Asian and African studies blog

6 posts categorized "Singapore"

18 October 2021

Who reads digitised Malay manuscripts?

The British Library holds a small but important collection of about 120 manuscripts written in the Malay language and the Jawi (Arabic) script, originating from all over maritime Southeast Asia. These Malay manuscripts have always – in theory – been accessible publicly in the reading rooms initially of the British Museum and the India Office Library, and latterly in the British Library, but in practice access was restricted to those who could afford to travel the long distance to London. Microfilm was the standard reprographic medium at this time, which could at least enable manuscripts to be shared, but only the most dedicated philological scholars were able to tackle the cumbersome microfilm readers. In the 21st century, digitisation has been a game changer: now anyone, anywhere, can read a centuries-old Malay manuscript, on a computer at home, or on their smartphone while waiting for a bus.

Through the generous support of William and Judith Bollinger, over a two-year period from 2013 to 2015 the British Library was able to digitise its complete collection of about 120 Malay manuscripts in a collaborative project with the National Library Board of Singapore. The digitised manuscripts can now be accessed online, both through the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts portal and on the National Library of Singapore’s BookSG site. A full list of the 120 digitised manuscripts can be found here.  Many of these Malay manuscripts were displayed in the National Library of Singapore’s exhibition Tales of the Malay World in 2017, and in the accompanying book edited by curator Tan Huism, which featured 14 manuscripts from the British Library.   

Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, ‘The Story of the Prophet Joseph’, copied in Perlis in 1802 by Muhammad Lebai-Mss_malay_d_4-ff.3v-4r
Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, ‘The Story of the Prophet Joseph’, copied in Perlis in 1802 by Muhammad Lebai. British Library, MSS Malay D.4, ff. 3v-4r

However, in the crowded digital universe, it was also important to find effective ways of bringing this valuable resource to the attention of the audiences who would most appreciate it, in the Malay world of Southeast Asia. Fuelled by a conviction that all manuscripts have a unique story to tell, each Malay manuscript was given its Warholian '15 minutes of fame' through posts on the British Library’s Asian and African blog. The blog posts, which were further promoted through social media such as Facebook, gained a faithful audience, and in 2020 Malaysia and Indonesia were the two top countries for readers of the BL Asian and African blog after the UK, US and India.

The impact of the project may be judged by some of the varied and creative uses to which the digitised Malay manuscripts in the British Library have been put over the past few years, some of which are outline below. Or rather, these are the stories we know about, for the manuscripts are freely accessible online. Digitising a manuscript is like opening the door of a bird cage: once the bird flies off into the world, we do not know where it will alight.

Among the most traditional outcomes of the project are scholarly editions of Malay texts. The British Library collection is particularly rich in literary manuscripts, quite a few of which appear to be unique. Thus Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, 'The Story of the Serpent Nangkawang', only known from two British Library manuscripts – Add 12382 and MSS Malay A.1 – was published in 2019 by the Language and Literary Bureau of Malaysia (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka), edited by Fathenawan Wan Mohd. Noor.

A new romanised edition of the Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 2020  Hikayat Ular Nangkawang, first page of British Library manuscript MSS Malay A.1
(Left) A new romanised edition of the Hikayat Ular Nangkawang (Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 2019), based on (right) British Library manuscript MSS Malay A.1, f. 1v

The digitised manuscripts are regularly used all over the world for teaching and research.  At Goethe University, Frankfurt, Prof. Ulrich Kratz and his postgraduate class on Malay philology are currently working together to transliterate a unique manuscript of Hikayat Raja Dewa Maharupa, MSS Malay D.2.  Each year, Asep Yudha Wirajaya S.S., M.A., a lecturer at Universitas Sebelas Maret (UNS, University of the Eleventh of March) in Surakarta, Central Java, sets his philology students to work on a digitised Malay manuscript from the British Library, including those accessible through the Endangered Archives Programme. I frequently receive emails directly from Pak Asep’s students with queries: for example, in 2019, Muhammad Zulkham asked about watermarks, and Siti Nafi'ah Nur Halimah enquired how the shelfmark MSS Malay B.10 was assigned. It is rewarding to see tangible outcomes from these academic exercises, and the British Library manuscript, Hikayat Selindung Delima (MSS Malay C.6) – containing the rare prose (hikayat) version of a tale more commonly found in poetic (syair) form – was published in 2019 by the National Library of Indonesia, edited by Dita Eka Pratiwi with Asep Yudha Wirajaya.

FB-AsepYudha-18.12.19
Asep Yudha Wirajaya S.S., M.A. (centre) with his Malay philology class at Universitas Sebelas Maret, Surakarta, in December 2019.  Image source: Facebook page of Asep Yudah Wirajaya, 8.12.2019, reproduced with permission.

A new romanised edition of Hikayat Selindung Delima (Jakarta: National Library of Indonesia, 2019)  British Library manuscript MSS Malay C.6, showing the final page with the colophon and date
(Left) A new romanised edition of Hikayat Selindung Delima (Jakarta: National Library of Indonesia, 2019), based on the (right) British Library manuscript MSS Malay C.6, f. 65v , copied in Melaka in 1223 (1808), showing above the final page with the colophon and date.

Studies on British Library digitised Malay manuscripts are also recorded in academic journals.  In the National Library of Indonesia journal Jumantara, Nurhayati Primasari discusses a popular catechism by al-Samarqandi with Malay translation (MSS Malay C.7), copied in Batavia in the early 19th century (Jumantara 8(2), Aug. 2019), while in the same journal Hazmirullah published a farewell letter to Raffles from the Bupati of Cianjur in west Java (Add 45273, f. 36r), unusually written in romanised Malay (Jumantara 11(1), June 2020). 

Many of the Malay literary manuscripts in the British Library originate from the collection of John Leyden (1775-1811), who spent several months in Penang in 1806 in the house of Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781-1826). The Malay poem, Syair Jaran Tamasa (MSS Malay B.9), appears to have particularly caught Leyden’s attention, for in a notebook he had begun an English translation. In a blog post in 2016 I noted that this Malay poem, of  which no other manuscript is known, to that day remained unpublished. This ‘challenge’ was picked up by Dr Mulaika Hijjas at SOAS, who devised the innovative Jawi Transcription Project to crowd-source the romanised transliteration of this manuscript.

The Jawi Transcription Project, initiated by Dr Mulaika Hijjas of SOAS to romanise the Malay poem Syair Jaran Tamasa, British Library, MSS Malay B.9
The Jawi Transcription Project, initiated by Dr Mulaika Hijjas of SOAS to romanise the Malay poem Syair Jaran Tamasa, British Library, MSS Malay B.9.

The involvement of the Malaysian ‘indie’ publisher Fixi is particularly gratifying in extending the reach of Malay manuscripts beyond a traditional scholarly audience, and bringing alive these centuries-old tales for a modern audience. Two British Library Malay manuscripts have been published by Fixi in innovative formats, both transliterated by Arsyad Mokhtar. With its many fight sequences, Hikayat Raja Babi, ‘The Story of the Pig King’ (2015) - based on a manuscript written in Palembang in 1775 by a writer from Semarang, Usup Abdul Kadir, Add 12393 - has been designed to appeal to silat or kung fu martial arts afficianados, with comicbook manga-style illustrations by Arif Rafhan Othman. The same artist opted for a different approach in the Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, ‘Story of the Prophet Joseph’ (2018) - an edition of a  manuscript copied in Perlis in 1802, MSS Malay D.4 - which is a deluxe hardcover production on glossy paper with a sumptuous palette evoking the setting of the story in Pharaonic Egypt. Recently, the Hikayat Raja Babi has been reborn as a children’s book in English, The Malay tale of the Pig King (2020), retold by Heidi Shamsuddin with dreamy illustrations by Evi Shelvia.

Romanised edition of Hikayat Raja Babi (Kuala Lumpur: Fixi Retro, 2015)  The_malay_tale_of_the_pig_king_front-1597541540
(Left) Romanised edition of Hikayat Raja Babi (Kuala Lumpur: Fixi Retro, 2015).  British Library, YP.2016.a.2565. (Right) A children’s version in English, The Malay tale of the Pig King (Kuala Lumpur: Matahari Books, an imprint of Fixi, 2020).  British Library (shelfmark pending).

Hk Nabi Yusuf stack
Hikayat Nabi Yusuf (Kuala Lumpur: Fixi Retro, 2018). British Library, YP.2019.a.2275.

It is a particular pleasure to see Malay manuscripts used as sources of artistic inspiration. One of the first artists to be inspired by the British Library corpus was Hafizan Halim, an acclaimed illuminator from Kedah, now with many royal Malaysian patrons. He was entranced by a beautiful golden letter from Temenggung Ibrahim of Johor to Emperor Napoleon III of France, written in Singapore in 1857 (Or 16126), the only known traditional Malay example of chrysography, writing in gold. Hafizan has copied and adapted the illuminated borders of this letter in many guises in his artworks, often as the setting for Surat Yasin of the Qur’an.

Malay letter from Temenggung Daing Ibrahim of Johor to Emperor Napoleon III of France, 1857, British Library Or 16126  golden frame around Surat Yasin drawn by Hafizan Halim of Kedah
(Left) Malay letter from Temenggung Daing Ibrahim of Johor to Emperor Napoleon III of France, 1857, British Library Or 16126, inspired the golden frame around Surat Yasin drawn by Hafizan Halim of Kedah (right).

Detail of Hafizan Halim’s drawing based on the illuminated headpiece from of the royal Johor letter of 1857, Or 16126.
Detail of Hafizan Halim’s drawing based on the illuminated headpiece from of the royal Johor letter of 1857, Or 16126

This same golden letter from Johor also provided the setting for the invitation to a illustrious  wedding held on the island of Pulau Penyengat in Riau on 6 September 2018, of Raja Sufriana - daughter of Raja Hamzah Yunus, an eminent aristocrat and cultural figure - and Aswandi Syahri, a local historian who was involved in the EAP153 project to digitise Riau manuscripts.  It was especially poignant to see how these beautiful royal Johor patterns and motifs, preserved in Or 16126, were revived to celebrate a marriage at the very centre of the historic Malay kingdom in which these art forms would have evolved.

FB-MalikHamzah-9.9.18#
Wedding invitation of Raja Sufriana and Aswandi Syahri, 6 September 2018.  Reproduced courtesy of Aswandi Syahri.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia

Further information:

Why we need to digitise our history, talk by Annabel Gallop at TEDxUbud, September 2014

 

03 May 2021

Bollinger Singapore digitisation project completed

In 2013, through the generous support of William and Judith Bollinger, the British Library embarked upon a five-year project, in collaboration with the National Library Board of Singapore, to digitise materials in the British Library of interest to Singapore. The project initially focussed on Malay manuscripts, early maps of Singapore, and archival papers of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who had founded a British trading settlement in Singapore in 1819. The project later also encompassed Bugis manuscripts, reflecting the cultural heritage of a distinctive community within the broader Malay population in Singapore, and the small collection of Qur’an manuscripts from Southeast Asia in the British Library. The digitised materials are being made accessible through the websites of both the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts and the National Library of Singapore's BookSG.

Malay manuscripts
The complete collection of Malay manuscripts in the British Library, comprising about 120 volumes and about 150 letters and documents in Malay, has now been fully digitised. The manuscripts date from the 17th to the late 19th centuries, and originate from all over Southeast Asia where Malay was the common language of trade, diplomacy and religious education. Highlights include the oldest known copy of the earliest Malay historical chronicle, Hikayat Raja Pasai (Or 14350), copied in Semarang in north Java in 1797, and two copies of the history of the great sultanate of Melaka, Sulalat al-Salatin or Sejarah Melayu, one copied in Singapore around the 1830s (Or 16214) and one in Melaka in 1873 (Or 14734). The collection is rich in literary works, both in prose and in poetic (syair) form, and also has a few finely illuminated manuscripts, including an exquisite copy of a ‘mirror for princes’ containing advice on good governance, the Taj al-Salatin or ‘Crown of Kings’ (Or 13295), commissioned in Penang in 1824 by Ralph Rice for his 'bibliomanist' brother, Rev. Rice of Brighton. While technically admirable, of greater cultural significance is a nicely decorated copy of the story of the Prophet Joseph, Hikayat Nabi Yusuf (MSS Malay D.4), copied in Perlis in 1802, as this is the only illuminated Malay manuscript known to identify the artist by name: Cik Mat Tok Muda, or, in more formal terms, Datuk Muda Encik Muhammad.  The Malay manuscripts can be accessed here and through BookSG.

Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, the Malay story of the Prophet Joseph, copied in Perlis, 1802.
Hikayat Nabi Yusuf, the Malay story of the Prophet Joseph, copied in Perlis, 1802. British Library, MSS Malay D.4, ff. 3v-4r. Noc

Many of the Malay letters in the British Library were written to Thomas Stamford Raffles, who spent nearly two decades in Southeast Asia in the service of the East India Company, initially in Penang and then as Lieutenant-Governor of Java (1811-1816) and of Bengkulu in Sumatra (1818-1824). The majority of the letters date from around 1811 when Raffles was based in Melaka making preparations for a British invasion of Java, as the Napoleonic wars in Europe spilled over into the Indian Ocean arena and Southeast Asia. Other letters were sent to Raffles at later dates, including a collection of formal farewell letters on his departure from Java in 1816.

Illuminated farewell letter in Malay from Sultan Cakra Adiningrat of Madura to T.S. Raffles on his departure from Java in 1816.
Illuminated farewell letter in Malay from Sultan Cakra Adiningrat of Madura to T.S. Raffles on his departure from Java in 1816. British Library, MSS Eur E378/7. Noc

Early maps of Singapore
Tom Harper, Lead Curator, Antiquarian Maps, describes this part of the project:
"Approximately 250 early maps and charts featuring Singapore have been digitised. Ranging in date from the late 15th to early 20th centuries, these were sourced from across the British Library’s collections including the India Office Map Collection and the Topographical Collection of George III. Of particular significance are the maps of Singapore Island and town drawn by the governor of Singapore William Farquhar a mere five years after the foundation of the British settlement in 1819. Other included maps illustrate the strong continuity and tradition of maritime charting of the Singapore strait from the chart drawn by the Frenchman Jean Rotz and presented to Henry VIII in 1542 (Royal MS 20 E IX), to British Admiralty charts of the straits surveyed and published three centuries later.  Finally, the hand-drawn atlas of 1700 by William Hack, formally owned by George III (Maps 7.TAB.125), containing 85 charts of the coasts between South Africa and Japan and prominently featuring the Singapore Strait and surrounding area, was digitised in its entirety for the first time." The map collection can be accessed here.

A chart of the coast of Asia, from Cochin China on the east, to Ormus on the west, with Sumatra, Java, and part of Borneo; drawn in 1578, by Joan Martines of Messina.
A chart of the coast of Asia, from Cochin China on the east, to Ormus on the west, with Sumatra, Java, and part of Borneo; drawn in 1578, by Joan Martines of Messina.  British Library, Harley MS 3450, f. 7r Noc

Papers of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles
Antonia Moon, Lead Curator, India Office Records (Post-1858), writes:
"27 volumes were digitised from the India Office Private Papers. These included 14 volumes of Raffles’s own correspondence, journals, notes and observations, which most interestingly reflect his administration of Java, his interest in the history and culture of the people, and his early explorations of Singapore. Also digitised was correspondence with Lord Minto, Governor General of Bengal, which contains Raffles’s narratives of the natural history and antiquities of South East Asia. Five items were digitised from the Raffles Family Papers, including the list of Raffles’s personal possessions lost on board the ship ‘Fame’. Copyright clearance was achieved on most of the material including, importantly, that created by Raffles."  The Raffles Papers can be accessed by searching for 'Mss Eur' on BookSG.

Statement of personal property of Sir Stamford Raffles lost on board the Fame, 1824.
Statement of personal property of Sir Stamford Raffles lost on board the Fame, 1824. British Library, Mss Eur D742/4, f. 6. Noc

Bugis manuscripts
Singapore is home to a substantial Malay community of Bugis/Makassar descent, who maintain a strong interest in the language, culture and traditions of their ancestral homeland in Sulawesi, Indonesia. The 32 Bugis and 2 Makasar manuscripts which have been digitised, listed here, were taken in 1814 during the British attack on the kingdom of Bone in south Sulawesi, and entered the possession of John Crawfurd, a senior East India Company official. The collection includes an important series of royal diaries kept by senior court officials, including some belonging to the former king of Bone himself, Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin (1775-1812).

Bugis diary of the Maqdanreng (most senior court official) of Bone, showing the entry for March 1729, with a detailed account of activities on 15th March written in a square spiral.
Bugis diary of the Maqdanreng (most senior court official) of Bone, showing the entry for March 1729, with a detailed account of activities on 15th March written in a square spiral. British Library, Or 8154, f. 77r. Noc

Southeast Asian Qur’an manuscripts
The Bollinger-Singapore project enabled the completion of the digitisation of the British Library’s small collection of eight Qur’an manuscripts from Southeast Asia, making publicly accessible a selection of Qur’ans representing three distinct regional traditions of the Malay world, from Aceh, Java and Patani on the East Coast of the Malay pensinsula.

Qur’an from Java, 18th-early 19th century, collected by John Crawfurd
Qur’an from Java, 18th-early 19th century, collected by John Crawfurd. British Library, Add 12312, ff. 1v-2r.  noc

The Bollinger-Singapore Digitisation Project was initiated when William and Judith Bollinger moved from London to Singapore in 2012, and extended their already generous patronage of the British Library to a project which they envisaged would enhance collaboration between the British Library and the national library of their new home.

Liz Jolly, Chief Librarian of the British Library, describes the impact of the project: “We are so grateful for this visionary support from William and Judith Bollinger, which has allowed the British Library to make freely and fully accessible a highly significant part of its collections relating to Singapore and the Malay world, benefitting not only the scholarly community but also reaching new audiences, especially in Southeast Asia."

Tan Huism, Director of the National Library of Singapore, expresses appreciation of the project and outlines some of the beneficial outcomes: “It takes a special person, in this a case a special couple, to support digitisation work. While digitisation is largely unseen work done by libraries, it is crucial work in enabling access and the sharing of collections with people all over the world when put online. The National Library of Singapore is grateful to Bill and Judy for their generous support in this project which has not only enabled the Singapore public to engage with these wonderful treasures held by The British Library digitally but the digitisation had also facilitated the loans of some of these materials for exhibitions in Singapore.”

This digitisation project was one of the first to make widely accessible such a range of primary source material for the study not only of the history of the Malay world, but also for its literature, art, calligraphy, book culture and writing traditions.

Further interest:

A video of Judy Bollinger speaking in 2018 at the National Library of Singapore.

Tales of the Malay world, an exhibition of Malay manuscripts at the National Library of Singapore in 2018.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia Ccownwork

22 January 2018

Tales of the Malay World

If you are in Singapore – or anywhere near – grab the opportunity to visit the exhibition Tales of the Malay World, at the National Library of Singapore, before it ends on 25 February 2018. The biggest international exhibition of Malay manuscripts ever held, the display of over a hundred Malay manuscripts and early printed books includes 16 manuscripts from the British Library, as well as 17 loans from the Royal Asiatic Society and 18 from Leiden University Library, which are being shown alongside treasures from the National Library of Singapore’s own collections.

Tales of the Malay World

This was not the only time that Malay books from the British Library have been exhibited in Southeast Asia. The first occasion was in Malaysia in 1990, when 22 early Malay printed books were loaned to the exhibition Early Printing in Malay (Pameran Percetakan Awal dalam Bahasa Melayu) held at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur, from 4-9 June 1990. The following year, 25 manuscript letters and books in Malay, Javanese, Balinese, Bugis and Batak travelled to Indonesia for the exhibition Golden Letters: Writing Traditions of Indonesia (Surat Emas: Budaya Tulis di Indonesia), held at the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta and at the Palace (Kraton) of Yogyakarta in September 1991. In October 1995 five Malay manuscripts were loaned to the International Exhibition of Malay Manuscripts (Pameran Manuskrip Melayu Antarabangsa) at the National Library of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, including the beautifully illuminated Taj al-Salatin and the Hikayat Pelanduk Jenaka currently on display in Singapore. But apart from the two latter books, for the 14 other Malay manuscripts from the British Library featured in Tales of the Malay World, it is the first time that they have travelled back to the ‘lands below the winds’ since sailing westwards in the 19th century.

As suggested by the title, the exhibition celebrates the rich seam of Malay literature, and in the judicious hands of curator Tan Huism, deftly draws out some interesting threads. Accorded its own showcase at the very start of the exhibition is the British Library manuscript of the Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah. This work occupies a seminal position in the Malay literary imagination, as it is cited in the Sejarah Melayu as the story for which the warriors of Melaka clamoured to be recited to give them strength and courage, the night before the fateful final attack by the Portuguese in 1511.

IMG_0007
Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah, on display in the exhibition 'Tales of the Malay World'. British Library, MSS Malay B.6, ff. 3v-4r  noc

The exhibition includes many other Malay literary treasures from the British Library, including a tale of the Javanese culture-hero Prince Panji (Hikayat Carang Kulina) and the cycle of tales told by the wise parrot to detain his mistress from keeping her rendezvous with her lover (Hikayat Bayan Budiman). Yet some British Library manuscripts inevitably paled in comparison with other exhibits - our nicely-written copy of Sejarah Melayu, copied in Melaka in 1873, could not hope to attract as much attention as the Royal Asiatic Society's iconic manuscript Raffles Malay 18 of the same work, which though only copied in Java around 1814 preserves the text of the oldest known version of the work dated 1612.  Our copy of the Hikayat Hang Tuah, dating from ca. 1810, which I believe has particular value in that it is said to be copied from a manuscript belonging to the Sultan of Kedah, is much less well-known than the oldest known manuscript of the work, dated 1758, which had travelled from Leiden (Cod.Or.1762).

In some cases the exhibition enabled the material aspects of manuscripts to come to the fore. The British Library manuscript of episodes from the Mahabharata, Hikayat Perang Pandawa Jaya, copied by Muhammad Kasim in 1804 probably in Penang or Kedah, has attractive double decorated frames. However, arguably a much more important and rarer feature of this manuscript is its original binding (carefully conserved before travelling to Singapore), comprising a printed Indian cotton outer cover over an inner plaited palm lining, which was placed on display next to the book itself.

MSS Malay B.12.jpg
Hikayat Perang Pandawa Jaya, 1804. British Library, MSS Malay B.12, ff. 1v-2r  noc

Mss_malay_b_12_fblefr
Hikayat Perang Pandawa Jaya, Indian cloth cover (photograph taken before conservation). British Library, MSS Malay B.12, cloth cover.  noc

 Mss_malay_b_12_fblefv
Hikayat Perang Pandawa Jaya, inner lining made of plaited palm, to which the cloth cover has been stitched (photograph taken before conservation). British Library, MSS Malay B.12, inner palm cover  noc

As well as the manuscripts and early printed books on display, clips of old Malay films based on literary classics such as Tun Fatimah (1962) and Hang Jebat (1961) were shown during the exhibition, attracting a lot of nostalgic interest. There was also a programme of talks, and workshops on reading Jawi script. The atmospheric installation - expertly overseen by project manager Alvin Koh - with its attractive graphic panels and jewel-coloured walls, greatly enhanced the evocative beauty of the exhibits.

Given below is a full list of Malay manuscripts from the British Library loaned to the exhibition ‘Tales of the Malay World’, National Library of Singapore, 18 August 2017 – 25 February 2018. All the manuscripts have been fully digitised and can be read on the Digitised Manuscripts site by following the hyperlinks:
1. MSS Malay B.2, Hikayat Pelanduk Jenaka
2. MSS Malay B.6, Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah
3. MSS Malay B.7, Hikayat Bayan Budiman
4. MSS Malay B.12, Hikayat Perang Pandawa Jaya
5. MSS Malay D.3, Hikayat Parang Puting
6. MSS Malay D.4, Hikayat Nabi Yusuf
7. Add 12379, Hikayat Isma Yatim
8. Add 12383, Hikayat Carang Kulina
9. Add 12384, Hikayat Hang Tuah
10. Add 12386, Hikayat Perintah Negeri Benggala
11. Add 12393, Hikayat Raja Babi
12. Add 12394, Syair Sultan Maulana
13. Add 12397, Undang-Undang Melaka
14. Or 13295, Taj al-Salatin
15. Or 14734, Sejarah Melayu
16. Mss Eur.D.742/1, f 33a, Letter from Sultan Syarif Kasim of Pontianak to T.S. Raffles, 1811

Following the opening of the exhibition, on 18 August 2018 I gave a talk at the National Library of Singapore on 'Art and Artists in Malay manuscript books', excerpts of which can be watched here:

Annabel Teh Gallop
Lead Curator, Southeast Asia

 ccownwork

14 August 2015

Paintings of birds from the collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles

The name of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781—1826) is best known today for his role in the founding of Singapore, and by a hotel there that bears only a nominal connection with him. By profession a colonial administrator, by inclination he was a passionate naturalist with broad interests in the humanities that first revealed themselves in his administration of Java (1811—15).

Portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles. British Library, Raffles MSS Eur D.742.14.6.8

Portrait of Sir Stamford Raffles. British Library, Raffles MSS Eur D.742.14.6.8  noc

In the East India Company he was a somewhat controversial figure, resulting in his being posted to the backwater of Fort Marlborough on the deeply unhealthy west coast of Sumatra (1818—24); here he indulged his hobbies, making substantial collections of naturalia and commissioning Chinese and French artists to illustrate the more spectacular of his finds. Tragically his huge collection was destroyed when packed up on the ship Fame, which in 1824 was to take him and his wife back to England to rejoin their single surviving daughter (in Sumatra Raffles had lost two naturalists and three of his children to fever!)

'Loss of the Fame, East Indiaman'. Engraved by T. Brown.  Published in Stationers Almanack for 1825. British Library, P411.
'Loss of the Fame, East Indiaman'. Engraved by T. Brown.  Published in Stationers Almanack for 1825. British Library, P411.  noc

In the eight weeks until the next ship sailed, he commissioned the artists to remake 44 bird drawings, seven of animals and 27 of plants. These drawings (along with some from his first Oriental period) were preserved by the Raffles family until his indirect descendants, the Drake family, deposited them on permanent loan to the British Library in 1969. In 2007  the collection was purchased for the nation, at which point a significant proportion of them was exhibited in the Central Library, Liverpool and at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The opportunity has now arisen to present a changing selection of these spectacular works in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery, starting with three of the bird paintings – the work of a little-known French artist ‘J. Briois’, who was possibly recruited by Raffles in Calcutta. The following three studies are currently on view. 

Nicobar pigeon, Sumatra, Indonesia, around 1824. Attributed to J. Brios, c. 1824. Watercolour, bodycolour, pencil, gold and silver leaf and gum arabic on paper. British Library, NHD 47/38.
Nicobar pigeon, Sumatra, Indonesia, around 1824. Attributed to J. Brios, c. 1824. Watercolour, bodycolour, pencil, gold and silver leaf and gum arabic on paper. British Library, NHD 47/38.  noc

Female crested fireback,Sumatra, Indonesia, around 1824. Attributed to J. Brios, c. 1824. Watercolour, bodycolour, pencil, gold and silver leaf and gum arabic on paper. British Library, NHD 47/42.
Female crested fireback,Sumatra, Indonesia, around 1824. Attributed to J. Brios, c. 1824. Watercolour, bodycolour, pencil, gold and silver leaf and gum arabic on paper. British Library, NHD 47/42.  noc

Crested fireback, Sumatra, Indonesia, around 1824. Attributed to J. Brios, c. 1824. Watercolour, bodycolour, pencil, gold and silver leaf and gum arabic on paper. British Library, NHD 47/43.
Crested fireback, Sumatra, Indonesia, around 1824. Attributed to J. Brios, c. 1824. Watercolour, bodycolour, pencil, gold and silver leaf and gum arabic on paper. British Library, NHD 47/43.  noc

The  Raffles Family Collection was purchased through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, Friends of the British Library, Friends of the National Libraries, and John Koh of Singapore.  The BL Shop has a selection of fine art prints, postcards and publications on the Raffles Collection; you can have your own print of the Crested Fireback

 

Further reading:

Memoir of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles

H.J. Noltie, Raffles’ Ark Redrawn: Natural History Drawings from the Collection of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.  London: the British Library and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, in association with Bernard Quaritch, 2009.

 

Henry Noltie, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh  ccownwork

 

01 September 2014

A new catalogue of Malay and Indonesian manuscripts in British collections

British libraries and museums hold some of the oldest and most important manuscripts in Malay and other Indonesian languages in the world. Although small by comparison with manuscript holdings in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Netherlands, British collections are especially notable for their antiquity and, in some cases, contain unique copies of important texts.  

New Edition of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain (Jakarta, 2014), the front cover design based on the wadana (illuminated frame) from the Javanese manuscript Serat Jayalengkara Wulang shown below.
New Edition of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain (Jakarta, 2014), the front cover design based on the wadana (illuminated frame) from the Javanese manuscript Serat Jayalengkara Wulang shown below.

Serat Jayalengkara Wulang, Javanese manuscript copied at the court of Yogyakarta in 1803. One of the many Indonesian manuscripts described in Ricklefs and Voorhoeve (1977: 61), and which has just been digitised. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff.111v-112r.
Serat Jayalengkara Wulang, Javanese manuscript copied at the court of Yogyakarta in 1803. One of the many Indonesian manuscripts described in Ricklefs and Voorhoeve (1977: 61), and which has just been digitised. British Library, MSS Jav 24, ff.111v-112r.  noc

The publication in 1977 of Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections, by M.C. Ricklefs & P. Voorhoeve (Oxford University Press), was a landmark event. Merle Ricklefs, whose main interest was in Javanese, was at the time Lecturer in the History of Southeast Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Petrus Voorhoeve (1899-1995) was formerly Keeper of Oriental Manuscripts at Leiden University Library, and a great expert on the languages of Sumatra – ranging from Acehnese and the various Batak dialects in the north to Lampung and Rejang in the south – as well as on Malay and Arabic. The catalogue listed over 1,200 manuscripts in the indigenous languages of Indonesia (except Papua), Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines, including those in Cham and Malagasy, found in British public collections. Catalogue entries included names of authors, scribes, owners and collectors, dates and places of writing, watermarks and paper. The 1977 volume was soon followed by an Addenda et corrigenda, published in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1982, listing a further 92 manuscripts.

When I joined the British Library in 1986, I very soon became aware of how difficult my task as Curator for Maritime Southeast Asia would have been without the helping hand of ‘Ricklefs & Voorhoeve’.  As the indispensible guide to the British Library’s own collection of nearly five hundred manuscripts in Malay, Javanese, Balinese, Batak, Bugis, Makasarese, Old Javanese, I found myself consulting the book on a daily basis in order to answer enquiries about the British Library collections, and to select and describe manuscripts for exhibition, and, more recently, for digitisation.

Front cover of Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977).
Front cover of Ricklefs & Voorhoeve (1977).

While ‘Ricklefs & Voorhoeve’ continued to be of enormous value to scholars of the languages, literatures, cultures and history of maritime Southeast Asia, it became increasingly difficult to find a copy in bookshops. And so in March 2013, Arlo Griffiths, director of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient in Jakarta, agreed to republish the catalogue in the EFEO’s valuable series Naskah dan Dokumen Nusantara (Manuscripts and documents from maritime Southeast Asia). The New Edition, which was published in Jakarta last month by EFEO in collaboration with Yayasan Pustaka Obor Indonesia, and with the support of the National Library of the Republic of Indonesia and the British Library, presents facsimiles of the original 1977 catalogue and the Addenda et corrigenda of 1982, together with a new supplement of 2014 describing 155 manuscripts not included in the previous editions.

The 155 additional manuscripts cover the following languages: Balinese (15), Batak (11), Bugis (2), Cham (1), Javanese (31), Maguindanao (1), Malay (86), Minangkabau (2), Old Javanese (5) and Tausug (1).  Nearly three-quarters of the total (114) are held in the British Library, and include both long-held but newly-documented manuscripts in Austronesian languages - such as the treaties in Tausug and Malay signed with the sultanate of Sulu in the 1760s, and vocabulary lists in various Indonesian languages collected by servants of the East India Company - and recent acquisitions, such as two Malay manuscripts of Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Hang Tuah transferred to the British Library from the University of Lampeter in Wales in 2003. Notable finds in other institutions include four Batak manuscripts acquired by the University of Hull from the estate of Dr Harry Parkin - author of Batak fruit of Hindu thought (1978) - and now held in the Hull History Centre; six Malay and one Balinese manuscript formerly belonging to Sir Harold Bailey and now in the Ancient India and Iran Trust in Cambridge; and a Malay manuscript of Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiah in the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds. Shown below are some of the newly-described manuscripts.

Illustrated Balinese manuscript on palm leaf with scenes from Ādiparwa, with the (unusual) use of red pigment in addition to black ink. Acquired in Bali in late 1938 by George and Ethel Fasal and donated by their daughter Jenny Fasal in 2010. British Library, Or.16802, f.4r (detail).

Illustrated Balinese manuscript on palm leaf with scenes from Ādiparwa, with the (unusual) use of red pigment in addition to black ink. Acquired in Bali in late 1938 by George and Ethel Fasal and donated by their daughter Jenny Fasal in 2010. British Library, Or.16802, f.4r (detail).  noc

Or.15026, ff.188v-189rPanji romance, Javanese manuscript with 39 coloured drawings, dated 7 May 1861. British Library, Or.15026, ff.188v-189r.

Panji romance, Javanese manuscript with 39 coloured drawings, dated 7 May 1861. British Library, Or.15026, ff.188v-189r.  noc

Genealogical chart in the form of a tree of the rulers of Java, from Adam to Pakuwana IV (of Surakarta) and Mataram IV (Hamengkubuwana IV of Yogykarta), in a Javanese manuscript, Papakem Pawukon, said to have come from Kyai Suradimanggala, Bupati sepuh of Demak, 1814/5. Formerly from the India Office Library collection. British Library, Or.15932, f.72r.

Genealogical chart in the form of a tree of the rulers of Java, from Adam to Pakuwana IV (of Surakarta) and Mataram IV (Hamengkubuwana IV of Yogykarta), in a Javanese manuscript, Papakem Pawukon, said to have come from Kyai Suradimanggala, Bupati sepuh of Demak, 1814/5. Formerly from the India Office Library collection. British Library, Or.15932, f.72r.  noc

Pustaha, Batak manuscript of Simalungun provenance, written on folded treebark, containing Poda ni suman-suman ma inon, instructions on the art of controlling forces by invoking the supernatural. British Library, Or.14808, f.a 27.

Pustaha, Batak manuscript of Simalungun provenance, written on folded treebark, containing Poda ni suman-suman ma inon, instructions on the art of controlling forces by invoking the supernatural. British Library, Or.14808, f.a 27.  noc

Malay manuscript of Sejarah Melayu, 'Malay Annals', with an ownership note of D.F.A. Hervey, 1 May 1876. Ancient India and Iran Trust, Malay 1.

Malay manuscript of Sejarah Melayu, 'Malay Annals', with an ownership note of D.F.A. Hervey, 1 May 1876. Ancient India and Iran Trust, Malay 1.  noc

References:

M.C.Ricklefs & P.Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: a catalogue of manuscripts in Indonesian languages in British public collections.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

M.C.Ricklefs & P.Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: addenda et corrigenda.  Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1982, Vol.XLV, Part 2, pp.300-322.

M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve† & Annabel Teh Gallop, 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, 2014.  (Naskah dan Dokumen Nusantara; XXXIII). ISBN France 978-2-85539-189-2.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead Curator, Southeast Asia

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29 January 2014

Rare Malay newspaper in the Wellcome Library

This blog is normally used to present items from the British Library’s collections, but today I would like to introduce a Malay gem from a neighbouring institution in London. The Wellcome Library, housed at 186 Euston Road, was founded on the collections of Sir Henry Wellcome (1853-1936).  Best known for its medical materials, the Wellcome also holds important Asian collections especially pertaining to medicine, divination and magic, including Malay, Batak and Javanese manuscripts (described in Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1982).   

Last week Wellcome Images was launched, making over 100,000 images freely available for download and reuse, in both low and high resolution.  A search on the keyword ‘Malay’ yielded a wealth of items including Malay manuscripts on magic, photographs of Sarawak and Penang, and watercolour drawings of Singapore and Johor.  But the most exciting item to me was a copy of an early Malay newspaper published in Singapore in 1877, no other copies of which are known to survive anywhere else in the world: Peridaran al-Shams wa-al-Qamar, ‘The revolution of the sun and the moon’.  

Peridaran al-Shams wa-al-Qamar, issue no.20, 30 August 1877.  Wellcome Library, Malay collection / Hervey collection / Pamphlets / 1.
Peridaran al-Shams wa-al-Qamar, issue no.20, 30 August 1877.  Wellcome Library, Malay collection / Hervey collection / Pamphlets / 1.  noc

The publication of the title was first noted in January 1880 by E.W. Birch, who mentioned Peridaran Shamsu Walkamer as one of two early Malay newspapers that had ‘after a short run, died out’.  When William Roff published his seminal guide to pre-war Malay periodicals in 1972, although no copies had been traced he guessed that the paper was hand-lithographed.  The existence of a copy of this rare newspaper in the D.F.A. Hervey collection in the Wellcome Library was first brought to light by Ellen, Hooker & Milner (1981: 92), but as their article was mainly about Hervey's Malay manuscripts, not many scholars of early Malay printing were alerted to this discovery.  In 1992, Ahmat Adam noted a contemporary reference in the Padang newspaper Bentara Melajoe, no.8, of 8 May 1887, which mentioned that Peridaran was a weekly, first published on 19 April 1877, and that the editor ‘had studied with Keasberry and Abdullah Munsyi’.  Benjamin Peach Keasberry (1811-1875) was an American missionary who had pioneered lithographic printing in Singapore, while Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi (1796-1854) - a renowned Malay writer, scribe and teacher, and author of the Hikayat Abdullah (1849) - had first learned typeset printing from missionaries in Melaka, and later worked with Keasberry at his lithographic press at Bukit Zion in Singapore.

The issue of Peridaran al-Shams wa-al-Qamar shown here is no.20, dated 30 August 1877, with its 8 pages numbered 160-167, and it is indeed lithographed.  From information on the front page, the newspaper appeared every Thursday, and cost 15 cents per issue.  The list of agents covers not only the states of the Malay peninsula but also further afield: Johor and Teluk Belanga, Melaka, Kelang – Selangor, Pulau Pinang, Betawi [present-day Jakarta], Padang, Pontianak and Sarawak.  As well as articles on Aceh and Cirebon and the Russo-Turkish war, of great interest is the main story on the front page: a portion of the serialised Pelayaran Ibrahim Munsyi, ‘The voyages of Ibrahim Munsyi’.  This account by Ibrahim, Dato’ Bentara Dalam of Johor (d. 1904) and son of Abdullah Munsyi, was previously believed to have been printed for the first time posthumously in 1919 (Sweeney & Phillips 1975: xxxii).   Hervey had studied Malay with Ibrahim, and this might be a reason why he kept this issue of the newspaper.

The first Malay newspaper to be published in Singapore was the typeset Jawi Peranakkan, launched in 1876.  However, the earliest surviving copies of this title, which are held in the British Library, only date from March 1881.  This leaves the Wellcome Library’s copy of Peridaran al-Shams wa-al-Qamar of August 1877 not just the only known issue of this title, but also as the oldest known surviving issue of a Malay newspaper from Singapore.

The oldest surviving issue of Jawi Peranakkan, vol.5, no.214, 28 March 1881.  British Library, OP 434.
The oldest surviving issue of Jawi Peranakkan, vol.5, no.214, 28 March 1881.  British Library, OP 434.  noc

Further reading

Ahmat Adam, Sejarah dan bibliografi akhbar dan majalah Melayu abad kesembilan belas.  Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 1992.
E.W. Birch, The vernacular press in the Straits. Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1879, (4):51-5.
R.F. Ellen, M.B. Hooker and A.C. Milner, The Hervey Malay Collections in the Wellcome Institute.  Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1981, 54 (1): 82-92.
M.C. Ricklefs & P. Voorhoeve, Indonesian manuscripts in Great Britain: addenda et corrigenda.  Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1982, Vol.XLV, Part 2, pp.300-322.
William R. Roff, Bibliography of Malay and Arabic periodicals published in the Straits Settlements and Peninsular Malay States, 1876-1941. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.
Amin Sweeney and Nigel Phillips. The voyages of Mohamed Ibrahim Munsyi.  Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Annabel Teh Gallop
Lead Curator, Southeast Asia

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