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Voices from a Lost World: A Rediscovered Collection of late XVIIth C. Mardijker poetry

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Recently the Portuguese printing house Imprensa Nacional in Lisbon has published an edition of a manuscript written in the Northern European kind of hand that was in use in the 17th and18th century, on the cover of which is written as title, Livro dos Pantuns.

This manuscript, which had been known to the famous 19th-century scholar of Creole Portuguese, Hugo Schuchard, has been recently rediscovered in the Lisbon Museu Nacional de Arqueologia by the linguist Prof. Ivo Castro and its librarian, Livia Coito in the collection of the Museum’s founder and polymath, José Leite de Vasconcellos.

One half of the manuscript’s poems consist, as its title indicates, of series of verses in a kind of pantun-form. These are worded in a now disappeared non-standard, Mardijker, variant of Malay, and are in this book presented in the Mardijker Malay reconstructed by Alexander Adelaar.

The manuscript’s other half consists of poems in the now defunct Creole-Portuguese that was spoken by the Mardijkers in Batavia until the end of the 19th century, and in Tugu it persisted into the early 20th. Of these poems, most consist of entreaties of the ardent but scorned lover addressed to his fair lady.

Whereas both in the Malay and the Creole Portuguese parts of the Livro such love poetry is the most conspicuous presence, the manuscript also contains some poems that are interesting because of their link to important events and persons in the VOC in late 17th-century history. This is, for example, the case with the poem about the presumed ‘rebellion’ against Batavia’s High Government in 1689 by Captain Jonker, the leader of the VOC’s Muslim Ambonese militia (Panton Joncker).

In view of the internal evidence from their contents, the pantuns and cantigas of the Livro must have been composed in the late 17th or early 18th century for and by the Mardijker communities of Batavia and/or Tugu.

In the new book the Livro’s poems have been provided with full transliterations and translations as well as introductions by Ivo Castro, Hugo Cardoso, Allan Baxter, Sander Adelaar and Gijs Koster. The book also contains a facsimile edition of the entire manuscript.

(Announcement by Gijs Koster)

Front cover of the recently published book Livro de Pantuns.

SEALG Annual Meeting and Panel at EuroSEAS 2022

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The annual meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group is taking place on 1 July 2022 at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and Campus Condorcet, Paris-Aubervilliers. It has been organised in cooperation with the 12th conference of the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) which will be held from 28 June to 01 July 2022 at the same venue.

On this occasion, a conference panel has been organised on behalf of SEALG with the title “Southeast Asia Libraries between Open Science, heritage collections and ethical standards of custodianship“, to be held in two sessions on 1 July 2022, prior to the annual meeting.

Paper presentations in the panel include:

  • Bridging the gap: Managing colonial collections, best practices and opportunities at the Asian Library, Leiden University Libraries (Marije Plomp, Leiden University)
  • From Malay to Malaysiana: Collection between Access and Preservation (Awang Azman Awang Pawi, University of Malaya and Haslan Tamjehi, University of Malaya)
  • Researchers archives online and Open Science diktats (Louise Pichard-Bertaux, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
  • The Irony of Abundance: Open Science, Copious Resources, and yet Low Research Output (Taufiq Hanafi, Leiden University)
  • Digital Collections of Shan Manuscripts: Access, Discovery and Evaluation (Jotika Khur-Yearn, School of Oriental and African Studies/University of London)
  • Searching for ‘the real’ Doctor William Bosch in the Dutch colonial collections (Rupalee Verma, Delhi University)
  • The Thai tradition of manuscript copying and related curatorial challenges (Jana Igunma, British Library)
  • Whose Manuscripts are These? (The Problems of Authorized Custodianships of the Exiled Clerics Manuscripts in the Nineteenth Century of Colonial Java) (Wahyu Widodo, Leiden University/Universitas Brawijaya)

Visitors are welcome to attend the panel. Registration is still possible through the EuroSEAS website which will give access to the entire programme of the conference, including all panels, roundtables, film screenings, book prize, special events etc . The annual meeting of SEALG is open to members only. For more information please get in touch via the SEALG website.

Virtual symposium on “Contested Collections: Grappling With History and Forging Pathways for Repatriation”

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A virtual symposium taking place 17-19 May 2022, organised by University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Library, aims to examine the complicated histories of cultural heritage collections, the expropriation of artifacts through colonialism and looting, the ethics of ownership and restitution, and decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums.

Repatriation has increasingly become an important topic in the museum, anthropology, and archaeology worlds, yet it is but a blip on the radar in library and archive circles. In conjunction with its return of Judaica items to the Jewish Museum in Prague (JMP), the UCLA Library’s International & Area Studies Department is hosting an online symposium featuring international experts, who will discuss the complicated histories of Western cultural heritage collections, the expropriation of artifacts through colonialism and war, the politics and ethics of ownership and restitution, and decolonization in libraries, archives, and museums. Using case studies as the bases for these discussions, the symposium is intended to bring greater awareness of these issues within libraries and archives. It will also be of interest to scholars in anthropology, archaeology, area studies, art history, history, Indigenous studies, information studies, law, and museum studies. 

The symposium will consist of four sessions spread out over three days. The first two panels will focus on the historical roots of the problem and the current calls for rectification. The latter two will focus on existing and potential pathways for repatriation. The detailed program can be viewed online.

Online registration is now open and it is required to receive the links to the sessions. More detailed information on the symposium, speakers, a list of resources and a digital exhibit can be found on the symposium webpage.

EuroSEAS Conference 2022: Call for papers

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Panel: Southeast Asia Libraries between Open Science, heritage collections and ethical standards of custodianship

The 12th conference of the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) will take place at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), on the new Campus Condorcet at Paris-Aubervilliers, France, from 28 June to 1 July 2022.

One of the panels is organised by Marije Plomp (Leiden University Libraries) and Jana Igunma (British Library) on behalf of the Southeast Asia Library Group, hoping to bring together librarians, archivists, area specialists, curators, and researchers. The title of the panel is “Southeast Asia Libraries between Open Science, heritage collections and ethical standards of custodianship”.

Panel Description
The foundations of European libraries holding Southeast Asian heritage collections are found mainly in the colonial enterprise. Both the collections and the accumulated knowledge about them bear the stamp of the values and beliefs of the European, nineteenth and early twentieth century collectors and scholars, whose assignments were inextricably bound up with the mission of the colonial state.
Post-colonial voices from both academia and the broader society have exposed how some of these values have continued to influence the way European libraries manage, describe and present heritage material. As a result, some of these institutions have begun to critically investigate the make-up and provenance of their colonial collections, as well as the manner in which the collections are being managed. These endeavors have given rise foremost to policies directed at bridging the physical distance between heritage collections and the various stakeholders in Southeast Asia. Most libraries have begun taking measures to facilitate access to the collections and academic output through, for example, digitization and digital collections, Open Access institutional repositories, research scholarships and facilities, and online catalogue tutorials, seminars and Open Access e-publications promoting the collections.

This panel wishes to further explore these and other practices that can be taken up by libraries aimed at reducing inequalities related to access to heritage collections and knowledge production, next to other topics related to ethical custodianship. Examples include supporting Open Science and Open Access; opening up the collections for everyone, not just academia; providing free access to primary and secondary sources, independently from language/script, place of publication, peer-review, and format of publication; improving discoverability of material in non-European languages; critical re-evaluation of the language, scripts and standards used for cataloguing; heritage collection crowd sourcing projects; (re)discovery of collections; provenance research and acquisition transparency in the context of data protection and privacy legislation; optimization of the digitization process and projects; ethical issues arising from digitization; opportunities of IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework); and digital and/or physical re-unification of archives and heritage collections that were split up historically. Papers can discuss theory, practices, cases or policy making.

Paper presentations on any of the aforementioned topics are invited from librarians, archivists, area specialists, curators, researchers and graduate students who are working with Southeast Asian collections. The deadline for paper proposals is 15 March 2022. If you wish to submit a paper proposal, please contact Marije Plomp or Jana Igunma before the deadline.

New issue of SEALG Newsletter

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The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter has now been published and can be viewed and downloaded freely from our homepage.

It contains the following articles:

  • Nicholas Martland, 1957-2021 (obituary by Pauline Khng)
  • The EFEO in Indochina: A History of Maps and Archives (by Magali Morel and Sovannara Mey)
  • Collecting Information and Artifacts about the South East Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games 1959 – 1979 (by Lim Peng Han)
  • Malay Manuscripts in Johor (by Annabel Teh Gallop)
  • Burmese dhammasattha manuscripts at the British Library (by Maria Kekki)
  • Illustrated Yogāvacara meditation manuals from Thailand and Laos (by Jana Igunma)
  • Celebrating Peter David Koret’s Intellectual Legacy at the University of California, Berkeley (by Virginia Shih)

Previous issues of the electronic newsletter which covers all aspects of Southeast Asian librarianship, curation, collection, custodianship and research can be accessed on the SEALG homepage.

Publication of ‘Materials for the Study of the Tripitaka’ (MST) Series reaches 20-year milestone

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The Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (FPL) celebrates 20 years of publishing its Materials for the Study of the Tripitaka (MST) Series, published jointly with the Lumbini International Research Institute (Lumbini, Nepal).

FPL is a non-sectarian organization that supports the preservation and study of the Buddhist literature of Southeast Asia. FPL aims to preserve Buddhist manuscripts and make them available through replication. Founder and curator Peter Skilling is one of the leading scholars of the Buddhist history and literature of South and Southeast Asia. He reports that, with the help of a grant from Khyentse Foundation, FPL was able to publish more volumes of the series Material for the Study of the Tripitaka this year. The seventeen titles of this series (listed below) that have appeared to date are original studies of Pali and other texts that have never been published before.

Materials for the Study of the Tripitaka (MST) Series. Image courtesy of Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (FPL)

Vol. 1 Peter Skilling and Santi Pakdeekham, Pāli Literature Transmitted in Central Siam, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2002.

Vol. 2 Peter Skilling and Santi Pakdeekham, Pāli and Vernacular Literature Transmitted in Central and Northern Siam, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2004. 

Vol. 3 Olivier de Bernon, Kun Sopheap, Leng Kok-An, Inventaire provisoire des manuscrits du Cambodge. Première partie, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2004.

Vol. 4 Santi Pakdeekham, Jambūpati-sūtra. A synoptic romanized edition, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2009. 

Vol. 5 Claudio Cicuzza (ed.), Peter Skilling. Buddhism and Buddhist Literature of South-East Asia. Selected Papers, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2009.

Vol. 6 Claudio Cicuzza, A Mirror Reflecting the Entire World. The Pāli Buddhapādamaṅgala or the “Auspicious Signs on the Buddha’s Feet”. Critical Edition with English Translation, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2011. 

Vol. 7 Petra Kieffer-Pülz, Sīmāvicāraṇa. A Pali letter on monastic boundaries by King Rāma IV of Siam, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2011.

Vol. 8 Santi Pakdeekham, Piṭakamālā. ‘The Garland of the Piṭaka’, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2011.

Vol. 9 Claudio Cicuzza (ed.), Peter Nyunt. A Descriptive Catalogue of Burmese Manuscripts in the Fragile Palm Leaves Collection. Volume 1, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2014.

Vol. 10 Claudio Cicuzza (ed.), Peter Nyunt. A Descriptive Catalogue of Burmese Manuscripts in the Fragile Palm Leaves Collection. Volume 2, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2014.

Vol. 11 Claudio Cicuzza (ed.), Peter Nyunt. A Descriptive Catalogue of Burmese Manuscripts in the Fragile Palm Leaves Collection. Volume 3, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2015.

Vol. 12 Daniel Stuart, The Stream of Deathless Nectar. The Short Recension of the Amatarasadhārā of the Elder Upatissa. A Commentary on the Chronicle of the Future Buddha Metteyya with a Historical Introduction, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2017.

Vol. 13 Santi Pakdeekham, Tāṃrā Traipiṭaka. A Handbook of the Tipiṭaka, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2017.

Vol. 14 Claudio Cicuzza (ed.), “Katā me rakkhā, katāme parittā”. Protecting the protective texts and manuscripts. Proceedings of the Second International Pali Studies Week. Paris 2016, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2016.

Vol. 15 Olivier de Bernon, Kun Sopheap, Leng Kok An, Inventaire provisoire des manuscrits du Cambodge (2ieme partie), Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2018.

Vol. 16 Santi Pakdeekham (ed.) History of Pali Scriptures: Sangitiyavamsa by Somdet Phra Phonnarat, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2021.

Vol. 17 Santi Pakdeekham (ed.), The Painted Catalogue of Pali Literature: Uposatha Hall of Wat Thong Nopphakhun, Bangkok, Materials for the Study of the Tripiṭaka, 2021.

Volumes 16 and 17 were published in 2021, the latter beautifully illustrated, to enrich our knowledge and understanding of the Pali literature of Thailand and the history of the Pali scriptures in general.

Volume 17 of the Materials for the Study of the Tripitaka (MST) Series, published in 2021. Image courtesy of Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (FPL)

The 20-year milestone is not an excuse to slow down FPL’s activities though. Santi Pakdeekham and Peter Skilling are currently working on a volume that contains the Pali texts of several historical works, or “biographies”, of important Buddha images. Another volume is being prepared by General Editor of the series, Claudio Cicuzza, which contains an edition of a Pali text called Vajirasarasangaha by Javier Schnake (Paris). Both volumes will contribute to our knowledge of the little-known Pali texts of Southeast Asia, and, like all previous volumes of the series, these will be valuable additions to research libraries and collections of Southeast Asian Buddhist material across the world.

EuroSEAS Conference 2022: Call for Panels

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The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) will hold its 12th conference at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), on the new Campus Condorcet, Paris-Aubervilliers, France, from 28 June to 1 July 2022.

EuroSEAS invites scholars and PhD students from all academic disciplines with an interest in Southeast Asia to submit panels that explore relevant research topics from an interdisciplinary perspective as well as discuss theoretical and methodological aspects of research generated in the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

Proposals are invited for classical panels, roundtable discussions, laboratories that would develop cross-disciplinary collaboration, and for screenings with academic discussion of documentaries or artistic movies on various topics from Southeast Asia. More experimental formats are also welcome.

The deadline for sending proposals for panels, roundtable discussions, laboratories, screenings with academic discussion or alternative formats (for example book forums) by email to euroseas@kitlv.nl is 3 December 2021. The selection committee preserve the right to advise on how to strengthen less clearly articulated proposals or on possible merges of similar panel proposals.

For more detailed information, please consult the EuroSEAS website or email your inquiry to euroseas@kitlv.nl.

NACIRA Virtual Conference 2021

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The annual conference of the National Committee for Information Resources on Asia (NACIRA), UK, is taking place virtually on 30 November 2021, 13:00-17:00. The conference theme is “Lessons and reflections: new ways of working in the pandemic era“.

Talks and paper presentations on the day include:

“Research Libraries and Public Engagement: A new future?” by Christopher Burgess, Head of Exhibitions and Public Programmes, Cambridge University Library

“Working in Pandemic Times: the Digital Scholarship Perspective” by Adi Keinan-Schoonbaert, Digital Curator, Asian and African Collections, British Library

“The Endangered Archives Programme – Responses to a Pandemic” by Sam van Schaik, Head of the Endangered Archives Programme, British Library

“TEA and TEI: How I survived Lockdown” by Alasdair Watson, Bahari Curator of Persian Collections, Bodleian Library

“Hebrew Manuscripts Exhibition” by Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections, British Library

NACIRA was established in March 2008, the direct successor to NCOLR (National Council on Orientalist Library Resources) which was itself a development from the U.K. Standing Conference of National and University Libraries Advisory Committee on Orientalist Materials (SCONUL ACOOM).

Its objectives are to provide a general forum for librarians, archivists and researchers involved in the collection, development and use of library resources and services for Asian and Middle Eastern studies; to promote and improve access to these resources; to liaise with and encourage co-operation between the various library groups concerned with particular regions of Asia; and to promote contacts with similar organisations outside the UK.

All members of Regional Library Groups reporting to NACIRA, including the Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG) have automatic membership. For more information and registration, please contact the NACIRA secretary via the group’s contacts page.

Two early 19th-century Malay documents

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Among the most important source of information on the workings of traditional Malay states are decrees and commands issued at various levels of the administration.  Unfortunately, compared to the thousands of Malay diplomatic and royal epistles found in archives today, very few official Malay documents are known to survive.  It is because of the rarity of such documents that two early 19th-century Malay documents from Cabau, Melaka have recently been published (with full transliterations and English translations), even though these are not known from original manuscripts, but only from transcriptions made by C.O. Blagden in 1894 or shortly thereafter. 

C.O. Blagden, the first lecturer in Malay at SOAS, University of London.  Source: Wikipedia.

Charles Otto Blagden (1864-1949) served in the civil service in the Straits Settlements from 1888 until 1897, when he returned to England.  When the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) was founded at London University in 1916, Blagden was appointed as the first Lecturer in Malay in 1917, and stayed at SOAS until his retirement in 1935.  Held in SOAS Library today are several volumes of manuscript notebooks by Blagden containing copies of Malay texts, and notes on Malay matters.  In one of these volumes (MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 31v-33r) are copies of two early 19th-century Malay documents, described by Blagden as follows:

Two chops belonging to the Penghulu of Chabau

These two chops were copied at the house of Penghulu Sulong Arin of Chabau, to whose ancestors they had been granted by the Dato’ Temenggong of Muar who at that period claimed and in fact exercised jurisdiction in a part of what is now Malacca Territory.  It will be noticed that the chops make no reference to any duties except that of keeping up the worship of the Mosque.

Today, Cabau is a small village in the state of Melaka, situated on the upper reaches of the Kesang river. In  the early 18th century, the valley between the Kesang and Muar rivers was granted by Sultan Abdul Jalil Syah of Johor (r. 1699-1717) to a Johor noble, whose heirs bore the title of Temenggung Paduka Tuan of Muar.  The two documents from Cabau discussed here date from 1820 and 1821/2, and were issued by the then Temenggungs of Muar to the Pengulu (headman) of Cabau, commanding him to ensure that communal prayers (sembahyang berjemaah) were held regularly (on Fridays and feast days), and stating the fines to be imposed for non-compliance. 

The two documents, written in Malay in Jawi script, have been copied very carefully by Blagden, who noted that he had preserved all anomalies in spelling that he encountered, and who also presented Romanised versions.  The first document is a copy of a sealed commission (cab) issued by Sayid Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to the Pengulu of Cabau, dated 3 Jumadilakhir 1235 (18 March 1820), instructing the Pengulu to uphold communal prayers.  The Temenggung warns that transgressors will be regarded as having perpetrated treason against God and the Prophet, while aristocrats (segala raja-raja Islam) are specifically warned that if they do not join in the communal prayers, then religious officials will not hold prayers on their death, or at the nuptials of their kin, or at births or family events.  The second document, which was clearly in poor condition when Blagden saw it, with losses of text, is a sealed commission (surat ecap) issued by Datuk Engku Alna, Temenggung Paduka Tuan of Muar to Datuk Dalim of Cabauh, 1237 (1821/2), with similar contents. 

On the right-hand page, a Jawi copy made by C.O. Blagden of the sealed commission (cab) issued by Sayid Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to the Pengulu of Cabau, 3 Jumadilakhir 1235 (18 March 1820), with Blagden’s Romanised transliteration on the left-hand page.  SOAS MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 31v-32r
Jawi copy made by C.O. Blagden of a document (surat ecap) issued by Datuk Engku Temenggung Paduka Tuan to Datuk Dalim of Cabauh, 1237 (1821/2), with a copy of the seal, and with a Romanised transliteration on the left-hand page.  SOAS MS 297495, Vol. II, ff. 32v-33r

Despite not being original manuscripts, the careful copies made by Blagden of two early 19th-century Malay documents from Cabau are able to yield considerable information on aspects of daily life in the region under the jurisdiction of the Temenggung of Muar.  These documents show that the enforcement of Islamic law was regarded as a core responsibility of the royal Malay courts and their provincial representatives, yet also serve to highlight areas of concern, such as a lax attitude to communal prayers in Muar-Kesang.  The Cabau documents thus play a valuable role in confirming the centrality of the regulating of Islamic practice in traditional Malay governance on the west coast of the peninsula, in a period just before the era of high colonialism.

References:

Annabel Teh Gallop, Two early 19th-century Malay documents from CabauPendeta, 2021, 12 (1): 22-34.

M.C.Ricklefs, P.Voorhoeve and 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. 

R.O. Winstedt, The Temenggongs of Muar.  Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1932, 10.1 (113): 30-31.

By Annabel Teh Gallop (British Library, London). Contact annabel.gallopATbl.uk

Chevening Fellowship “Manuscript Textiles in the Southeast Asian Collections” at the British Library

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Open for applications until 2 November 2021

During the curation process of a major exhibition on Buddhism at the British Library in London (October 2019 – February 2020), an unexpected number of manuscript textiles in the Southeast Asian Collections came to light. These are textiles that are used to wrap around manuscripts to protect them from damage and dust, but also textiles that contain information about manuscripts, bags for the storage and transport of palm leaf manuscripts and textiles attached to scrolled paper books. In most cases, there was no or only minimal documentation and cataloguing data available for these textiles. To improve the catalogue records and to research these rare manuscript textiles, a one-year Chevening Fellowship project will be starting in September 2022.

This Chevening Fellowship is open to candidates from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand who have a degree or work experience in a subject relevant to Southeast Asian textiles and/or Southeast Asian manuscript cultures. The project provides an opportunity to survey, assess and research these under-researched and often fragile Southeast Asian manuscript textiles, in order to provide comprehensive catalogue records and to help plan and inform future conservation work, as well as public engagement in form of a publication or curating a small public display.

More detailed information and direct access to the online application process can be found on the Chevening website.

Palm leaf manuscript, containing the Malalankara (Life of the Buddha), with a hand-woven inscribed binding tape and a wrapper made from imported printed cotton. Burma, 1883. © British Library, Or 16673

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