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South-East Asian Manuscripts

Date range: 16th-20th centuries

Medium: Manuscript

Number of items: 123 items.

123 items, on palm-leaf, copper plate, paper, bark, bamboo and bone. They were mainly acquired with the Crawford Collection in 1901. Ten languages are represented:


21 items on palm-leaf, copper plate and paper, partially catalogued, from the 18th and 19th centuries, including various Buddhist works and grammatical, magical and astrological treatises.

Burmese MSS 2, 4 & 17 are illustrated; MS 17 is a concertina-folded parabaik, which opens out to show an entire sequence of brilliantly painted images of Burmese court life.

Siamese (Thai)

15 items on palm leaf, dating between the 17th and 19th centuries, comprising eleven literary works, two concerning divination, one medical text and one concerning charms.

Most significant are Siamese MS 1, a 17th-century collection of invocations, sayings and Buddhist terms, and Siamese MS 2, a copy of a text of c.1340 AD dealing with The Three Worlds.


11 items on paper, from the 18th and 19th centuries, comprising:

  • Romantic tales;
  • Histories, including the Sejarah Melayu (Malay MS 1) and a history of Johore (Malay MS 10);
  • A law-book of Minangkabau (Malay MS 2);
  • A valuable text of Hikayat Banjar (Malay MS 4);
  • An 18th-century text of Hikayat Hang Tuah (Malay MS 11).


33 items, on tree-bark, bamboo, paper and bone, written in the dialects of Toba, South Toba, Mandailing and South Mandailing from the island of Sumatra. The texts are largely concerned with protective magic (pagar) and divination and were used by medicine-men (datu) in performing ceremonies.


Five items on paper and palm leaf, from the 18th and 19th centuries, comprising:

  • A collection of didactic poems (Buginese MS 1);
  • A letter of 1845 from Majoor Kalang Kangang to the Governor of Makayar (Buginese MS 2);
  • Parts of the Galigo epic (Buginese MSS 3, 3a);
  • A collection of Muslim prayers with a Buginese translation, c.1800 (Buginese MS 4).


Seven items on palm leaf, dating between the 16th century and the 19th, including Kutāra Mānawa, an Old Javanese law code (Balinese MS 2); a chronicle of the relation between the royal families of Bali and Lombok (Balinese MS 5); and medical and mystical works.


One item on paper, Tanda Angrek, 1848, acquired with the Crawford collection.


26 items on paper and palm leaf, dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, comprising histories, chronicles, legends, romances and stories, and religious, legal and poetical works.

Many items are illustrated, Javanese MSS 7 (Legends of Damar Wulan) and 16 (Radèn Pañji Semara Bangun) profusely.


Two items on paper and palm leaf: Bharata Yuddha, 18th century (Kawi MS 1), and a portion of the Kawi version of the Mahabharata, 19th century (Kawi MS 2).


Two items on paper: collections of four moral tales (Makasarese MS 1), and six miscellaneous historical treatises (Makasarese MS 2), both 19th century.

Further information:

  • All except Burmese and Siamese catalogued in M. C. Ricklefs and P. Voorhoeve, Indonesian Manuscripts in Great Britain: A Catalogue of Manuscripts in Indonesian Languages in British Public Collections(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).
  • P. Voorhoeve, 'Batak Bark Books', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 33 (1950-1), pp. 283-98.
  • Unpublished handlists by Henri-Léon Feer, H. Juynboll and others of Burmese, Siamese, Batak and Indonesian (Malay, Buginese, Balinese, Madurese, Javanese, Kawi and Makasarese) MSS in the Crawford collection available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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