THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Asian and African studies blog

6 posts from February 2019

28 February 2019

Primbon, Javanese compendia of religious knowledge

Primbon are Javanese manuscript notebooks which usually contain a personalised selection of texts relating to Islamic belief and practice, including prayers, selections from the Qur’an, instructions relating to ritual purity and performance of obligatory worship, texts on mysticism, formulae (rajah) or esoteric diagrams (da‘irah) focussed on Arabic letters or words, and notes on divination, as well as amulets for protection and other purposes. Popular texts included Kitab Sittin, the Javanese name for al-Sittūn mas’alah fī al-fiqh, ‘Sixty questions on jurisprudence’ by the Egyptian scholar Abū al-‘Abbās Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Zahīd (d. 1416), and the catechism of al-Samarqandi, which has been translated into Malay as well as Javanese. Although some primbon may contain texts in Javanese script, most of the contents are in Arabic or in Javanese in Pegon (Arabic) script.

MSS Jav 42  fcc
Mystical diagram in a Javanese primbon. British Library, MSS Jav 42, ff. 87v-88r  noc

Among the 75 Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta now in the British Library, which were taken by British forces in 1812, are six volumes of primbon. Two (with Add. shelfmarks) were acquired by the British Museum from John Crawfurd, who served as Resident of Yogyakarta from 1811 to 1814. Those with MSS Jav shelfmarks came to the India Office Library from the estate of Col. Colin Mackenzie, who had been Chief  Engineer of the British army in Java, and comprise a large number of small separate manuscripts which were bound into larger volumes in Calcutta in around 1815. All these primbon volumes have now been digitised and are listed below; hyperlinks from the shelfmarks lead to the full record for each manuscript with further details on the contents from the catalogue by Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977), while hyperlinks from below the images link directly with the digitised manuscripts. It should be noted that due to the presence of different scripts and with some items bound in upside-down, many of the volumes have been foliated (page-numbered) erratically.

Add. 12311 is a manuscript entitled Primbon Palintangan Palindon Pakedutan containing texts on physiognomy and astrology, as well as other subjects. Shown below is a drawing of the rotating naga, commonly used for divinatory purposes throughout Southeast Asia, for example to determine the best time to travel, or the compatability of a couple (see Farouk 2016: 180).
Add 12311 f 101v naga
Drawing of the rotating naga in a primbon from Yogyakarta. British Library, Add 12311, f. 101v  noc

Add. 12315 is a primbon containing assorted texts on religious subjects, including legends of Muslim religious heroes and notes on physiognomy.
Add 12315  f. 208r
Javanese text in a primbon manuscript, with a mystical diagram above. British Library, Add. 12315, f. 208r  noc

MSS Jav 41 is a collection of six primbon bound together in a single volume.  Two of these bear Mackenzie's annotation, 'Manner of performing ablutions,' and contain a Javanese tract with Arabic texts of prayers and formulae to be recited in ṣalāt. Two others contain a copy of Ṣifat al-nabī, ‘The attributes of the Prophet’, in Arabic; one of them bears an ownership note on f. 46r of ‘Raden Temenggung’, but without naming the individual (punika kagungan primbon Raden Tumĕnggung). Another primbon in this collection contains a Javanese translation of Kitab Sittīn in Asmaradana metre.
MSS Jav 41  f. 150v-151r
Ṣifat al-nabī, in Javanese. British Library, MSS Jav 41, ff. 150v-151r  noc

MSS Jav 42 is a collection of eight primbon within one volume. A copyist’s name can be read: Kyahi Ngabehi Rĕsasĕntika of Yogyakarta. Contents include secret names of animals (aran ing macan, aran ing kidang) and the magic names of iron and steel The volume also includes a Malay fragment on prayer (sĕmbahyang) and fasting (puasa), and lists the types of actions which negate ritual purity. Shown below is the first part of a Shaṭṭārīyah silsilah - from Muhammad s.a.w. to Ali to Jainalabideen to Imam Jafar Sidiq (as read by Ronit Ricci) - in perpendicular Javanese script found at the end of one primbon.
MSS Jav 42  f. 69v
First part of a Shaṭṭārīyah silsilah in a primbon. British Library, MSS Jav 42, f. 69v noc

MSS Jav 43 contains six primbon in a single volume, containing various texts including Kitab Sittin in Arabic with a Javanese translation, and an incomplete copy of Samarqandi in Arabic with an interlinear Javanese translation. There are also certain sections of the Qur'an.
MSS Jav 43  f. 127bv-127cr
Mystical Javanese text on the shahadah. British Library, MSS Jav 43, ff. 127bv-127cr  noc

MSS Jav 84 is a primbon collection of various short religious texts concerning prescribed prayer and other matters.
MSS Jav 84  f. 55r
Number system linked to the Arabic alphabet, in a Javanese primbon from Yogyakarta. British Library, MSS Jav 84, f. 55r  noc

In addition to these six volumes of primbon, there are a number of other Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta which have been digitised with similar contents, all in Pegon script. MSS Jav 83 contains a number of tracts associated with the Shaṭṭārīyah Sufi brotherhood, including two silsilah, and other texts on prayer and dhikir. MSS Jav 85, which is called in a note at the beginning Layang sembayang lan tetamba, contains texts on prayer and healing. MSS Jav 87 has an ownership note of Kangjeng Pangeran Pakuningrat of Yogyakarta, and contains texts on religious subjects such as ngelmuIO Islamic 2617 contains an Arabic text on the qualities and use of stones and jewels, with an interlinear version in Javanese, as well as Javanese texts on ritual prayer, medicines and amulets, and two genealogies, one of which begins with Majapahit and ends with Kanjĕng [sic] Gusti Pangeran Dipati Yuja, probably the Crown Prince of Yogyakarta, later Sultan Hamĕngkubuwana II.

MSS Jav 87  f. 36v
Beginning of a text in dandanggula metre, in a manuscript from Yogyakarta. British Library, MSS Jav 87, f. 36v  noc

References:
Farouk Yahya, Magic and divination in Malay illustrated manuscripts.  Leiden: Brill, 2016.
Ricklefs, M. C. and Voorhoeve, P., Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia  ccownwork

 

24 February 2019

The Underground Rainbow: A Look at LGBTI Sources from Turkey in the British Library Collections

February is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) History Month in the United Kingdom. In recognition of this event, we are offering a view onto some of our non-English LGBT collections.

Beni Birakma Painting YP_2018_a_2260_2000
A painting by a Trans prisoner, exhibited in Istanbul in 2017. Beni Bırakma, Hapiste LGBTİ Ağı. Istanbul, 2017 (BL YP.2018.a.2260)

In 1993, Lambda Istanbul was formed to create a safe space for LGBTI [1] people in Turkey, and to fight for their rights. Ten years later, in 2003, Istanbul hosted its first Gay Pride Parade (LGBT Onur Yürüyüşü). A small affair, it was organised by only 30 people. The parade caught on, however, and the next year saw a similar parade in Istanbul and one in Ankara, followed by other cities. By 2013, the Parade ballooned to include an incredible 100,000 people, as supporters and revellers attracted by the parade were joined by those brought out onto the streets by the Gezi Park Protests. This twenty-year span of progress and opening, however, masks a far deeper and more complex history of LGBTI people in Turkey. Although homosexuality has been legal since 1858, LGBTI identities are still deeply socially unacceptable in wide swathes of Turkish society. Istanbul Pride was banned in 2016, and a wider ban on public LGBTI-themed events in Istanbul, Ankara, Mardin, and a host of other cities was introduced the following year. The histories of queer identities in Turkey are rich, but legislative and social pressures have often kept them under the surface.

Over the past two years, the British Library has sought to build up its own small archive of the LGBTI presence in Turkey. Through purchases and donations from a variety of organisations across the country, the collection has grown steadily. In 2017, I wrote about our small holdings of queer-themed items from across the region. Since then, fiction and non-fiction items have poured in, enriching the resources we are now able to offer stakeholders visiting the Library. Many of these came to us from two national organisations: Pembe Hayat and Kaos GL. Both are based in Ankara, the country’s capital and seat of political power. Pembe Hayat is focused largely on the protection and advancement of rights and safe spaces for Turkey’s transgender and non-binary communities, while Kaos GL is an umbrella organisation advocating for people across the sexuality and gender spectra.

Ne Kadar Da Trans Bir Erkek YP_2018_a_590_2000Ne Kadar Da Trans Bir Erkek YP_2018_a_590_2000Ne Kadar Da Trans Bir Erkek YP_2018_a_590_2000
(Left) A collection of life stories and anecdotes from Turkish Trans men. Pembe Hayat and Kaos GL, Ne Kadar Da Trans* Bir Erkek. Ankara, 2017 (BL YP.2018.a.590)
(Centre and right) The cover and a selection from a catalogue of artworks by Trans prisoners, exhibited in Istanbul in 2017. Hapiste LGBTİ Ağı, Beni Bırakma. Istanbul, 2017 (BL YP.2018.a.2260)

Among the items donated by the two organisations are a number of studies on the lives, rights, and social statuses of LGBT people in the country today. Pembe Hayat has done a considerable amount of work in collecting the stories of trans people living in various Turkish cities. By doing so, they hope to provide a more three-dimensional and complex view of their lives against a backdrop of persistent discrimination and harassment, and to combat stereotypes within the popular imagination. Ne Kadar Da Trans* Bir Erkek (What a Trans* Man) collects the first-person accounts of trans men, allowing them to voice their hopes, dreams and experiences to readers in a compassionate and supportive environment. Similarly, a booklet of postcards featuring the artwork of trans prisoners creates a touching, emotional window onto the daily lives of incarcerated trans men and women. The artwork was originally exhibited at Boysan’ın Evi in Istanbul in the summer of 2017 in a show organised by Ceza İnfaz Sisteminde Sivil Toplum Derneği (CİSST; Civil Society in the Penal System Association), Pembe Hayat, KADAV (Women’s Solidarity Foundation) and Metin Akdemir. Published by Hapiste LGBTİ Ağı (LGBTI Network in Prison) and donated by Pembe Hayat, the collection is entitled Beni Bırakma ( Don’t Leave Me) – a haunting reminder of the social isolation and alienation suffered by many people expressing LGBTI identities. Thanks to Hapiste LGBTİ Ağı and CİSST, the stories of queer prisoners have an outlet in publications such as Beni Bırakma and the Network’s series of reports on prison conditions for LGBTI inmates.

LGBTI Internet Freedom YP_2018_a_2667_2000LGBTI Internet Freedom YP_2018_a_2667_2000LGBTI Internet Freedom YP_2018_a_2667_2000
(Left) A report on the status of LGBTI people in private-sector workplaces across Turkey. Kaos GL, Türkiye'de Özel Sektor Çalışanı Lezbiyen, Gay, Biseksüel, Trans ve İntersekslerin Durumu .. Ankara, 2016 (BL YP.2018.a.2670)
(Centre) The rights and challenges of queer expression on the internet in Turkey. Kaos GL, LGBTİ'lerin İnternet Yoluyla İfade Özgürlüğü ..Ankara, 2015 (BL YP.2018.a.2667)
(Right) Guidance for the families and teachers of LBGTI students as they navigate the Turkish public and private school systems. Kaos GL, LGBTİ Öğrencileri Aile ve Okul Kıskacına Karşı Nasıl Kormalı! Ankara, 2016 (BL YP.2018.a.2666)

On a more general note, donations from Kaos GL have helped to increase our collection of work devoted to uncovering those aspects of hate speech and homo- and transphobia often missed out in official statistics. These include a report on homophobic and transphobic crimes committed in Turkey in 2015; a booklet on LGBTI freedom of speech on the internet; one on the state LGBTI people in private workplaces, and, importantly, a guide to parents and teachers on how to address homophobia in schools. For those researchers seeking to understand the social status of sexual and gender minorities in the country, and the similarities and differences in legal structure and protections across states, these and other materials in our collections are essential sources of study and analysis.

Kuir Fest 1 YP_2018_a_2727_2000Kuir Fest 1 YP_2018_a_2727_2000Kuir Fest 1 YP_2018_a_2727_2000
Guides to KuirFest 1, 3 and 6 from within the British Library's Turkish Collections.
1. Pembe Hayat, Pembe Hayat Kuirfest . Ankara, 2011 (BL YP.2018.a.2727)
3. Pembe Hayat, Pembe Hayat Kuirfest . Ankara, 2014 (BL YP.2018.a.1411)
6. Pembe Hayat, Pembe Hayat Kuirfest . Ankara, 2017 (BL YP.2018.a.2228)

LGBTI existence, however, is not simply a chain of discrimination and struggle, a grey sky without rainbows. Luckily, the Turkish LGBTI collections at the British Library also document moments of celebration and community that reach beyond the confines of common stereotypes. Among the most prominent of these is the LGBTI film festival Kuirfest, organized by Pembe Hayat and hosted in Istanbul on an annual basis since November 2011. The festival features the best of LGBTI cinema from Turkey and around the world, helping to showcase Turkish talent, change public perceptions of queer people, and connect the local community to LGBTI communities and allies around the world. The Library is fortunate to hold a near-complete collection of the festival guides from 2011 until 2017, documenting the development and growth of the event over time. While our collections tilt heavily towards official reports and accounts, we hope to add more material of this nature over the coming years, as a means of providing a more balanced and deeper perspective on everyday life for queer people across the Turkish Republic.

LISTAG Reberek ji bo malbaten YP_2018_a_1397_2000
A Kurmanji-language guide to supporting those on the coming-out journey. LİSTAG, Rêberek ji bo malbatên takekesên hevzayendbaz û bîseksuel û hevalên wan. Istanbul, 2016 (BL YP.2018.a.1397)

Diversity in Turkey is not just an issue of sexuality and gender. It also reflects the country’s rich tapestry of ethnic and religious groups. Many LGBTI people also belong to linguistic or religious minorities, chief among them the Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks and Jews. These people, who grapple with the intersectionality of their sexual or gender identities and those of their linguistic, ethnic or religious backgrounds, seek to have all aspects of their make-up recognized as integral parts of their personal experience. Publications by groups that support ethnic- or religious-minority queer people in Turkey are rare, but we have managed to acquire a few. These include translations of materials about LGBTI issues into Kurmanji, the Kurdish language most widely spoken in Turkey. Rêberek ji bo malbatên takekesên hevzayendbaz û biseksual û hevalên wan (A Guide for the Families of Homosexual and Bisexual Individuals and their Friends) is a small pamphlet aimed at assisting the families of LGBTI people during the often-painful experience of coming out. Translated and distributed by LİSTAG it demonstrates the small but growing awareness of the need to address the city’s – and the country’s – Kurdish and Zaza queer communities in their own languages. This work is being carried out by individual groups, such as Hêvî LGBTİ in Istanbul, as well as those working within Pembe Hayat and Kaos GL, which maintains a separate webpage in Kurdish.

Waiting to be Safe and Sound YP_2018_b_259_2000
The stories and experiences of Syrian and Iranian LGBTI refugees residing in Turkey. Kaos GL, Waiting to be "Safe and Sound". Ankara, 2016 (BL YP.2018.b.259)

Finally, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the growing, but often overlooked, community of queer people who have now found refuge inside Turkey. As one of the few countries in the region that does not criminalise homosexuality, Turkey has often hosted those seeking sanctuary from sexuality- and gender-based persecution in their homelands. This trend has been exacerbated by the 8-year civil war in neighbouring Syria, and today many cities host large groups of queer Syrian and Iranian refugees. Turkish LGBTI advocacy groups have sought to work with such people, helping them to navigate bureaucratic systems, deal with the trauma of persecution and flight, and protect themselves in environments not always conducive to sexual and gender diversity. Activists have also sought to collect their stories, to make known the ordeal through which these people have lived, and their hopes and dreams for the future. In 2016, Hayriye Kara and Damla Çalık pulled together such accounts and published them in a small volume entitled Waiting to be “Safe and Sound. We are fortunate to have it as part of our collections, another part of the rich quilt of queer culture in Turkey.

The representation of diversity is an essential, although not always easy, aspect of building collections at the British Library. This LGBT History Month, we celebrate the steps we have taken to ensure the inclusion of works by and about queer people in some of our non-English collections. Acquisition, however, is only half the battle. Visibility and accessibility are just as important: there’s no point in having something if it can’t be seen and explored by readers from all walks of life. For the Turkish collections, I’ve sought to provide as many access points to these items as possible within the catalogue. But I also recognize that, sometimes, cataloguing can be counterintuitive. That’s why I continue to seek engagement with the community about how to make our collections more discoverable and accessible, regardless of a visitor’s familiarity with the Library’s systems. If you’re interested in learning more about this, and about how to make use of these collections, consider coming out to the Methods in Question: Epistemologies of Gender and Sexuality seminar at Cambridge University on February 28. I’ll be presenting on these LGBTI collections and helping interested users understand how they can make best use of the British Library’s holdings on topics of sexuality and gender in Turkey and the broader Middle East.

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections at the British Library
 CC-BY-SA



[1] The “I on the end of LGBT stands for Intersex people, who might account for between 0.7% and 1.7% of the general population.

14 February 2019

Jewish love potions: a user's guide

Would you like some help in your pursuit of your beloved? Our Hebrew manuscript collection can offer numerous love potion recipes and incantations, and now is the best time of year to share some of this wisdom with you.

Whether you are a diligent pupil of magic, or just a desperately love sick muggle, you can find a long list of love potions, incantations and amulets by browsing our digitised Jewish manuscripts. Finding the required ingredients and following all of the instructions might prove to be much more difficult. What’s more, the preparation of many of these potions involves starving animals to death, slaughtering, or mutilating them. Such cruelty would be unacceptable nowadays, even in the name of love. Luckily, we have been able to find some less gruesome prescriptions.

The collection at the British Library holds several manuscripts on folk medicine and kabbalistic-medical miscellanies, mostly from the 16th-18th century. Many contain prescriptions of kabbalistic amulets alongside with medical remedies, which demonstrates the lack of a strict differentiation between what we would now call medicine, magic, and astrology. Superstition and the belief in supernatural powers were an inherent part of folk medicine. So do not be surprised if you find a love potion after a protective incantation against dogs, or after a recipe on how to stop nose bleeding.

Or 12362_30v-31r
ʿEts ha-daʿat
by Elishaʿ ben Gad of Anconah, Italy, 1535/6: love potion and amulet (right), incantation to obtain favour in the eyes of kings and princes (left) (BL Or 12362 , ff. 30v-31r)
 noc

The majority of these magical/medical manuscripts are small in size, and don’t look anything special at first sight. One exception is a 16th-century Italian copy of ʿEts ha-daʿat (Tree of Knowledge) by Elisha ben Gad of Ancona, a treatise containing 125 kabbalistic formulae (kemeʿot). Our copy was written in a neat Italian hand and is decorated with initial-word panels and diagrams throughout. Do not trust the pretty looks though. The scribe made a fatal mistake when copying this love potion.

Image 2-Or 12362 f.30r_2000
ʿEts ha-daʿat by Elishaʿ ben Gad of Anconah, Italy, 1535/6: love potion recipe (BL Or 12362 , f. 30r)
 noc

לאהבה – להרבות אהבה בין חתן וכלה כשתבא הכלה מהחופה לאחר גמר עשיית הברכה כתוב שם שניהם עם דבש על ב' עלי סלוויאה ותן לאכול העלה שכתוב עליו האיש לאיש ושם האשה לאשה

For love – to increase love between bridegroom and bride – when the bride comes from the huppah [canopy under which the Jewish couple is standing during the wedding ceremony] after finishing saying the blessing, write their names in honey onto two sage leaves and give the leaf with the man’s name on it to the man and the one with the woman’s name on it to the woman.

A less impressive volume from the 18th-19th century includes the same recipe but this time correctly (Or 10268). Can you spot the difference?

Image 3-Or 10268 f.10r_2000
Collection of medical recipes, Italy?, 18th-19th century: love potion (BL Or 10268 , f. 10r)
 noc

להרבות אהבה בין חתן וכלה – כשיבאו מהחופה לאחר עשיית הברכה כתוב שם שניהם עם דבש על ב' עלי סלוויאה ותן לאכול העלה שכתוב עליו שם האיש לאשה ושם האשה לאיש

To increase love between bridegroom and bride – when they come from the huppah after saying the blessing, write their names in honey onto two sage leaves and give the leaf with the man’s name on it to the woman and [the one with] the woman’s name to the man.

This latter manuscript might have been someone’s personal notebook, who took better care when recording the recipe compared to the scribe of the neat looking Italian volume (Or 12362), perhaps because it was for his personal usage?

The recipe must have been considered a very effective one, since we also found it in an abridged form, in a 17th-century Ashkenazi collection of recipes and kabbalistic charms, probably written in today’s Belarus or Lithuania. This version written in Hebrew peppered with some Yiddish, recommends to apply the potion before the wedding night:

Image 4-Or 10568 f.10v_2000
Collection of kabbalistic charms and remedies, 17th century: love potion (in the middle) between instructions on how to avoid persecution and how to find favour in the eyes of rulers (BL Or 10568 , f. 10v)
 noc

לאהבה חתן וכלה בלילה ראשונה יקח ב' זעלבן בלעטיר וכתוב עליו בדבש ותן לו לאכל שמו ושמה

For love between groom and bridegroom at the first night: take 2 Selben(sic!) bletter (‘sage leaves’, in Yiddish) and write on them in honey and give him (ie. them) to eat his name and her name.

It seems that it would be quite easy to make this recipe, and it might be delicious. However, if you do not manage to charm your beloved with honey and sage leaves, you can also experiment with some of the more laborious, but also more gruesome prescriptions. A 17th-century Italian folk medicine collection includes a recipe for a creamy substance that, after having applied it on your face and body, allegedly makes you irresistible. We have not tried it, and are rather sceptical about its success… Moreover, on a practical note, the identification of some of the ingredients is challenging.

Image 5-Or 10161 f.34r_2000
Collection of folk remedies, Italy, 17th century: love potion (BL Or 10161 , f. 34r)
 noc

לאהבה קח עין צפרדע הנק' בוטן ועין עורב ותערבם עם שמן רוסטן ומשח פניך וגופך ויאהבוך כל האדם ותמצא חן בעיני כל רואיך באהר

For love: take an eye of a frog called 'boten' and an eye of crow and mix them with 'rusṭan' oil and rub it onto your face and body, and every man will love you and you will find favour in the eyes of all those who see you […]

The next recipe found in another 17th-century medical collection is much easier to prepare, though it may be tricky to administer it to the person of your desire.

Image 6-Or 10462 f.11v_2000
Collection of remedies, Orient, 17th century: love potion (Or 10462 , f. 11v)
 noc

ע"א - חתוך צפרניך בסכין אח"כ רחצן במים ותן לשתות למי שתרצה ואהבך או חתוך בו תפוח ונתנהו לאכול

One more [for love] – cut your nails with a knife and then rinse them in water and give it to drink to whoever you want to fall in love with you or slice up some apple with the nails [put the nail into the apple] and give it to eat.

If you prefer not to bend over a cauldron for hours stirring concoctions, uttering the right magical formulae may also help. You only need a good mirror and some proficiency in medieval magical Hebrew, because the instructions are a bit confusing…

Image 7-Or 10568 f.12r_2000
Collection of cabbalistic charms and remedies, 17th century: love magic (BL Or 10568 , f. 12r)
 noc

לאהבה קח מראה טיהרא ושפירא ותאמר למראה תתסכל בצורתי ואני אסתכל בצורתך ואתה תסתכל בצורת' ותאהבתה אותה עליו וכן תעשה ג' ימים זה אחר זה ותנח עליו ג' לילות ותאהבוך

For love – take a clear and good mirror and say to the mirror: ‘Look at my figure and I will look at your figure and you look at her figure and you will make her fall in love with him.’ Do this for three consecutive days and lie on it (the mirror) for three nights and she will love you.

Our collection can offer advice and help also for those who have already found the love of their life, but something or someone has cast a shadow over their marital bliss. This next recipe is especially recommended if you suspect that someone put a curse on your husband. Or if you just want to have a tasty breakfast together.

Image 8-Or 10462 f.11r_2000
Image 8-Or 10462 f.11v_2000
Collection of remedies, Orient, 17th century: love potion preceded by a recipe to stop menstrual bleeding (BL Or 10462, f. 11r-11v)
 noc

לאהבה בין איש לאשתו ואפי' מכושף קח מים מן נהרות ויין ומור ופלפל ושני בצי יונים ושני בצי תרנגולת ושחקם וערב הכל יחד והשקה האיש ואת האשה ויאהבו זה את זה

For love between husband and his wife or even he is under a spell [i.e. impotent]: take spring water, wine, and myrrh, and pepper, and two dove eggs and two hen eggs and break them, and mix them together, and give the mixture to drink to the man and the woman, and they will love each other.

Good luck in your amorous endeavours and if you try any of these recipes, please, send us feedback on how they worked.

Zsofi Buda, BL Hebrew Project
 CC-BY-SA

11 February 2019

Javanese poetics and canto indicators: Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24)

Today’s guest blog, highlighting one of the most important Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta which has just been digitised, is by Dr Dick van der Meij from Hamburg University's DREAMSEA project which digitises endangered manuscripts in Southeast Asia.

Javanese texts are generally written in a non-rhyming poetic form called tembang macapat. Within each metre, verses consist of stanzas with a fixed number of lines, a fixed number of syllables per line, and a fixed vowel in the last syllable of each line. There are about 30 different metres, some of which are short and have only four lines per stanza, while others are substantially longer and have as many as ten lines per stanza. Each metre has its own name, with some used more often than others, while some are rarely encountered. [For further information on tembang macapat see Arps 1992 and Van der Meij 2017, Chapter 4 and Appendix 3.]

Most Javanese texts consist of more than one canto in any number of different metres. Canto changes are usually indicated by small intricate indicators called pepadan, which are often very beautifully illuminated in colours and gold, and thus stand out on the page, as in the illustration below from Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24).

Mss_jav_24_f046v-47r
An illuminated canto indicator, pepadan, standing out on the left-hand page, in Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yogyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 46v-47r   noc

Other manuscripts do not have clear canto change indications, and the places where new cantos start are virtually invisible on the written page, and only become apparent when the canto change has been reached while reading or singing the text. Experienced singers are able to identify immediately the metre of the next canto from the use of certain key words in the final lines of the current canto, or in the first lines of the next. For instance, the name of the metre dhangdhanggula contains the word dhandhang which is a bird, and gula which means sugar. Dhandhanggula is thus indicated by words that also mean 'bird' or 'sugar', or by extension ‘sweet’, or contain the syllable dhang. A small bird or wings may even be depicted pictorially in the pepadan. However, readers should be aware that this is not a golden rule, and some scribes play tricks to confuse the singer.

Mss_jav_24_f046v-det
Detail of a pepadan with wings, and with the word manis, ‘sweet’, in the preceding line, both indicating dhandhanggula as the new metre.  British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 46v  noc

Mss_jav_27-f.50v
Jatikusuma, copied in Yogyakarta, 1766. A little bird is put in the pepadan to indicate that the metre that follows is dhandhanggula, while the words gula drawa before the pepadan mean ‘melted sugar’ and thus also point to the same metre. British Library, MSS Jav 27, f. 50v  noc

In Javanese poetic theory, each metre evokes a certain emotion, and are thus used for parts of text that suggest that particular state of mind. Below, we will have a look at how some of these canto changes have been indicated in MSS Jav 24 in the British Library. The text is a story called Jaya Lengkara Wulang, and the book was written in 1803 at the palace of Yogyakarta in central Java.  The text has 434 pages and consists of no fewer than 92 cantos. It has beautifully ornamented opening pages and also other illuminations that enhance the beauty of the manuscript. Interestingly, in this manuscript, with one exception, these ornaments all coincide with canto changes in the text.

Mss_jav_24_ff002v-003r
Opening pages of Jaya Lengkara Wulang; at the start of the text on the left-hand page the metre is clearly stated to be Dhandhanggula. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 2v-3r  noc

The manuscript has 25 illuminated pages, of which four have been left unfinished. On two other pages, space was left empty to allow for illuminations to be added, but these were evidently never made for one reason or another. Thus although the text seems to be complete, the manuscript itself is unfinished. All punctuation marks in the text have red signs above them up to folio 168r (except for f. 57v) after which the addition of these marks is discontinued, and the pepadan are coloured only in yellow or not at all. Also, no gold leaf was applied after this page.

The scribe of the manuscript and the illuminator were probably not the same person but worked closely together. Remarkably, elaborate illumination at the top of a page always coincides with the start of a new canto. This means that the scribe knew exactly how many cantos a page could contain, and worked to ensure that the final canto always ended precisely at the end of the last line of the page. Folios 30v and 31r have full-page illuminations reminiscent of those at the start of the manuscript, but in this case the new canto starts at the end of the text within the illuminated frames, rather than at the beginning.

Mss_jav_24_ff030v-031r
The second set of full page illuminations. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff. 30v-31r  noc

The relation between the illuminations that start cantos is not easy to establish. Often the illuminated elements actually illustrate the start of a new episode in the text, but for outsiders and people not truly versed in Javanese texts and illuminative iconography this is often very hard to understand. In some cases the symbolism is quite clear, for instance, the lion and the crocodile in the illuminated panel shown below may suggest the names of the kings of Pringgabaya and Singasari, as baya points to a crocodile and singa a lion.

Mss_jav_24_f129r  Mss_jav_24_f129v
 On f. 129r, shown on the left, the text in metre durma ends at the end of the page. On the next page, f. 129v, the new metre kinanthi is the first word in the illuminated panel. Note the red marks above the punctuation signs. British Library, MSS Jav 34, f. 129r and f. 129v  noc

Because of the characters of the various metres we can sometimes decide what the relationship between the illuminated pepadan and the text is, although I believe that these characters are not fixed. For instance, the metre durma is used, among others, for scenes of war but in my view pangkur can also be used for this. Thus the word ‘dur’ indicative of durma in manuscripts is sometimes used for pangkur too. In this manuscript of Jaya Lengkara Wulang, the fiery character of both durma and pangkur is indicated by the same elaborate illustrations of war equipment like cannon and flags, as in folio 139v below where a canto in durma starts.

Mss_jav_24_f139r
Battle standards and guns indicating the metre durma. British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 139r  noc

However, in the next illustration the canto starts with the metre pangkur but the illustration is very similar to the one above.

Mss_jav_24_f057v
The text starts in the metre pangkur, suggested by the war-like assemblage. Note the absence of red marks above the punctuation signs. British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 57v   noc

Some idea of the production process of the manuscript can perhaps be deduced from the fact that the text is finished but the illuminations are not. Occasionally the change in canto between one page and the next is not accompanied by any illumination, and the pepadan is divided in two, with one half on the first page and the other on the next. In the half of the pepadan at the bottom of folio 167v colour was added but the second part on the next folio not, and also not in pepadan after this page. Apparently, the scribe wrote the text and probably also made the black and white pepadan, while someone else applied the colours and the gold leaf to the pepadan and was responsible for the illuminated panels. One might even wonder if a third person was involved for the illuminations, but at present we have no way of knowing. Perhaps the artist who made the illuminations and the scribe worked closely together to decide what the illuminations should look like and where they should be put but this too is conjecture. We need to study many more illuminated and illustrated Javanese manuscripts in order to work out how they were actually produced.

Mss_jav_24_f167v-det    Mss_jav_24_f168r-det
The first half of the pepadan at the bottom of f. 167v marking the new canto is illuminated with gold and colours, while at the top of the next page, the only colour added to the second half of the pepadan is yellow (indicating elements to be gilded with gold leaf). British Library, MSS Jav 24, f. 167v and f. 168r  noc

References
Arps, Ben (1992). Tembang in two traditions: performance and interpretation of Javanese literature. London: School of Oriental and African Studies.
Ricklefs, M.C., P. Voorhoeve and Annabel Teh Gallop (2014). Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain. A catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections. New Edition with Addenda et Corrigenda. Jakarta: École Française d’Extrême Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia.
Van der Meij, Dick (2017). Indonesian manuscripts from the islands of Java, Madura, Bali and Lombok. Leiden: Brill.

Dick van der Meij, Hamburg  ccownwork

07 February 2019

Classical Central Asia in the Digital Age: Three Newly-Digitised Navoiy Manuscripts at the British Library

Thanks to a partnership between the British Library and the Tashkent State University of Uzbek Language and Literature named Alisher Navoiy, three manuscripts including the poetical works of Alisher Navoiy are now available online. These three items are the first Chagatai-language texts to be uploaded to the Library’s digitised manuscript holdings, a sample of the more than 110 Chagatai and Central Asian Turkic manuscripts held by the British Library as part of its Turkish and Turkic collections.

Or_3493_f004v
A leaf from the Muntakhab-i Dīvān-i Navā'ī with richly decorated paper appliqués and gold-leaf. Despite the water damage, the manuscript has retained its luxurious beauty. Herat, 15th-16th century (BL Or. 3493, f. 4v)
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All three works contain Divans, or poetical compendia, of the work of Alisher Navoiy, also known as ‘Ali Shīr Navā’ī. Navoiy was born in 1441 CE in Herat, Afghanistan, at a time when it was part of the Timurid Empire, and died in the same city in 1501 CE. He is the national poet of Uzbekistan and is regarded as one of the great poets of the mediaeval Turkic world. His broad oeuvre is a testament to the cultural, intellectual and social flowering of Khorasan in the 15th century CE, and to the importance of Herat in the broad mosaic of Turkic cultural production. The works are also an introduction to classical Chagatai, the literary language of Turkic Central Asia and Siberia. Little known or studied today outside of specialist circles, Chagatai was also the language of the Mughals, who established their reign over parts of the Indian Subcontinent in 1526.

Or_3493_f005v
A rare sketch from inside the Muntakhab-i i Dīvān-i Navā'ī showing a Central Asian man in traditional dress. Herat, 15th-16th century (BL Or. 3493, f. 5v)
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Or.3493, the most delicate of our digitised Chagatai manuscripts, is a marvel to behold. Only 9 folios in length, this collection of poems from Navoiy’s divan dazzles with its creator’s penchant for brightly-coloured paper appliqués, gold illumination, and sweeping, bold nastaliq calligraphy. The presence of blue, yellow, green and pink blocks in between the stanzas gives the entire text an architectonic feel; a 3D illusion that draws in the reader. This pattern is broken only by the use of gold separators on later pages, and the appearance of a portly, kneeling Central Asian man on one of the manuscript’s middle folios. Despite occasional water damage – and the fact that the content is itself defective – this small volume remains a testament to the capacity of Herat’s manuscripts producers to create items of luxury and beauty as well as those of functional purpose.

Or_11249_f001v
The beginning of the Dīvān-i Fānī, including its sparsely decorated 'unvān. Central Asia, 916 AH (BL Or. 11249, f. 1v)
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Or.11249, produced in 916 AH (1509-10 CE) in Central Asia, is the least studied of the Chagatai items added to our digital collections. Known as both the Dīvān-i Fānī and the Dīvān-i Navā’ī, it is the most comprehensive of the group with respect to Navoiy’s poetical oeuvre. The use of black ink and red catchwords is far from unusual, and the neatly laid-out nastaliq of the scribe’s hand leads us to believe that this was likely created within a workshop well-versed in the production of divans and other such works. Occasional marginalia speak to the usage of this volume – as does the water damage that stains some of its folios. With further in-depth research on its contents, and a comparison with other contemporaneous Central Asian manuscripts, we might come to know the importance of this particular item within the broader scope of Central Asian intellectual traditions.

Add_ms_7914_f025v
The beginning of the text Tukhfat al-salāṭīn at koyuldu, demonstrating the use of different coloured inks to complement the elegant calligraphy. Mecmua. Herat, 914 AH (BL Add MS 7914, f. 25v)
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Add MS 7914, the last of the three manuscripts, is not dedicated to Navoiy exclusively. A mecmua or codex of various works compiled in Herat in 914 AH (1507-08 CE), it contains a variety of different texts created by nine different authors in a myriad of styles. Its breadth of poetic and prose creation and intellectual inspiration speak volumes about the interplay of Turkic and Persian literary traditions across Eurasia. Within these is found Navoiy’s Tuḥfat al-salāṭin, a collection of poems copied out by the scribe ‘Abd al-Jamīl Kātib. The remaining poems are varied in content. Some are works in verse about love and longing, such as Amīrī’s Dah nāmah, which tells a romantic story through ten letters. Others poeticise the Central Asian martial arts, debate the merits of wine and hashish, or adapt circulating Persian forms into Chagatai poetry, as Ḥaydar Talba Khorazmī’s didactic poem based on a Persian version by Niẓāmi so aptly demonstrates. This diversity of content is reflected in the construction of the volume, where naskh and nastaliq, black and coloured inks, chaos and clarity make appearances depending on the demands of the individual patrons, and the skill of the particular scribes.

The British Library’s holdings of Ottoman and Chagatai manuscripts contain another 30-odd texts first penned by Alisher Navoiy. It is our hope that, in the coming years, many more of these will find their way onto Digitised Manuscripts, facilitating more intensive and complete study and enjoyment of Turkic Central Asia’s literary and cultural heritage.

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections
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01 February 2019

Happy Chinese New Year! Year of the Pig 2019

1. Pig Thai MS
Horoscope for the year of the pig, from a Thai manuscript dated 1885, containing drawings based on the Chinese Zodiac and its animals (BL Or.13650, f.6v )
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In East Asian and South East Asian countries, as well as among overseas communities of Asian origin, traditional celebrations for the start of a New Year are approaching. On the 5th of February, we will leave the year of the Dog , and welcome the year of the Pig. Dog and Pig are part of a series of twelve zodiac animals associated with the Chinese lunisolar calendar. The Pig is the last animal of the twelve-year cycle, and in the Japanese and Tibetan traditions is replaced by the Boar.

2. Boar Japanese MS
Illustration of a boar from Seihō gahakuhitsu junishi-jō by Takeuchi Seihō (c. 1900)  (BL ORB.40/71)
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The lunisolar calendar developed in China from the solar one, and was first introduced during the Zhou dynasty (c. 1046 to 256 BC). Years, months and days are calculated taking into account both the phases of the moon and the position of the sun which determines the seasons. Lunisolar calendars require a “leap month” or an “intercalary month” every one or two years. People born during the Year of the Pig, are thought to be clever, calm, mature and well-mannered, but sometimes naïve and insecure.

3. Japanese toy pig
Illustration from the Japanese album of toys Omochabako (BL ORB 40/950)
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Zhu Baijie (豬八戒, where the first character means “pig”) is probably the most famous pig in Chinese literature. He is one of the main characters of the novel Journey to the West (西遊記Xi you ji) by Wu Cheng’en, published in 1592. The novel narrates the pilgrimage of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang to India and Central Asia along the Silk Road to gather and take to China Buddhist texts. During his journey, he meets three creatures who become his disciples to atone for their past sins: Sun Wukong (the Monkey), Zhu Bajie (the Pig) and Sha Wujing (a water monster or “Monk Sha”).

4. Xiyou ji
Page 494 from the 18th century woodblock printed edition of the Xiyouji depicting four characters of the novel travelling: Tang Sanzang on horseback, Zhu Bajie and Sun Wukong with martial arts sticks, and Sha Wujing bringing up the rear (BL 15271.c.13, page 494)
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The Chinese New Year is welcomed with fireworks, whose sound, together with the sound of drums and music, is meant to scare away the demon Nian (written 年, like the character for year). Delicious food is put on the table and chun lian (written春聯: good wishes for the new year in form of poems, usually on red paper) are pasted on the entrance doors.

5. chunlian writer
Calligrapher preparing chun lian (BL Or. 11539, folio 34)
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Our Curator Han-lin Hsieh wrote a chun lian to wish all our readers a very Happy Chinese New Year!

6. Poem

 

 

Happy New Year from us to you,

May your triumphs be big,

In the year of the Pig,

And success come with all that you do.

 

 

 

 


Sara Chiesura, Han-lin Hsieh, Hamish Todd (East Asian Collections)
With thanks to Emma Harrison
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