.

MSS Jav 36A f.2r
Binding note at the beginning of Babad Mataram. British Library, MSS Jav 36, vol. 1, f. 2r  noc

MSS Jav 41  front cover   MSS Jav 41 spine
Typical binding by Paul Ferris of Calcutta, ca. 1815, found on many Javanese manuscripts in the Mackenzie collection, including this collection of Primbon. British Library, MSS Jav 41, front cover  noc

The second type is a ‘tooled leather binding’, some examples of which ‘can be definitely established as coming from Jogjakarta’.  These are characteristically dark brown, with multiple stamped frames, stamped corner pieces and a central medallion.

Mss_jav_46_fblefr
Javanese brown leather binding from Yogyakarta, with six concentric stamped decorated frames, four corner pieces, and a central mediallion, on the back cover of Arjuna Sasrabahu, 1800. British Library, MSS Jav 46, front cover  noc

The third type of binding identified by Weatherbee is ‘that on the texts from the hand of Sura Adimanggala and probably is a Samarang binding.’ Weatherbee inspected the Mackenzie collection in the India Office Library in 1971-1972; but when I rechecked the Semarang manuscripts last week, I found that all these volumes were rebound in 1988. While current ‘good practice’ involves preserving original bindings, even if it is necessary to store them separately, unfortunately no trace remains of the original Semarang bindings in the Mackenzie collection.

Mackenzie
Portrait of Colin Mackenzie, accompanied by three of his Indian assistants, painted by Thomas Hickey in 1816. British Library, Foster 13  noc

References:
Blake, David. M.  “Colin Mackenzie: collector extraordinary”. British Library Journal, 1991, pp.128-150.
M.C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve. Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Donald E.Weatherbee. 'Raffles' sources for traditional Javanese historiography and the Mackenzie collections.'  Indonesia, 1987, no. 26, pp. 63-94.
Donald E.Weatherbee. 'An inventory of the Javanese paper manuscripts in the Mackenzie Collection, India Office Library, London, with a note on some additional Raffles MSS.' SEALG Newsletter, 2018, pp. 80-111.

Blog posts on Mackenzie:
Sushma Jansari and Malini Roy, 22 August 2017, Colin Mackenzie: Collector Extraordinaire
Ursula Sims-Williams, 29 August 2017, A Hindu munshi’s ‘Chain of Yogis’: a Persian manuscript in the Mackenzie Collection

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork