Henry D. Ginsburg was for many years curator for Thai collections at the British Library. Following his untimely death in 2007, the Trustees of his Estate endowed the post of ‘Henry Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian’ at the British Library, and also presented a further small legacy dedicated to enhancing access to the Southeast Asian collections. In line with Henry’s profound interest in manuscript art, seven of the most important illustrated and illuminated Southeast Asian manuscripts were selected for full digitisation, and these can now be seen on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts viewer:

Or.14844, Truyện Kiều, The tale of Kiều, by Nguyễn Du, in Sino-Vietnamese. Some pages have annotations by Paul Pelliot, a French Sinologist (1898-1945).

Or.13681, ‘Depictions of Royal donations’, containing scenes of seven merit-making ceremonies performed in the years B.E. 1215-1219 (1853-1857 A.D.). The donations were probably made by Queen Tharasein of Mindon (r.1853-1878), whose name appears on a paper label stuck on the back cover of the manuscript.
Or.16761, ‘Depictions of royal entertainments’, illustrated folding book with gilded covers, 19th century.
Or.14178, Ramayana, illustrated folding book (parabaik) with brief captions in Burmese, 19th century.

MSS.Jav.28, Serat Selarasa, finely illustrated Javanese manuscript, 1804.
MSS.Jav.89, Serat Damar Wulan, fully illustrated Javanese manuscript, 18th century, possibly from Cirebon.

The hazards of crossing a river: scene from Serat Damar Wulan, Javanese MS, 18th c.  MSS Jav 89, f.41v (det.)

The hazards of crossing a river: scene from Serat Damar Wulan, Javanese MS, 18th c. MSS Jav 89, f.41v (det.)

Or.15227, Qur’an, finely illuminated Arabic manuscript from Kelantan or Patani, 18th-19th century.


These manuscripts join a large number of illustrated Thai manuscripts and royal letters which have been digitised with the generous support of the Royal Thai Government in honour of the 80th Birthday Anniversary of H.M. the King of Thailand. These manuscripts can also be accessed on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts viewer: http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Default.aspx
[NB Please note that the BL Digitised Manuscripts viewer was originally developed for Greek manuscripts, which read from left to right. For books that are read from right to left – such as those written in Vietnamese and Arabic – the ‘open book’ display option is not suitable, and the ‘single’ view option should be selected.]

Over the next few weeks we will be writing about some of these newly digitised manuscripts in more detail.

Annabel Teh Gallop, Lead curator, Southeast Asian studies
Jana Igunma, Henry Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian
San San May, Curator for Burmese
Sud Chonchirdsin, Curator for Vietnamese