Asian and African studies blog

47 posts categorized "Javanese"

25 September 2023

Sang Hyang Hayu: an Old Javanese 'Great Book' in three different scripts

This guest blog post is by Agung Kriswanto and Aditia Gunawan, librarians at the National Library of Indonesia. In June 2023, Agung spent a week at the British Library through the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project and recently contributed a blog post on Javanese palm leaf manuscripts written in Buda script. This post looks specifically at one Old Javanese text, Sang Hyang Hayu, the subject of Aditia's recent Ph.D. at École Pratique des Hautes Études - PSL, Paris.

MSS Jav 53 is a collection of 35 palm leaf manuscripts, numbered MSS Jav 53 a to MSS Jav 53 ii, which has been digitised by the British Library in collaboration with the École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO). The collection was obtained in Java by Colonel Colin Mackenzie during his time on the island between 1811 to 1813. The manuscripts, which are all written on the palmyra palm leaf known in Indonesia as lontar (Borassus flabellifer), contain texts written in Javanese, Old Javanese and Balinese languages, and in a variety of scripts.

The oldest known Javanese palm leaf manuscript in Buda script, dated 1493
The oldest known Javanese palm leaf manuscript in Buda script, dated 1493. British Library, MSS Jav 53 t Noc

Six manuscripts in the British Library collection MSS Jav 53 are written in the archaic Buda or Gunung ('Mountain') script, and probably the most significant is found in MSS Jav 53 t, a lontar manuscript containing the text Sang Hyang Hayu, 'The Holy Good', a religious treatise in Old Javanese probably composed in the 14th century. Although Sang Hyang Hayu was written in Old Javanese, it does not appear to have been a popular text in Old Javanese literary circles, whether in Central or East Java, or in Bali. In fact, this text circulated more widely in the Sundanese cultural region of West Java, as can be seen from the fact that almost all known manuscripts of Sang Hyang Hayu originate from West Java, and nearly all are written on gebang palm leaf (Corypha gebanga), not the more usual lontar.

The importance of this text for Sundanese communities can be judged from its reception in this region: the most important portions of the text were translated into Old Sundanese by the author of Sang Hyang Sasana Mahaguru, 'Sacred Instructions of the Master', in around the 15th century. Certain authors of Old Sundanese texts have referred to Sang Hyang Hayu as vataṅ agəṅ,'The Great Book', reflecting its authoritative status (Aditia Gunawan 2023).

The importance of the British Library manuscript MSS Jav 53 t lies in the fact that this is the only copy known of Sang Hyang Hayu written in Buda script, for this text is not found in the large Merapi-Merbabu collection in National Library in Jakarta, or in any other collection of Buda-script manuscripts worldwide. Furthermore, this manuscript is complete, compared to the other Buda-script manuscripts in MSS Jav 53 which contain only fragmentary texts; equally crucially, the Sang Hyang Hayu text in MSS Jav 53 t contains a colophon. The scribe of MSS Jav 53 t also described this work as apus agəṅ, 'The Great Book', echoing the approbation of the Sundanese writers. The colophon states that the manuscript was written within the hermitage (batur) of Kasinoman, Ketralingga (read: Kertalingga?), in the Javanese Śaka year 1415, equivalent to 1493 AD. Although the precise location of Kasinoman and Ketralingga cannot be identified, the dating of 1493 AD is extremely significant not only within the group of Buda-script Javanese manuscripts, but also in the broader context of other Indonesian manuscripts, for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, MSS Jav 53 t is older than the Ramayana manuscript dated 1521 AD in the Merapi-Merbabu collection held in the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta, which has long been regarded as the oldest known Buda-script manuscript (Kuntara Wiryamartana & van der Molen, 2001: 55). Secondly, this is the second oldest known manuscript of Sang Hyang Hayu, after manuscript L 638 in the National Library of Indonesia, which is dated Śaka 1357, equivalent to 1435 AD. Thirdly, with its date of 1493, MSS Jav 53 t is by far the oldest Indonesian manuscript in the British Library. 

Colophon of Sang Hyang Hayu in Buda script, dated 1493
Colophon of Sang Hyang Hayu in Buda script: ti titi pva yeka vula(n) saptami, kr̥ṣṇāpakṣa ø I śaka, 1415 ø Om̐ saṁ hyaṁ [...], giving a date equivalent to 1493 AD. British Library, MSS Jav 53 t, f. 43r  Noc

In the MSS Jav 53 collection, apart from MSS Jav 53 t which is in Buda script, there is another lontar manuscript of Sang Hyang Hayu written in a different script: MSS Jav 53 gg, which is in a form of coastal (pasisir) Javanese script. This manuscript is also extremely important as the only known copy of Sang Hyang Hayu written in Javanese script. Unfortunately, and unlike MSS Jav 53 t, MSS Jav 53 gg does not have a colophon giving details of its production, and so it is not known where or when the manuscript was written. Thus the Mackenzie collection MSS Jav 53 contains two copies of Sang Hyang Hayu, both originating from the Javanese tradition, written using two different scripts, namely Buda script and (coastal) Javanese script.

Sang Hyang Hayu, written in Javanese script
Sang Hyang Hayu, written in (coastal) Javanese script. British Library, MSS Jav 53 gg  Noc

In the British Library, in addition to the two Sang Hyang Hayu manuscripts in the MSS Jav 53 collection, there is a third Sang Hyang Hayu manuscript, MSS Jav 105, which is written in Old West Javanese quadratic script (see Acri, 2017: 48). This manuscript comes from the West Javanese tradition as it is written on gebang leaf, like the other Sang Hyang Hayu manuscripts known from West Java.

The opening lines of the text of Sang Hyang Hayu in the manuscripts MSS Jav 53 t and MSS Jav 53 gg, written on lontar, are essentially identical to that found in MSS Jav 105, which is written on gebang leaf, and all other known texts of Sang Hyang Hayu also start in the same way. It can therefore be concluded that the two copies of the Sang Hyang Hayu text found in MSS Jav 53, and written in Buda script and Javanese script on lontar (and therefore both originating from the Javanese cultural milieu of Central and East Java ), are the only two known copies of this text from a manuscript tradition outside West Java.

Beginning of Sang Hyang Hayu in Buda script, incised on lontar
Beginning of Sang Hyang Hayu in Buda script, incised on lontar (palmyra leaf): Om̐ Avighnam astu nāma siḍəm· ø ndaḥ saṁ hyaṁ hayu hikaṁ hajarakna mami riṅ vaṁ kadi kita, kunaṁ deyanta humiḍəpā... British Library, MSS Jav 53 t, f. 1v  Noc

Beginning of Sang Hyang Hayu in Javanese script, incised on lontar
Beginning of Sang Hyang Hayu in (coastal) Javanese script, incised on lontar (palmyra leaf): Om̐ Avighnam astu nama. ṅdaḥ saṁ hyaṁ hayu hajarakna mami (- -) kadi kita, kunaṁ deyanta humiḍəp·... British Library, MSS Jav 53 gg, f. 2v   Noc

Beginning of Sang Hyang Hayu in Old West Javanese quadratic script, written in ink on gebang lea
Beginning of Sang Hyang Hayu in Old West Javanese quadratic script, written in ink on gebang leaf: //ø// Om̐ Avignam astu //ø// nḍaḥ saṁ hyaṁ yu Ikaṁ Ajarakna mami riṅ vaṁ kaḍi kita, kunəṁ deyanta humiḍəpā...  British Library, MSS Jav 105, f. 1v   Noc

Munawar Holil and Aditia Gunawan (2010: 140-141) have identified five Sang Hyang Hayu manuscripts in the National Library in Jakarta. Two more are held in the Kabuyutan (hermitage) of Ciburuy, at Garut in West Java, which have been digitised through the Endangered Archives Project EAP280 (EAP280/1/2/5 and EAP280/1/2/3). The text of Sang Hyang Hayu was edited by Undang A. Darsa in his master's thesis in 1998, based on three manuscripts in the National Library of Indonesia. The most recent research by Aditia Gunawan (2023) listed 12 copies of Sang Hyang Hayu held in collections worldwide. The two lontar manuscripts described above, MSS Jav 53 t and MSS Jav gg, now bring the total number of copies of this text to 14, while also showing that the 'Great Book' Sang Hyang Hayu circulated not only in the western part of Java, but also further east in the island.

Agung Kriswanto and Aditia Gunawan, Librarians, National Library of Indonesia Ccownwork

[This blog post was translated by Annabel Gallop from the Indonesian original, which can be read  here]

The two authors of this blog - (left) Aditia Gunawan and (right) Agung Kriswanto
The two authors of this blog - (left) Aditia Gunawan and (right) Agung Kriswanto - with manuscripts of Sang Hyang Hayu in the Reading Room of the National Library of Indonesia, Jakarta.

References
Acri, A. (2017). Dharma Pātañjala: A Śaiva Scripture from Ancient Java : Studied in the Light of Related Old Javanese and Sanskrit Texts. Second Edition. Śata-Piṭaka Series 654. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan.
Aditia Gunawan (2023). Sundanese Religion in the 15th century: Philological Study based on the Śikṣā Guru, Sasana Mahaguru, and the Siksa Kandaṅ Karəsian. Ph.D Thesis, EPHE-PSL, Paris.
Kartika Setyawati, Kuntara Wiryamartana & Willem van der Molen. (2002). Katalog Naskah Merapi-Merbabu Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia. Yogyakarta: Universitas Sanata Dharma.
Kuntara Wiryamartana & Molen, Willem van der (2001). The Merapi-Merbabu manuscripts A Neglected Collection. Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land-En Volkenkunde, 157(1), 51–64.
Munawar Holil dan Aditia Gunawan (2010). ‘Membuka Peti Sunda Kuna di Perpustakaan Nasional RI: Upaya Rekatalogisasi’. In: Sundalana 9. Bandung: Pusat Studi Sunda.
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: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia. [Includes a facsimile edition of Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1977.]
Undang Ahmad Darsa (1998). ‘Sang Hyang Hayu: Kajian filologi naskah bahasa Jawa Kuno di Sunda pada abad XVI’. Master's thesis, Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung.

 

04 September 2023

Javanese palm leaf manuscripts written in Buda script in the British Library

Through the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project, a team from the National Library of Indonesia spent a week at the British Library in June 2023. The aim of the visit was to strengthen collaboration between the two national libraries, and to enhance knowledge exchanges especially relating to Javanese manuscripts. This guest blog post is by Agung Kriswanto, librarian of the manuscripts section at the National Library of Indonesia.

The team from the National Library of Indonesia visiting the Royal Asiatic Society
During their visit to the British Library, the team from the National Library of Indonesia also visited other important collections of Indonesian manuscripts in London, and are shown here in the Royal Asiatic Society, looking at Javanese manuscripts from the Raffles collection. From left to right: Agung Kriswanto, Ade Riri Riyani, Didik Purwanto and Agus Sutoyo (Head of the Center for Library Services and Manuscripts Management), with Annabel Gallop.

One of the oldest yet barely explored collections of Javanese palm leaf manuscripts in the British Library is MSS Jav 53, which consists of dozens of manuscripts obtained in Java by Colonel Colin Mackenzie during his stay on the island from 1811 to 1813. This collection is amongst those being digitised by the British Library in collaboration with the École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), and will shortly be online. 

At present MSS Jav 53 consists of 35 manuscripts, numbered MSS Jav 53 a to MSS Jav 53 ii (Ricklefs, Voorhoeve & Gallop 2014). In Mackenzie’s notes (Blagden, 1916: xxix) MSS Jav 53 is said to contain 24 manuscripts written on leaves, in the ‘Hindu’ style, mostly in Javanese script, while Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977: 65-67) identified 29 manuscripts, numbered MSS Jav 53 a to MSS Jav 53 cc. The increase in number over the years probably reflects mistakes in counting or through the subdivision of bundles.

One of the manuscripts written in Javanese in Buda script
One of the manuscripts written in Javanese in Buda script, comprising an unstrung bundle, with many damaged leaves. British Library, MSS Jav 53 ii Noc

Mackenzie obtained the manuscripts from a regent (Blagden, 1916: xxix). Ricklefs and Voorhoeve (1977, 2014: 65) identified this regent as Kyahi Tumenggung Puger. The source of this identification is a damaged incised leaf found in MSS Jav 53 z, which reads: layaṁ kunna, sakiṁ kyahi tuməṁguṁ pugər, katur ḍatəṁ tu... haṁṅris· 1 buṁkus hisi 18 hiji 17-2-39, ‘Old writings. From Kyahi Tumenggung Puger, given to Tu... English, 1 packet consisting of 18 leaves. 17-2-39’, with the date ‘39’ probably referring to the Javanese year 1739, equivalent to 1812 AD. Ricklefs and Voorhoeve thus noted further, ‘These MSS thus appear to be a single collection, probably from the area of Puger (the 'East Hook'), which would explain the variety of languages.’ 

Incised uninked note naming Kyahi Tumenggung Puger as the source of this manuscript, and the date ’17-2-39’
Incised uninked note naming Kyahi Tumenggung Puger as the source of this manuscript, dated 1812. British Library, MSS Jav 53 z, f. 38v  Noc

In the collection MSS Jav 53 there are a few Javanese manuscripts written not in (modern coastal) Javanese script, but in characters known as Buda or Gunung script. The term Buda (‘Buddha’) script evokes the pre-Islamic era in Java, while Gunung or ‘mountain’ refers to the mountainous regions with which most of the known examples are associated (Cohen Stuart, 1872: III; Pigeaud, 1970: 22-23; Kuntara Wiryamartana & van der Molen, 2001: 51). The forms of Buda script found in MSS Jav 53 are in fact similar to those found in palm-leaf manuscripts from Central Java.

The largest number of manuscripts in Buda script are found in the Merapi-Merbabu collection held in the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta. This collection was acquired from the slopes of the Merapi and Merbabu volcanoes in Central Java, which in the 15th and 16th centuries was a centre for the study of Hindu-Buddhist literature and religion (Noorduyn, 1982: 413–422; Kartika Setyawati et al, 2002; Kuntara Wiryamartana & van der Molen, 2001: 55). These manuscripts were first mentioned in a report of 12 August 1823 by the Dutch Resident of Kedu to Governor-General Van der Capellen, stating that there were many notes written on leaves stored in a bamboo hut near the cremation ground of Panembahan Windusana. Some of these writings were handed over to government officials, and were sent to Batavia along with the report (van der Molen, 1983: 111-112).

These notes on the origin of the Merapi-Merbabu manuscripts recalls Mackenzie’s own notes on MSS Jav 53, mentioning that the manuscripts were found in a dilapidated building in the forest in a remote area, and had evidently been abandoned for many years (Blagden, 1916: xxix). The two collections thus both originate from remote sites. Such places were most likely mandalas, religious settlements for retreats and meditation (Supomo, 1977: 66-67). The environs of a mandala are usually described as being located in the middle of a verdant forest, with groves of well-tended trees. Each dwelling would have a verandah where literary readings could be held, and a garden full of flowering plants (Agus Aris Munandar, 2001: 102).

Apart from the collection in Jakarta, there are also a few manuscripts in Buda script held in the Netherlands (in Leiden), in Germany (Berlin) and in France (Paris). Most of these can be linked with the Merapi-Merbabu region because they all originate from officials who had been based in Batavia, such as Friedrich and Schoemann (cf. Pigeaud 1970; Groot 2009 and Acri 2011). 

An unidentified text written in Javanese in Buda script
An unidentified text written in Javanese in Buda script, from the manuscript bundle shown above. British Library, MSS Jav 53 ii, f. 2v  Noc

According to Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977, 2014), within the collection MSS Jav 53 a-ii there are eight manuscripts in Buda script. Unfortunately one, MSS Jav 53 m, has been missing for a number of years, while another, MSS Jav 53 c, was found to be written not in Buda script. This leaves six Buda-script manuscripts, namely MSS Jav 53 k, n, o, t, dd and ii, which mostly have basic descriptions but no titles in the published catalogues.

MSS Jav 53 k can now be classified as a tutur (didactic doctrinal work) as it contains explanations on mantras and religious doctrines.  The term tutur covers texts of a general nature, in contrast to the more specific term tatwa. According to Andrea Acri (2011: 10), tutur can be understood as heterogenous compilations from various sources, while tatwa are characterised as single texts with a more coherent textual structure.

A broken leaf from a manuscript containing tutur and aji texts, written in Javanese in Buda script
A broken leaf from a manuscript containing tutur and aji texts, written in Javanese in Buda script. British Library, MSS Jav 53 k, f. 5r  Noc

Apart from the tutur, MSS Jav 53 k also contains a number of aji texts, relating to magical and amuletic formulae (Zoetmulder, 1995: 17), including Aji Kakalangan, Kaprajuritan and Mahapadma Pagesengan. These three texts are also found in the Merapi-Merbabu collection at the National Library in Jakarta, showing that despite originating from different regions, there are still connections between MSS Jav 53 manuscripts and the Merapi-Merbabu corpus. 

Another manuscript in Buda script, MSS Jav 53 o, is also a tutur that contains two texts. The first, Rasayajña, contains an explanation of how to reach heaven. The second text, Darma Kamulaning Dadi, expounds on the process of the creation of life in the universe. An especially valuable aspect of MSS Jav 53 o is that it has a colophon, giving the date of writing of this manuscript as Thursday Kaliwon, 1550 Śaka or 1628 AD.

Rasayajña text, with a colophon dated 1628
Rasayajña
text, with a colophon dated 1628. British Library, MSS Jav 53 o Noc

A subsequent blog post will discuss probably the most significant manuscript in Buda script in the collection, MSS Jav 53 t, which contains a copy of Sang Hyang Hayu with a colophon dated 1493, making it by far the oldest Indonesian manuscript held in the British Library.

Agung Kriswanto, Librarian, National Library of Indonesia Ccownwork

[This blog post was translated by Annabel Gallop from the Indonesian original, which can be downloaded here

References
Acri, Andrea (2011). Dharma Pātañjala: A Śaiva Scripture from Ancient Java : Studied in the Light of Related Old Javanese and Sanskrit Texts. Groningen: Forsten.
Agus Aris Munandar (2001). ‘Pusat-pusat Kegamaan Masa Jawa Kuna’ in Sastra Jawa: Suatu Tinjauan Umum (Edi Sedyawati, ed.). Jakarta: Pusat Bahasa dan Balai Pustaka.
Blagden, C.O. (1916). Catalogue of manuscripts in European languages belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol.I. The Mackenzie Collections. Part I. The 1822 Collection & the Private Collection. London: Oxford University Press.
Cohen Stuart, A. B. (1872). Eerste vervolg catalogus der bibliotheek en catalogus der Maleische, Javaansche en Kawi handschriften van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen. Batavia & ’s Hage: Bruining & Wijt & Nijhoff.
Groot, Hans. (2009). Van Batavia naar Weltevreden: Het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen 1778-1867. Leiden: KITLV.
Kartika Setyawati, Kuntara Wiryamartana & Willem van der Molen. (2002). Katalog Naskah Merapi-Merbabu Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia. Yogyakarta: Universitas Sanata Dharma.
Kuntara Wiryamartana & Molen, Willem van der (2001). The Merapi-Merbabu manuscripts A Neglected Collection. Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land-En Volkenkunde, 157(1), 51–64.
Molen, W. van der. (1983). Javaanse Tekstkritiek Een Overzicht en een nieuwe Benadering Geilllustreerd aan de Kunjarakarna. Dordrecht/ Cinnaminson: Foris Publications.
Noorduyn, J. (1982). Bujangga Manik’s journeys through Java: topographical data from an Old Sundanese source. Bijdragen Tot de Taal-, Land-En Volkenkunde, 138, 413–442.
Pigeaud, T. G. (1970). Literature of Java: Catalogue raisonnè of Javanese manuscripts in the library of the University of Leiden and other public collections in the Netherlands Vol. 3. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Ricklefs, M,C. and P. Voorhoeve (1977). Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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: Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia, Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia.
Supomo, S. (1977). Arjunawijaya: A kakawin of Mpu Tantular (2 vols.). The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
Zoetmulder, P. J. (1995). Kamus Jawa Kuna - Indonesia. Jakarta: Gramedia Pustaka Utama.

26 June 2023

EFEO Java-Bali Palmleaf Manuscripts Digitisation Project

In collaboration with the École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO), the British Library is currently digitising its complete collection of 70 palmleaf manuscripts from Java and Bali, written in Old Javanese, Javanese and Balinese. For a full list of manuscripts being digitised click here.

Ramayana in Old Javanese, from Bali, early 19th c.
Ramayana in Old/Middle Javanese, from Bali, early 19th c. British Library, Add MS 12278  Noc

For centuries palm leaf was the standard writing medium throughout India and Southeast Asia. The leaves, usually of the palmyra or talipot palms, were cut, treated and dried. Text was incised on the leaf with a sharp stylus or knife and then rubbed with ink, which settled in the grooves of the letters. Completed books were usually provided with hard covers made from either bamboo or wood, cut to the same size as the palm leaves, and a cord fed through the holes made in the leaves either at the centre or the ends, and wrapped around the bundle. Single leaves could also be used for letters, notes and other short documents.

In Java and Bali it is the palmyra that is used for palm leaf (lontar) manuscripts, which usually have four lines of text on each page. However, probably the oldest palm leaf manuscript in the British Library from Indonesia is a copy of Sang Hyang Hayu (MSS Jav 105) written in Old Javanese not on palmyra but on gebang (Corypha gebanga, Corypha utan Lam.), the use of which is associated with very old manuscripts from west Java. Until recently only 29 manuscripts on gebang were known to exist, mostly dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, with the oldest dated 1334 (Aditia Gunawan 2015); the British Library manuscript MSS Jav 105 brings  the number of this small corpus up to 30.  Although many leaves are intact, there are countless small fragments which have been grouped together on small strips of laminate, as shown below.

First page of Sang Hyang Hayu, Old Javanese text written on gebang leaf, ca. 15th-16th c
First page of Sang Hyang Hayu, Old Javanese text written on gebang leaf, ca. 15th-16th c.; each folio has been backed with laminate. British Library, MSS Jav 105, f. 1v  Noc

Mss_jav_105_a_013 Mss_jav_105_a_014
Fragments of broken leaves from Sang Hyang Hayu, Old Javanese text written on gebang leaf, ca. 15th-16th c. British Library, MSS Jav 105 Noc

The most intriguing and potentially significant collection of palm leaf manuscripts from Java in the British Library is grouped together under shelfmark MSS Jav 53, acquired by Col. Colin Mackenzie during his stay in Java from 1811 to 1813. Mackenzie himself described them thus: “Twenty-four MSS. written on Cadjan [i.e. kajang] leaves in the Hindoo manner, most of them in the Javanese character, and some in a character yet undeciphered. From explanations of the titles of some they appear to belong to the ancient (or Dewa) religion of these islands; but though a native of superior intelligence was found capable of reading them, the prejudices of religion prevented any further information of the contents of books supposed to be adverse to the Muhammedan tenets. This difficulty might, however, have been got over. These MSS. are apparently ancient, and brought by the civility of a regent from a long deserted house in the distant forests, where they had lain neglected for years.” (Blagden 1916: xxix).

Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977: 65) identified the regent in question as Kyahi Tumenggeng Puger, and suggested that the manuscripts probably constituted a single collection from the vicinity of Puger on the south coast of East Java. MSS Jav 53 in fact consists of 35 separate manuscripts now numbered MSS Jav 53 a to MSS Jav 53 ii. Many of the manuscripts are damaged with leaves out of order, and some contain multiple texts, and so the discrepancy with Mackenzie’s own figure may be due to a miscount or result from manuscripts being separated into more than one bundle over the years.

First page of Sanghyang Kalimahosadha, in Old Javanese
First page of Sanghyang Kalimahosadha, in Old Javanese. British Library, MSS Jav 53 h, f. 1v  Noc

Last page of Sanghyang Kalimahosadha, in Old Javanese.
Last page of Sanghyang Kalimahosadha, in Old Javanese. British Library, MSS Jav 53 h  Noc

John Crawfurd served alongside Colin Mackenzie in the British administration of Java (1811-1816). Crawfurd formed a large collection of some 80 Javanese manuscripts which he sold to the British Museum in 1842 and are now in the British Library, of which however only six are written on palm leaf. They include two manuscripts in Old (or Middle) Javanese – a law book, Kutara Manawa, and a copy of the Ramayana – presented by the Rajah of Buleleng, on the north coast of Bali, on the occasion of Crawfurd’s visit in 1814. Unusually, both manuscripts are of the type called embat-embatan, consisting of palm leaves folded along the ridged centre of the leaf, yielding double thickness folios (van der Meij 2017: 193).

The Raja of Buleleng, shown with a piece of palm leaf in his left hand and knife for writing in his right hand.
The Raja of Buleleng, shown with a piece of palm leaf in his left hand and knife for writing in his right hand. 'Raja of Bliling, in the Island of Bali, with a Female attendant', engraving by W.H. Lizars from a drawing by Capt. Delafosse, probably done in 1814 when Crawfurd visited Bali. From John Crawfurd, History of the Indian Archipelago (Edinburgh, 1820), frontispiece to Vol. 3. British Library, T 11071  Noc

Inscribed: ‘Ramayana, according to the Javanese paraphrase, in the Kawi or ancient character. This MS. was given to J. Crawfurd Esq. by the Rajah of Bliling, in the island of Bali.’ British Library, Add MS 12278, frontispiece
Inscribed: ‘Ramayana, according to the Javanese paraphrase, in the Kawi or ancient character. This MS. was given to J. Crawfurd Esq. by the Rajah of Bliling, in the island of Bali.’ British Library, Add MS 12278, f. 1rNoc

First page of the Ramayana in Old Javanese. British Library, Add MS 12278, f. 1r
First page of the Ramayana in Old (or Middle) Javanese, showing the start of canto 19. British Library, Add MS 12278, f. 2v  Noc

There is a rich tradition of illustrated palm leaf manuscripts in Bali called prasi, containing images ranging from depictions of narrative scenes from literary epics, to magical diagrams and calendars. From the early 20th century onwards, many examples were made for the tourist market, usually with illustrations on one side of the leaf and very brief captions on the reverse.

Usada, medical texts in Balinese, before 1938.
Usada, medical texts in Balinese, before 1938. British Library, Or 16801, f. 56v  Noc

Illustrated scenes from Ādiparwa; unusually red ink is also used in the drawings. Bali, 20th c.
Illustrated scenes from Adiparwa; unusually red pigment is also used in the drawings in addition to black ink. Bali, before 1938. British Library, Or 16802, f. 4Noc

Illustrated scenes from Bharatayuddha, with the names of the characters in roman script. Bali, 20th c.
Illustrated scenes from Bharatayuddha, with the names of the characters in roman script. Bali, 20th c. British Library, Or 13379, f. 6r  Noc

One of the most commonly-found Javanese texts in palm leaf manuscripts is the Carita Yusup, the tale of the Prophet Joseph, the Nabi Yusuf of the Qur’an. There are eight palmleaf Javanese manuscripts of this story in the British Library collection, as well as other copies of this text on paper, with versions also found in Malay. Although Javanese palm leaf manuscripts are rarely decorated, several copies of the Carita Yusup and other Islamic texts have decorative frames on the first page enclosing just two lines of text, as shown in the two manuscripts below.

Carita Yusup, in Javanese; the first leaf is of double thickness and has been sewn together through the holes.
Carita Yusup, in Javanese, with an ornamental border; the first leaf is of double thickness and has been sewn together through the holes with thread. British Library, Or 9809, f. 123r   Noc

Carita Yusup, in Javanese, with an elegantly decorated frontispiece.
Carita Yusup, in Javanese, with an elegantly decorated frontispiece. British Library, Or. 13329, f. 1r  Noc

Over half the palm leaf manuscripts from Java and Bali held in the British Library to be digitised through this project are now already online, and the project will be completed within 2023.  There have been many challenges in digitising this collection of palm leaf manuscripts. Some of the manuscripts are in poor condition, with edges of leaves damaged by insects or by careless handling over the years. Sometimes the main issue is unsympathetic repairs with materials and methods which would nowadays be avoided, such as synthetic laminate across the whole leaf, which has lessened legibility of the text (as can be noted in the gebang manuscript above). Often the manuscripts are unstrung with leaves out of order, with new incorrect foliation or numbering (added by library staff in pencil) exacerbating the problems, meaning that the digitised images are often not in correct order.  One common problem is that when original Javanese foliation is present, in the digitised version the leaves are presented with the side bearing the folio number first (as is the norm for most British Library manuscripts), although this is in most cases actually the second page of the leaf.

Nonetheless, we hope that the advantages of having the manuscripts fully accessible digitally in their entirety, all with IIIF manifests, on the British Library's Universal Viewer from where images can be downloaded, will compensate for the inconveniences noted above. All the digital copies can be accessed directly via the British Library's online manuscripts catalogue, and as more manuscripts become available online, the direct links will be added to the catalogue records.

Further reading:

C.O. Blagden, Catalogue of manuscripts in European languages belonging to the Library of the India Office. Vol.I. The Mackenzie Collections. Part I. The 1822 Collection & the Private Collection. London: Oxford University Press, 1916.
Aditia Gunawan, Nipah or gebang? a philological and codicological study based on sources from West Java. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 2015, 171: 249-290.
Jana Igunma, The beauty of palm leaf manuscripts: (1) Central Thailand (Blog, 20 November 2014)
Jana Igunma, The beauty of palm leaf manuscripts: (2) Northern Thai, Lao and Shan traditions (Blog, 23 January 2015)
Dick van der Meij, Indonesian manuscripts from the islands of Java, Madura, Bali and Lombok. Leiden: Brill, 2017.
Julia Wiland, Rick Brown, Lizzie Fuller, Lea Havelock, Jackie Johnson, Dorothy Kenn, Paulina Kralka, Marya Muzart, Jessica Pollard & Jenny Snowdon, (2022) A literature review of palm leaf manuscript conservation—Part 1: a historic overview, leaf preparation, materials and media, palm leaf manuscripts at the British Library and the common types of damage, Journal of the Institute of Conservation, 45:3, 236-259; (2023) A literature review of palm leaf manuscript conservation—Part 2: historic and current conservation treatments, boxing and storage, religious and ethical issues, recommendations for best practice, Journal of the Institute of Conservation, 46:1, 64-91.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator for Southeast Asia  Ccownwork

[Updated with Blagden reference on 3.7.2023.]

06 June 2023

Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project completed

Through the generous support of William and Judith Bollinger, 120 Javanese manuscripts from the British Library’s collection have just been digitised and are now fully accessible online. The manuscripts date from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, and are written on paper in both Javanese script (hanacaraka) and adapted Arabic script (pegon), and include a few manuscripts in Old Javanese. A full list of the newly-digitised manuscripts can be found here.

Menak story, early 19th c.
Menak
story, early 19th c. British Library, Add MS 12296, ff. 1v-2r Noc

The manuscripts include those collected by John Crawfurd and Colin Mackenzie, two East India Company officials who served under Thomas Stamford Raffles during the British occupation of Java (1811-1816), as well as more recent acquisitions in the British Library. The Crawfurd collection is especially rich in Javanese literary and historical works, many of which are adorned with beautiful frontispieces with double illuminated frames (wadana) surrounding the text. These are probably the work of artists from the Pakualaman, the minor court of Yogyakarta, which was founded in 1812 following the British attack on the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta. The Pakualaman was created by the British as a reward for their ally Prince Natakusuma, who was installed as Paku Alam I. Seven of these manuscripts have the traditional Javanese ‘diamond-on-rectangle’ style of double decorated frames, as shown above, while 11 others have ‘gateway’ (wadana gapura) style decorated frontispieces, in the form of architectural constructs resembling ancient temples (candi), replete with pedestals, columns and domes, as in the example below.

Babad Sejarah Menteram, early 19th c.
Babad Sejarah Menteram
, early 19th c. British Library, Add MS 12287, ff. 2v-3r Noc

The newly-digitised collection also includes many manuscripts from the coastal (pesisir) regions of the island of Java. Among the highlights is a finely illustrated copy of Panji Jaya Kusuma, which was created in the port-city of Surabaya on the north coast of Java for a female patron, named in the text as Nyonyah Sakeber, ‘Madame Gezaghebber’. She has been identified by Peter Carey as the wife of Frederik Jacob Rothenbühler (1758-1836), the German-born Chief Administrator (Gezaghebber) of the Eastern Salient of Java (Oosthoek), in the decade 1799-1809. The use of the title nyonya hints that she was probably a local Javanese or of mixed blood.

Mss_jav_68_f031v-32r
Panji Jaya Kusuma,
Surabaya, 1805. British Library, MSS Jav 68, ff. 31v-32r  Noc

Other manuscripts are of particular interest for their texts rather than any decorative features, including a compilation of the works of Kiai Haji Ahmad Rifai of Kalisalak (1786-1870). He was a pioneering Javanese religious scholar renowned for establishing a school (pesantren) where the curriculum was based not on the standard corpus of Arabic works, but on his own compositions in Javanese written in pegon (Arabic) script. Kiai Haji Ahmad Rifai actively commentated on various social issues, and for example issued a fatwa (religious verdict) banning the smoking of opium and tobacco. His wide influence attracted the attention and suspicion of the Dutch colonial authorities, and in 1859 he was exiled to Ambon in the Moluccas for the rest of his life.

Nazham tazkiyyah and other works by Kiai Haji Ahmad Rifai of Kalisalak, 1845
Nazham tazkiyyah
and other works by Kiai Haji Ahmad Rifai of Kalisalak, 1845. British Library, Or 13523, f. 2v Noc

One of the manuscripts digitised is a very simple and plain-looking manuscript of a primbon – a compendium of religious texts and prayers pertaining to divination. Both from the handwriting, and the Javanese treebark paper (dluwang) on which it is written, this manuscript looks extremely old, and may date back to the early 17th or even late 16th century. It is wrapped in an official document from Cirebon dated 1849, possibly linking the manuscript to that region of coastal west Java. The manuscript was presented to the British Museum in 1905 by A. W. Hurst Boram. Digitisation of these Javanese manuscripts has also spurred further research into their provenance histories. In this case, it turns out that the donor, Boram, was married to Hendrika Cornelia Albers, who had been born in Cianjur, as her father Christiaan Albers (1837-1920) was a Dutch missionary in west Java. It is thus likely that the manuscript originated from west Java.

Primbon, possibly early 17th century
Primbon, possibly early 17th century. British Library, Or 6622, ff. 4v-5r  Noc

The completion of the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project drew on the skills and support of many different staff across the British Library, with the particular challenges of commencing this project in the middle of the coronovirus pandemic, and across two national lockdowns in 2020 when all British Library buildings were closed. First, conservators checked every single manuscript to ensure they were in a fit state for digitisation, and made repairs as necessary, as shown below with a copy of an Old Javanese inscription which was originally folded, ragged and torn. Next the manuscripts were all photographed in the Imaging Studios, yielding a total of 35,880 digital images, amounting to 4.2 TB of data. Each of these images then had to be checked for quality control by the BL’s Heritage Made Digital team – with some images having to be reshot if, for example, a stray hair was visible on the page – and finally all the manuscripts were published online on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts portal. Over the next few years, the digital images will be migrated to the new Universal Viewer, where they will all be equipped with IIIF manifests.

A paper copy made during the British administration of Java of the Hantang inscription
A paper copy made during the British administration of Java of the Hantang inscription dated 1135 (now in the National Museum of Indonesia, see below), with an interlinear transcription of the Old Javanese text into modern Javanese characters, and translation into modern Javanese in cursive black ink. This manuscript had to be cleaned, repaired and flattened prior to digitisation. British Library, MSS Jav 95, top   Noc

The top of the Hantang stone inscription of 1135
The top of the Hantang stone inscription of 1135, with the Narasiṅha emblem of Jayabhaya at the top. Museum Nasional, Jakarta, D.9 (photograph by A.T. Gallop, 2011).

William and Judith Bollinger always made clear their wish to see collaborations embedded at the heart of this project, for which British Library has partnered with the National Library of Indonesia (Perpusnas). On 24 May 2023, the British Library welcomed the Director of the National Library of Indonesia, Mr Muhammad Syarif Bando, and senior colleagues, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, and four manuscript curators from Perpusnas will soon be visiting the British Library to contribute their expertise on Javanese manuscripts and enhance the metadata of the catalogue descriptions. On the same day, at an event to celebrate the completion of the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project, Dr Luisa Elena Mengoni, Head of the Asian and African Collections at the British Library, presented to Mr Bando a hard drive containing a complete set of the digital images of the 120 Javanese manuscripts.  The British Library will also be collaborating with MANASSA, the Association of Indonesian Manuscript Scholars, on a small project to promote the use and study of these newly-digitised Javanese manuscripts.

The Director of the National Library of Indonesia, Mr Muhammad Syarif Bando, and senior colleagues
The Director of the National Library of Indonesia, Mr Muhammad Syarif Bando, and senior colleagues, with Prof. Khairul Munadi, Education and Culture Attache at the Indonesian Embassy in London, and British Library staff, celebrating the completion of the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project on 24 May 2023.

Building on earlier projects to digitise Javanese manuscripts in the British Library – notably the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Project (2017-2019) funded by Mr S. P. Lohia, which digitised 75 manuscripts originating from the palace of Yogyakarta taken by the British in 1812, and an earlier project supported by the Henry D. Ginsburg Legacy (2012-2017) – this means that all the Javanese manuscripts written on paper held in the British Library, numbering around 200, are now digitised. [The British Library is currently also collaborating with the EFEO DHARMA project to digitise the 70 palm leaf manuscripts written in Javanese, Old Javanese and Balinese, which will be completed later this year in 2023.] The critical mass of Javanese manuscript literature now available online has also led to a new collaboration with the Foundation for Javanese Literature, Yayasan Sastera Lestari (Yasri). The beautifully illustrated British Library manuscripts Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) and Serat Sela Rasa (MSS Jav 28) were amongst the first to be digitised, and Yasri has romanised these texts and made them accessible online on the sastra.org website, with page-by-page hyperlinks to the digitised manuscripts. Thanks to support from the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts project, Yasri will now be romanising twenty more Javanese manuscripts from the British Library covering a range of literary and historical texts including Serat Banten (Add MS 12304), Serat Sejarah Demak (Add MS 12333) and Serat Babad Sengkala (Add MS 12322).

romanisation of Serat Damar Wulan
The Yasri page on sastra.org with the romanisation of Serat Damar Wulan, British Library, MSS Jav 89.

Other collaborations which have evolved in tandem with the increasing number of Javanese manuscripts from the British Library now online are with Wikimedia Indonesia. In March 2023 the Wikisource Competition (Kompetisi Wikisumber 2023) was held to transcribe Javanese manuscripts into machine-readable Javanese script, focussing on British Library manuscripts already romanised by Yasri such as Serat Damar Wulan, in order to facilitate cross-checking. Wikisource loves manuscripts is a pilot project to enhance the OCR (optical character recognition) and HTR (hand-written text recognition) capabilities of Transkribus to transcribe Javanese and other Indonesian scripts, using digitised manuscripts from the British Library. But alongside these technologically ambitious projects, there are countless scholars, readers and artists who are daily delighting in reading and reciting these Javanese literary gems, and gaining inspiration from their beautiful illuminations and illustrations.

Blog posts
16 May 2022, Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project: 120 more Javanese manuscripts to be digitised 
15 Aug 2022, 40 more Javanese manuscripts now accessible online 
26 September 2022, Frederik Jacob Rothenbühler and his wife as collectors of Javanese manuscripts in the early 19th century, by Prof. Peter Carey, Jakarta

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator for Southeast Asia  Ccownwork

28 November 2022

Batik designs in a Javanese manuscript: Serat Damar Wulan

Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) is probably the earliest surviving fully illustrated Javanese manuscript, and is full of lively and humorous scenes of everyday life in late 18th-century Java. In this guest blog Dr Fiona Kerlogue examines the clothes and textiles depicted in Serat Damar Wulan, extracted from her new book on the history of batik, Batik: Traces through time (2021), which is illustrated by collections in the National Museum of the Czech Republic.

The earliest compelling evidence indicating how batik was once worn is a copiously illustrated manuscript entitled Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) presented to the library of the East India Company (and now in the British Library) by Lieutenant-Colonel Raban, the former Resident of Cirebon, in January 1815. Although the manuscript was said to be 200 years old, watermarks in the paper indicate that it more likely dates from the late 18th century. Whether the manuscript was written and illustrated in Cirebon or elsewhere is another question. The absence in the clothing depicted of three batik patterns generally regarded by modern commentators as quintessential and historic Cirebon designs – megamendung (clouds); taman arum (perfumed garden); and peksinagaliman (a mythical composite animal) – suggests that a Cirebon origin is unlikely.

DW f.10r
Figure 1. Damar Wulan kneels before Layang Setra and Layang Kumir, all three wearing jarit, or kain panjang. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library MSS Jav. 89, f. 10r Noc

The legend of Damar Wulan is associated with East Java, centring as it does on the Majapahit kingdom and especially its vassal state Blambangan (now Banyuwangi), which was located in the easternmost part of Java between the 13th and 18th centuries. The story seems to be based on events which took place in the early 15th century, when war broke out between Majapahit and Blambangan, ending in the defeat of Blambangan.

The story is particularly significant in relation to costume, partly because of the changes in status which the characters undergo and how these are reflected in the clothes they wear. The cast includes noblemen and their henchmen, an aristocratic lady, servants, both male and female, soldiers, stallholders and a blacksmith. The central character, Damar Wulan, is a nobleman but is appointed as stable boy to the ruler of Majapahit, and then imprisoned; eventually he himself becomes king of Majapahit. His changes in status are reflected in the clothes he wears; the clothing worn by other actors in the story also indicates their status (Coster-Wijsman 1953).

It seems likely that the clothing in the illustrations, which corresponds quite closely with the descriptions of clothing in Raffles’ slightly later History of Java, published in 1817, reflects quite accurately the type of clothing worn at the time the drawings were made. Had they been drawn to reflect clothing of the age in which the story is set, there would not be the European-influenced styles of buttoned long jackets, trews and hats which characterise the clothing of Damar Wulan’s opponents especially. Some of the batik designs depicted can be identified today.

The main characters in the story are Damar Wulan, the hero; Layang Setra and Layang Kumir, the sons of Patih (regent or chief minister) Logender of the Majapahit empire; and Damar Wulan and his servants (panakawan) Sabda Palon and Naya Genggong. Menak Jingga, Damar Wulan’s rival, who threatens the empire and is eventually slain by Damar Wulan at the request of the queen, plays a key role. When he first appears (Figure 1), Damar Wulan is kneeling before Layang Setra and Layang Kumir, wearing a batik jarit decorated in bands of different motifs, the bands drawn bent to follow his kneeling posture. Layang Setra and Layang Kumir also wear batik jarit, one (on the left) with a parang or ‘knife’ design, the other with a semen pattern. The parang design marks the wearer as a man of high status, an aristocrat, and Damar Wulan’s attitude is appropriately respectful. All three skirt cloths have a dotted or striped border along the lower edge. The elaborately wrapped headcloths worn by the two nobles have pengada borders. The two servants wear skirt cloths with simple triangular and check patterns, probably representing simple country-style batik.

DW f.05r
Figure 2. A woman of high status waxing a batik headcloth. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library MSS Jav. 89, f. 5r   Noc

Figure 2, showing a woman of high status waxing a batik headcloth, occurs early in the manuscript. She is the daughter of Ki Buyut Paluhomba, the wife of the minister Patih Udara, who was the brother of Patih Logender and his predecessor as chief minister of Majapahit. The cloth hangs over a wooden or bamboo rack, gawangan, which supports it while the wax is applied. It has a plain white tengahan in the centre, a main field where motifs are set against a ground filled with parallel lines as the filling motif, or isen, and a pengada with short stripes arranged in pairs, separated from the main field by a white border with uneven or wavy edges. Her father’s skirt cloth has a pattern of circular or floral motifs arranged at the intersections of the squares into which the field is divided.

DW f.136r
Figure 3. Four captive princesses wearing symmetrical designs arranged in squares on their skirt cloths. Serat Damar Wulan.  British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 136r  Noc

Symmetrical designs arranged in squares repeating across the field feature frequently in skirt cloths in the manuscript, as shown in Figure 3. This type of pattern is known as ceplokan, and was one of the most common design types in the 19th century, at least in Central Java. This type of design persisted into the 20th century.

In the manuscript there are frequent depictions of women’s breast cloths, or kemben, with patterned or plain lozenges. These are worn by nearly all the women, including stall holders and court ladies. In one scene Kencanawungu, the maiden queen of Majapahit, on a raised platform on the right, receives the widow of the ruler of Tuban, who is fainting on the left (Figure 4). She is accompanied by her daughter and other women, who wear a variety of designs on their kemben. The queen herself is wearing an exotic upper garment, probably intending to represent a richly embroidered cloth rather than batik. The tall woman at the centre is the bereaved mother. Her kemben is decorated with cemukiran around the tengahan, befitting her status. Elsewhere in the manuscript the most common kemben has a red central lozenge.

DW f.59r
Figure 4. The maiden queen of Majapahit receives the widow of the ruler of Tuban. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89 f. 59r Noc

All of the male characters of high status appear in dodot, in a variety of designs. In one scene, the villain Menak Jingga wears a dodot with a striking cemukiran (Figure 5). His dodot is lifted high, revealing a good length of trouser and reflecting his high status. Menak Jingga tends to wear ostentatious clothing, always with a huge parang design on his dodot as opposed to that worn by the ruler of the smaller polity, Tuban, whose lesser status is revealed in the smaller size of his motifs, and by Patih Logender.

DW f.106v
Figure 5. Menak Jingga wearing a dodot with a very large pattern. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 106v  Noc

Once his noble birth is revealed Damar Wulan wears a plain red dodot, perhaps symbolic of his courage, and towards the end of the story, when his status is elevated further, cemukiran appear. When Damar Wulan is visited in the stables by Patih Logender’s daughter, Anjasmara, he is wearing a humble lurik skirt cloth (Figure 6); later in the story, as king of Majapahit he wears a dodot (Figure 7).

DW f.18r
Figure 6. Damar Wulan (left) wears a simple lurik skirt cloth, while Anjasmara wears batik. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 18r  Noc

DW f.179r
Figure 7. Damar Wulan, now king, wears a red dodot. Serat Damar Wulan.  British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 179r  Noc

His two servants, Sabda Palon and Naya Genggong, begin the story in short trousers made of lurik (Figure 8) but by the end one of them, too, is wearing a dodot (Figure 9). There is humour in this pretentious adoption of the clothing of a man of power, but through his loyalty to his master he has earned the right to wear it.

DW f.116v
Figure 8. Damar Wulan’s servants in short trousers of striped lurik early in the story. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 116v  Noc

DW f.206r
Figure 9. Now ennobled, Damar Wulan’s servants have adopted superior garments, and have servants of their own wearing lurik. Serat Damar Wulan. British Library, MSS Jav. 89, f. 206r  Noc

The patterns drawn in these illustrations reveal the way in which clothing, and in particular batik clothing, was worn to express both status and character in Java at the end of the 18th century. In the century which followed, great changes took place, with the introduction of new ideas and techniques that led to the development of both commercially-produced, low-quality batik for the masses and batik of exceptionally high quality, workmanship and beauty.

Further reading

This blog has been extracted from: Fiona Kerlogue, Batik. Traces through time. Batik Collections in the National Museum – Náprstek Museum. Vydání první. (Prague: National Museum, 2021. ISBN 978-80-7036-673-8), pp. 56-63.

All the pictorial scenes in the Serat Damar Wulan (MSS Jav 89) are described in: Coster-Wijsman, L. ‘Illustrations in a Javanese manuscript’. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1953, 109 (2): 153-163.

Fiona Kerlogue Ccownwork

Fiona Kerlogue was formerly Assistant Keeper of Anthropology at the Horniman Museum.

26 September 2022

Frederik Jacob Rothenbühler and his wife as collectors of Javanese manuscripts in the early 19th century

This guest blog is by Prof. Peter Carey, University of Indonesia, Jakarta.

As a collector of Javanese manuscripts, the name of Frederik Jacob Rothenbühler (1758-1836), has long been recognised. In 1977, when Merle Ricklefs and Peter Voorhoeve first published their benchmark catalogue of Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain, the German is mentioned in four entries for Javanese manuscripts from the collection of Col. Colin Mackenzie, Chief Engineer from 1811 to 1813 during the British administration in Java (1811-1816).

Two manuscripts, both Javanese histories or babad, may have derived from the five-day (20-25 June 1812) plunder of the Yogyakarta court library following the British attack on the Sultan’s palace or keraton. MSS Jav 7, Babad Pajajaran, which was dated by Donald E. Weatherbee (2018: 87) to AJ 1713 (1786), is almost certainly from the Yogyakarta keraton as it has a dated note at the back referring to the Swedish army surgeon, 'Dr Stutzer' (Johan Arnold Stutzer [1763-1821], spelt erroneously as “Studzee” in Ricklefs and Voorhoeve 1977: 58), who participated in the British attack. The date, 6 July 1812, is just a week prior to the departure of the last British troops, Mackenzie’s engineers, from the Sultan’s capital on 14 July (Carey 1992: 483 note 394).

Babad Pajajaran, 1786
Babad Pajajaran, 1786. British Library, MSS Jav 7, ff. 3v-4r  Noc

From Mr Rothenbühler
‘From Mr Rothenbühler', pencilled note at the beginning of the volume. British Library, MSS Jav 7, flyleaf. Noc

‘From Djocjokarta / From Dr Stutzer July 6 1812’
‘From Djocjokarta / From Dr Stutzer July 6 1812’, note at the end of the volume. British Library, MSS Jav 7, f. 141r  Noc

Another manuscript, MSS Jav 40, Babad Kartasura, is less obviously from the keraton library (it was not identified as such in the listing compiled by Ricklefs) but it is a finely decorated volume and the date of writing – AJ 1723 (31 August 1796) – would be consistent with a Yogya court manuscript taken in June 1812.

Babad Kartasura, 1796
Babad Kartasura, 1796. British Library, MSS Jav 40, ff. 4v-5r  Noc

Inscription at the begining of Babad Kartasura, 'received from Mr Rothenbuhler at Sourabaya
Inscription at the begining of Babad Kartasura, 'received from Mr Rothenbuhler at Sourabaya'. MSS Jav 40, f. 6r Noc

Rothenbühler's name is also linked with two of the most beautifully illustrated early Javanese manuscripts known held in the British Library, MSS Jav 28 and MSS Jav 68, both dated to AJ 1731 (1804/5). Both of these manuscripts are inscribed as belonging to Rothenbühler’s wife, referred to as Nyonyah Sakeber, ‘Mrs Gezaghebber’, her husband’s title as Chief Administrator of the Eastern Salient of Java (Oosthoek), in the decade 1799-1809. The Javanese text reads in both manuscripts: punika serat kagunganipun Nyonyah Sekaber, ‘this manuscript belongs to Mrs Gezaghebber', and in MSS Jav 68 continues, ing panegri Surapringga, 'in the town of Surabaya’ (see Ricklefs and Voorhoeve 1977: 61, 68).

MSS Jav 28, Serat Selarasa, which has the date 28 Sapar AJ 1731 (8 June 1804), recounts the tale of the Ni Rumsari, the daughter of a respected sage, who dreams of three handsome suitors, one of whom, Raden Sélarasa, eventually becomes her husband. This was one of the first Javanese manuscripts in the British Library to be digitised in 2012, and has since become well known all over the world, adorning numerous covers of books relating to Java.

Sailing ships in Serat Sela Rasa, 1804
Serat Sela Rasa, 1804. British Library, MSS Jav 28, ff. 105v-106r  Noc

Newly digitised this year through the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project is MSS Jav 68, Panji Jaya Kusuma, erroneously dated within the text as 29 Besar AJ 1701 (20 February 1776), which Weatherbee (2018: 95) corrected to 29 Besar AJ 1731 (31 March 1805). Among the sumptuous coloured illustrations in both manuscripts are several depicting contemporary Dutch warships flying the Dutch tricolour from their mastheads and sterns. One wonders if Nyonyah Sakeber, possibly a native of Surabaya, chose these maritime themes herself given her proximity to Surabaya’s Tanjung Perak harbour and the crowded shipping lanes of Java’s foremost naval port?

Illustration of ships in the sea
Panji Jaya Kusuma, 1805. British Library, MSS Jav 68, ff. 34v-35r Noc

All four manuscripts were presented by Rothenbühler to his superior on the Mackenzie Land Tenure Commission (1812-13), Colonel Colin Mackenzie (1754-1821), on different dates: the two illustrated manuscripts being handed over in February 1812, when Mackenzie was passing through Surabaya on his first survey tour of East Java, and the two babad sometime after July 1812.  So, who was Frederik Jacob Rothenbühler, and, more pertinently, who was his wife, the eponymous “Nyonyah Gezaghebber”, and why might they both have been collectors of Javanese manuscripts?

Rothenbühler was born in Zweibrücken (Pfalz), a town in the Rhineland-Palatinate, on 9 November 1758. There are different accounts of under what circumstances he came out to Batavia. One account states states that he arrived in Batavia in 1769 with his parents. When his father, Frederik Hendrik, then serving as a senior surgeon (opperchirugijn) in the Dutch East India Company (VOC) died shortly thereafter (1770), the young Rothenbühler is also said to have joined the VOC. Other, perhaps more reliable, sources (Ketjen 1880-81:71; Encyclopaedia 1905, IV:638; De Haan 1935:634) hold that he joined the VOC as a cadet through the Amsterdam Kamer in the Netherlands on 11 January 1771, having just turned twelve, and sailed for Batavia on the ship Huis te Bijweg, arriving in the colonial capital on 10 August. He then worked his way up through the VOC bureaucracy, applying himself to the study of Javanese and becoming an official VOC translator (Gezworen Translateur) following his move to Semarang in 1780. After promotion as boekhouder (accountant) and secretary of police (secretaris van politie) in the North Coast city, he became Resident of Pekalongan (1794-99). Unlike many aspiring VOC officials who went to the Indies with recommendations from well-placed patrons and soon secured promotion to profitable positions, Rothenbühler was one of those who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. By dint of skill, diligence and linguistic talent he eventually achieved high office. The most important here was his ten-year incumbency of the Gezaghebber (Chief Administrator, 1799-1809) post in Surabaya. He was also more briefly a supernumerary member of Daendels’ Council of the Indies (Raad van Indië, 1809-11) and the Mackenzie land tenure commission (1812-13) established by Raffles’ British interim administration ( Encyclopaedie 1905:638; De Haan 1935:634).

The German was particularly renowned for his love of the Javanese and he appears to have married a local (pribumi), almost certainly a Javanese who most likely conversed with him in her mother tongue and shared his love of Javanese culture. We can surmise this from two sources: first, there is no trace in the very comprehensive Dutch Indies genealogical records of his wife’s name as one might expect if she was a totok or full-blooded Dutch woman or a scion of a prominent local Dutch-Javanese family (although his three childless daughters do make an appearance, one of whom, Frederika Jacoba, married a German from Stuttgart). Secondly, Frederik de Haan (1863-1938), the colonial state archivist (landsarchivaris, 1905-22), described Rothenbühler as “a very handsome man [...] with an exaggeratedly good idea of the natives [een zeer knap man […] met een overdreven goed idee van den Inlander]”, which indicates that he may have been seen, even in the richly diverse mestizo society of the late VOC Indies (1603-1799), as a man who had aligned himself closely with Java’s local inhabitants (pribumi) (De Haan 1935:634). Certainly, he was appreciated by the local inhabitants of Surabaya for his concern for public health and social welfare issues, including public sanitation, the eradication of smallpox (by the provision of vaccination) and the rehabilitation of beggars through the creation of a special community at Kali Pegirian where the urban poor were fed, clothed, housed and provided with pocket money and medical care. He was later credited by no less an authority than Cornelis van Vollenhoven (1874-1933) with writing the first ever description of Javanese customary law (adatrecht) (Van Vollenhoven 1928:47).

An insight into just how richly diverse this society was in late eighteenth-century Surabaya can be found in a document in the Royal Asiatic Society entitled “Miscellaneous memorandum on Surakarta” (circa November 1811) (Carey 2008:181 fn.71). This relates how Ratu Kencana, the mother of the future Pakubuwana VII (born 1796 - died, 1858; r. 1830-58; known as Pangeran Purbaya before 1830), who would later facilitate the copying of Dipanegara’s requested manuscripts in the Surakarta kraton library in the mid-1840s (Carey 2022), was sent to Surabaya for her education in the late 1770s. A daughter of the seventh Panembahan of Bangkalan (West Madura, r.1780-1815; after 21 July 1808 known as Sultan Cakradiningrat I), she was apparently lodged with the family of Ambrosina Wilhelmina van Rijck (1785-1864) who was the wife of Jacob Andries van Braam (1771-1820), no.2 in the Daendels’ administration (1808-11), and, according to some accounts, the Marshal’s secret lover. Born around 1770, Ratu Kencana seems to have spent the period 1778-84 in Surabaya so would not have overlapped directly with Rothenbühler (in post as Gezaghebber, 1799-1809), but her presence in Surabaya in a prominent mixed-blood 'Indo' family, who saw to her education, gives an insight into the relationship between members of the native and Dutch Indies elite in this great East Javanese port city in the waning years of the VOC. Rothenbühler’s wife could well have stemmed from this milieu.

Rothenbuhler’s grave in Surabaya
Rothenbuhler’s grave in Surabaya. Wikimapia.org.

Seemingly agnostic in religious matters, and possibly a Free Mason (Jordaan 2019:56, 146), Rothenbühler elected to be buried at the ripe old age (at a time when life expectancy for European males in Java was around 45) of 77 on his Gunungsari estate in Surabaya rather than in consecrated ground. Post-February 1914, when the Surabaya, now Ahmad Yani, Golf Club was opened, his grave abutted on the northern boundary of 18-hole course. Revered to this day as the tomb of “Mbah Deler [Grandfather Edelheer/member of the Council of the Indies]”, memories of Rothenbühler’s deep concern for the cleanliness, health and welfare of Surabaya and its inhabitants remain vivid for contemporary Surabayans, where he is also known as the “Father of Public Sanitation [Bapak Sanitasi]”. These concerns were also expressed in his writings such as his voluminous “Rapport van den staat en gesteldheid van het landschap Soerabaja [Report on the state and condition of the Surabaya area]”, which he left for his successor. His direct contemporary and senior VOC colleague, Wouter Hendrik van IJsseldijk (1757-1817), wrote of him: “if one were to make a recommendation to the next Governor-General regarding the most effective way of managing Java’s domestic economy and containing corruption, Surabaya’s Gezaghebber, Rothenbühler, is, in my view, best placed to introduce the changes and improvements which will correspond most effectively with local conditions” (Ketjen 1880-81:72).

It is thus fitting that this German collector and lover of all things Javanese should live on in the memory of the inhabitants of the East Java city, which he made his home, and in the manuscripts which he presented to his boss, Colin Mackenzie, over two centuries ago.

Peter Carey Ccownwork

Peter Carey is Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College, Oxford and Adjunct (Visiting) Professor of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia (2013 to present). His latest books (with Farish Noor) are Racial Difference and the Colonial Wars of 19th Century Southeast Asia (AUP, 2021) and Ras, Kuasa dan Kekerasan Kolonial di Hindia Belanda, 1808-1830 (KPG, 2022).

Bibliography
Carey, Peter, 1992. The British in Java 1811-1816: A Javanese Account. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
_________ 2008. The Power of Prophecy: Prince Dipanagara and the end of an old order in Java, 1785-1855. Leiden: KITLV Press.
_________ 2022. Ratu Ageng Tegalreja, Prince Dipanagara, and the British Library’s Serat Menak manuscript. British Library, Asian and African studies blog, 18 July 2022.
Encyclopaedie, 1905. “Rothenbuhler (Frederik Jacob)”, entry in Encyclopaedie van Nederlandsch-Indië, 4: 638.
Haan, Frederik de, 1935. “Personalia der periode van het Engelsch bestuur over Java, 1811-1816”, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 92: 477-681.
Jordaan, Roy, 2019. De politieke betekenis van de vrijmetselarij op Java tijdens het Britse Tussenbestuur (1811-1816). ‘s-Gravenhage: Ritus en Tempelbouw. (Quatuor Coronati – Studieblad; 4).
Ketjen, E., 1880-81. “Levensbericht van E.J. Rothenbühler”, Verhandelingen van het Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen 41: 71-73.
Ricklefs, M.C. and P. Voorhoeve, 1977. Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain: A Catalogue of Indonesian manuscripts in British public collections. London: Oxford University Press.
Vollenhoven, Cornelis van 1928. De Ontdekking van het Adatrecht. Leiden: EJ Brill.
Weatherbee, Donald E. '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.

15 August 2022

40 more Javanese manuscripts now accessible online

In May 2022 the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project was launched, aiming to digitise a further 120 Javanese manuscripts from the British Library collection. We are delighted to announce that 40 of these Javanese manuscripts have now been published online, and can be accessed directly through the live hyperlinks on the Digital Access to Javanese Manuscripts page or via the Digitised Manuscripts portal. On completion of the project by 2023, all the Javanese and Old Javanese manuscripts written on paper in the British Library – numbering over 200 – will have been fully digitised. Highlighted in this blog are some of the newly digitised Javanese manuscripts.

Sĕrat Gada (Gonda) Kusuma, copied by Tiyangsĕpoh
Sĕrat Gada (Gonda) Kusuma, copied by Tiyangsĕpoh.  British Library, Add 12297, ff. 2v-3r  Noc

The Bollinger project will make accessible a large number of illuminated Javanese manuscripts from the collection of John Crawfurd, many of which may have been decorated in the scriptorium of the Pakualaman court in Yogykarta. The Pakualaman principality was founded in Yogyakarta in 1812 by the British to reward Prince Paku Alam for his support for the British military campaign against Sultan Hamengkubuwana II of Yogyakarta. Paku Alam I was on very cordial terms with John Crawfurd, British Resident of Yogyakarta from 1811 to 1814, a relationship cemented by their shared interests in Javanese literature and history. In addition to his portion of manuscripts seized from the royal library of Yogyakarta following the British attack in 1812 (and digitised in 2019 through the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project), John Crawfurd also commissioned many further copies of Javanese texts, and these may have been adorned with illuminated frontispieces or wadana by artists from the Pakaualaman. Two distinct styles of illumination can be distinguished in Javanese manuscripts in the Crawfurd collection.  One is a more classical style with essentially rectangular frames, on which has been superimposed a diamond-shaped outline, in many cases taking the form of ornamental arches on the three outer sides of the text on each page.  A fine example is shown above, on a manuscript of the Sĕrat Gada (Gonda) Kusuma, Add 12297.  These frontispieces derive from the broader Islamic tradition of decorated frames, symmetrical around the central spine of the book, which often adorn the initial double opening pages.

A rather different style of illuminated frontispiece associated only with Yogyakarta has been termed wadana gapura, 'gateway frontispieces', or wadana renggan candhi or ‘frontispieces decorated as temples’ (Behrend 2005: 49), alluding to the temple-like structures of the decorated frames surrounding the text block on each page, with a plinth-like base and architectural features such as columns, arches and windows, often with ‘brick’ detailing. These wadana gapura are identical on each of two facing pages, rather than being symmetrical about the gutter of the book as in the case of the more classical double-page wadana described above. Shown below is another manuscript of the same literary text, Sĕrat Gonda Kusuma, Add 12295, with a temple-style decorated frontispiece.

Sĕrat Gonda Kusuma
Sĕrat Gonda Kusuma. Dated jalma muni catur sirna, which must be read from left to right [A.J. 1740/A.D. 1813]. British Library, Add 12295, ff. 1v-2r Noc

In a recent blog, Dick van der Meij has noted that while in Javanese manuscripts in the British Library, the 'classical' wadana  tend to enclose the start of the text which then continues without any hiatus onto the following pages, in manuscripts with 'temple'-style wadana gapura, the illuminated frames are placed a few pages before the start of the text proper, and the text within the decorative frames is written by a different hand from that found in the body of the main text itself. Moreover, the opening lines of the text are usually repeated within the decorative frames, and a small floral marker is then placed at the appropriate place in the main text (probably indicating to a reciter the point where the text from the frontispiece rejoins the main text). These devices all suggest that these temple-style illuminated frames were added after the main text was copied, at a second distinct stage within the manuscript production process.  It could be hypthesized that the examples of 'temple' wadana in Javanese manuscripts in the British Library mark the very beginning of the development of this artistic genre at the newly-formed Pakualaman court in Yogyakarta. 

Sĕrat Gonda Kusuma, 1813, showing the start of the text, in a different hand from that on the illuminated pages, with a small floral marker indicating where the texts join up
Sĕrat Gonda Kusuma, 1813, showing the start of the text, in a different hand from that on the illuminated pages, with a small floral marker indicating where the texts join up. British Library, Add 12295, f. 3r (detail) Noc

In addition to the two illuminated manuscripts of Sĕrat Gonda Kusuma highlighted above, there is another copy in the British Library also now available online, Add 12294, and the digitisation of so many Javanese manuscripts greatly enhances the task of comparative literary analysis.  Many Old Javanese texts known today have survived through copies preserved in Bali, which are generally written on palm leaf (lontar). A few manuscripts in the British Library which contain Old Javanese texts on paper appear to be copies made for British patrons from palm leaf exemplars sourced from Bali. Among these is a copy from the Crawfurd collection of the Bhāratayuddha kakawin, the Old Javanese version of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, which was composed in Java probably around the 10th century. The manuscript shown below, Add 12279, opens with the Old Javanese text, followed by a word-for-word explanation in modern Javanese, but half-way through the volume (from Canto 22 on f. 147r), the text continues in Old Javanese only.

Beginning of Bhāratayuddha in Old Javanese, accompanied by translation into Modern Javanese, 1814
Beginning of Bhāratayuddha in Old Javanese, accompanied by translation into Modern Javanese, 1814. British Library, Add 12279, f. 2v. Noc

Another copy of the Bhāratayuddha (MSS Jav 25), from the Mackenzie collection, gives the Old Javanese text in Balinese script written in black ink, accompanied by an interlinear Modern Javanese translation in red ink, and is dated 28 August 1812. According to the inscription on the first page, this manuscript was sent to Col. Colin Mackenzie by the son the of Panembahan of Sumenep in Madura. This manuscript is also due to digitised as part of the Bollinger project, and will soon be available online.

Opening page of Bhāratayuddha with inscription by Colin Mackenzie
Opening page of Bhāratayuddha with inscription by Colin Mackenzie. British Library, MSS Jav 25, f. 1r. Noc

Bhāratayuddha, in Old Javanese in Balinese script written in black ink, with interlinear translation into modern Javanese in red ink
Bhāratayuddha, in Old Javanese in Balinese script written in black ink, with interlinear translation into modern Javanese in red ink. British Library, MSS Jav 25, ff. 6v-7r. Noc

In the late eighteenth century the Old Javanese Bhāratayuddha kakawin inspired the composition of the Bratayuda kawi miring, probably the work of the Surakarta (Solo) court poet Yasadipura II (Tumenggung Sastronagoro, 1760-1844). The term kawi miring or ‘sloping/inclined Old Javanese’ is explained by Barbara McDonald in her Ph.D. thesis (1983: iii) as describing ‘a particular genre of literature which emerged in the Central Javanese courts of Surakarta in the late eighteenth century. As the term literally suggests, texts classified as kawi miring were considered to have been written in a poetic medium that ‘inclined’ towards the ‘kawi’ texts of the Old Javanese period.’ The British Library holds several copies or parts of the text of the Bratayuda kawi miring, including a newly digitised manuscript, MSS Jav 15.

Bratayuda kawi miring
Bratayuda kawi miring. Incomplete, ending at Canto XXI: 10. British Library, MSS Jav 15, f. 5v. Noc

Soon to be digitised is MSS Jav 23, which contains just six cantos of this work. Both these versions can now be compared with an earlier manuscript of the Bratayuda kawi miring, MSS Jav 4, dated 1797, originating from the kraton (palace) library, which was digitised during the earlier Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project. The late eighteenth-century date of this beautiful manuscript suggests it may be amongst oldest known copies of this text.

Bratayuda kawi miring, 1797
Bratayuda kawi miring, 1797. British Library, MSS Jav 4, ff. 2v-3r. Noc

The Modern Javanese version of the Bhāratayuddha kakawin, the Sĕrat Bratayuda, is found in two manuscripts in the British Library, one of which, Add 12326, has just been digitised. According to a note by Crawfurd, this manuscript was copied for him ‘from a manuscript supplied by one of the princes at Djocjakarta (i.e. Yogyakarta)’. A fragment of Serat Bratayuda is also found in MSS Jav 9, which will soon be digitised too.

Serat Bratayuda, early 19th c
Serat Bratayuda, early 19th c.  British Library, Add 12326, ff. 3v-4r. Noc

While the Crawfurd collection primarily consists of historical and literary works, the Mackenzie collection is also strong in primbon, compendia of various texts on religious-mystical knowledge.  One such volume is MSS Jav 30, dating from the 18th century, which contains a range of texts including suluk, mystical songs, as well as a primbon with many magical drawings for protection and divination, as shown below.

Primbon, with various rajah or magical drawings, 18th century
Primbon, with various rajah or magical drawings, 18th century.  British Library, MSS Jav 30, ff. 136v-137r. Noc

Also newly digitised are a number of Islamic manuscripts, with texts in Javanese written in Arabic (pegon script), including IO Islamic 2448, which contains a work on the mi‘raj, the ascension of the prophet Muhammad.

Colophon to a Javanese text on the Risālah fī al-isrāʾ wa-al-miʿrāj
Colophon to a Javanese text on the Risālah fī al-isrāʾ wa-al-miʿrāj. IO Islamic 2448, f. 65v. Noc

Photography of all 120 manuscripts in the Bollinger Javanese Manuscripts Digitisation Project has now been completed, and over the coming months, once all the images have passed the quality control stage, the manuscripts will be published online. Keep on eye on the Digital access to Javanese manuscripts page, where each shelfmark will be hyperlinked as it becomes available online.

Further reading:
T.E. Behrend, Frontispiece architecture in Ngayogyakarta: notes on structure and sources. Archipel, 2005, (69): 39-60.
Barbara McDonald, ‘Kawi and Kawi miring: Old Javanese literature in eighteenth century Java.’ 2 vols. PhD thesis, the Australian National University, 1983.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia Ccownwork

 

 

18 July 2022

Ratu Ageng Tegalreja, Prince Dipanagara, and the British Library’s Serat Menak manuscript

This guest blog is by Professor Peter Carey, University of Indonesia.

On 6 March 2019, a blog post by Annabel Gallop focussed attention on Add 12309, one of the Javanese manuscripts digitised in the Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta digitisation project. This copy of the Ménak Amir Hamza, the Javanese tale about the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, was highlighted as being remarkable for its sheer size – 1,520 folios on Javanese treebark paper (dluwang) – making it one of the longest single-volume manuscripts in the world, and certainly the longest Javanese manuscript (Ricklefs and Voorhoeve 1977: 48).

IMG_0095
Ménak Amir Hamza, containing 1520 folios of Javanese paper, with original blind-stamped leather covers, is the longest single-volume Javanese manuscript in the world. British Library, Add 12309  Noc

The manuscript’s owner, Ratu Ageng Tegalreja (c. 1732-1803), was also singled out in Annabel’s blog as a “devout Muslim” and daughter of an “Islamic scholar”. As the consort of Yogyakarta’s founding ruler, Sultan Mangkubumi (r. 1749-92), she was indeed a prominent figure in the late eighteenth-century Yogyakarta court. The daughter of a leading kyai (Muslim divine), Ki Ageng Derpayuda, from Majanjati in Sragen by a wife who was a direct lineal descendant of the first Sultan of Bima in Sumbawa, Abdulkahir Sirajudin (1627-82; r. 1640-82), she was renowned as the leading proponent of the Shațțārīyah tarekat (Sufi mystical brotherhood) at the Yogyakarta court in the late eighteenth century. She counted no less than four separate lines of transmission in her Shațțārīyah silsilah (genealogy of spiritual transmission) linking her back to the main murshid (male guide)-founder of the order in Java, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Muhyī (1650-1730), from Pamijahan, Tasikmalaya regency, West Java (Fathurahman 2016: 50-53).

Given this lineage, it is hardly surprising that her name still resonates in modern Javanese history as the guardian (emban) of her great-grandson, Pangeran Dipanagara (1785-1855). Entrusted to her at birth by her husband, Mangkubumi, when he had prophesied the young prince’s remarkable life story within hours of his coming into the world (Carey 2019: xxii-xxiii), Dipanagara followed her to Tegalreja shortly after she moved from the court following her husband’s death on 24 March 1792. Her estate some three kilometers to the northwest of the Yogyakarta kraton set in ricefields, which Ratu Ageng had opened up, became the meeting point of ulama (religious scholars) from all over south-central Java. There her great-grandson was brought up for ten remarkable years (1793-1803) and inculcated with her Sufi Islamic Shațțārīyah teachings until her death on 17 October 1803 (Carey 2019: 88-97).

DiponegoroLeiden
A famous Javanese painting of Prince Dipanagara, holding a piece of paper inscribed Muhammad rasul Allah / ilah wa rabb wa yab. Late 19th century. Leiden University Library, Or 7398: 2. Wikimedia Commons

It was most likely during this time the Ménak manuscript, now in the BL collection, was made for her and she may have used it for the instruction of her great-grandson, who would use the pégon script (Javanese written in Arabic characters) in which it was written for all his literary productions in exile. We know this because, when Pangeran Dipanagara was in Fort Rotterdam, Makassar (1833-55), he asked the Dutch to make a copy of this selfsame Ménak text for him from the Surakarta court library. He intended this as reading material for the education of his own seven children born in exile, whom he wished to bring up as Javanese not as Bugis or Makassarese. Indeed, Dipanagara was apparently so familiar with the text that he could stipulate (in his own handwriting in Javanese script which is visible in the supporting documents to the Governor-General’s besluit [decision] of 25 October 1844 sanctioning the copying), the exact passage from the Ménak which he wished to have copied: Surat Ménak laré kang ngantos dumugi Lakad [the Ménak tale from (Amir Hamza’s) childhood until his war with (Raja) Lakad] (Carey 2008: 744 fn. 263).

Add_12309_f0335-6r
The text of Ménak Amir Hamza, written in Javanese in Arabic (pégon) script, ca. 1800. British Library, Add 12309, ff. 335v-336r  Noc

The Ménak text was just one of several texts requested by the prince in 1844. These included another Javanese-Islamic text linked to the Ménak cycle, the Serat Asmarasupi and several other texts related to the Panji cycle of East Javanese romances (Gandakusuma, Angrèni), a treatise on cosmogony and agricultural myths (Manikmaya), and the Serat Bharatayuda, the tale of the “Brothers’ War” in the Purwa cycle of wayang (shadow-play) tales. Interestingly, one text, which is in the British Library collection of Javanese manuscripts and which clearly belonged to Ratu Ageng Tegalreja, the Serat Anbiya (MSS Jav 74), “a history of all the prophets from the Creation including the history of Java (from the time of the fall of Majapahit and the conversion to Islam)”, written on European import paper and running to some 600 folios or just under half the size of the Serat Ménak, was not included in Dipanagara’s list of texts requested from the Surakarta court library (Carey 2008: 744; Ricklefs and Voorhoeve 1977: 69).

Mss_jav_74_f004v-5r
Opening pages of Serat Anbiya. British Library, MSS Jav 74, ff. 4v-5r  Noc

Even if it had been, it is very unlikely the Dutch authorities would have agreed with its copying, as they later rejected the Serat Ménak as being too long and too expensive to transcribe, with the cost of all the copies originally requested by the prince amounting to some 358 Indies guilders (₤4000 sterling in present-day [2022] money], equivalent to a month’s salary for a middle-rank Dutch colonial officer (chief secretary) at the time (Houben:92). Pleading poverty, the Dutch government decided to drop the transcription of one of the texts. Their choice fell on the Serat Ménak not only because of its length and expense of transcription, but also because its subject matter—The Prophet’s life— was just too sensitive. After all, why should the government help the exiled prince to bring up his children as devout Muslims?

To conclude, the British Library Serat Ménak copy has a special claim to fame: not only is it the world’s longest single-volume Javanese manuscript, but it was also likely one of the key texts in the upbringing of Indonesia’s foremost national hero (pahlawan nasional) by his Sufi Muslim great-grandmother. It can thus be set in the context of the other Javanese-Islamic texts studied – or read to – Dipanagara, including edifying tales on kingship and statecraft adopted from Persian and Arabic classics, such as the Fatāh al-Muluk (“Victory of Kings”), the Hakik al-Modin and the Nasīhat al-Muluk (Moral lessons for kings), as well and modern Javanese versions of the Old Javanese classics such as the Serat Rama, Bhoma Kāwya, Arjuna Wijaya and Arjuna Wiwāha (Carey 2008: 104-5).

Add_12309_f1494r-crop
Canto marker in Ménak Amir Hamza. British Library, Add 12309, f. 1494r  Noc

Peter Carey Ccownwork

Peter Carey is Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College, Oxford and Adjunct (Visiting) Professor of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia (2013 to present). His latest books (with Farish Noor) are Racial Difference and the Colonial Wars of 19th Century Southeast Asia (AUP, 2021) and Ras, Kuasa dan Kekerasan Kolonial di Hindia Belanda, 1808-1830 (KPG, 2022).

Bibliography

Carey, Peter 2008, The Power of Prophecy: Prince Dipanagara and the End of an Old Order in Java, 1785-1855. Leiden: KITLV Press. [Verhandelingen 149.]
_________ 2019, Kuasa Ramalan: Pangeran Diponegoro dan Akhir Tatanan Lama di Jawa, 1785-1855. Jakarta: Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia.
Fathurahman, Oman 2016, Shattāriyah Silsilah in Aceh, Java and the Lanao Area of Mindanao. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
Houben, Vincent 1992, Kraton and Kumpeni; Surakarta and Yogyakarta 1830-1870. Leiden: KITLV Press. [Verhandelingen 164.]
Ricklefs, M.C. and P. Voorhoeve 1977, Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain: A Catalogue of Manuscripts in Indonesian Languages in British Public Collections. London: Oxford University Press.

The power of prophesy   Kuasa Ramalan 2019
(Left) Carey 2008, and (right) the Indonesian translation, Carey 2019.

 

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