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.

Digital Library of Malay Manuscripts


.MyManuskrip or Digital Library of Malay Manuscripts (Pustaka Digital Manuskrip Melayu) is an initiative from the Computing Department of Universiti Malaya which attempts to provide a collaborative digital library for Malay manuscripts harnessing the collaborative features of a union repository.

This digital library enables repositories within Malaysia and those outside to participate in building and offering manuscript content as well as outputs of manuscript research such as articles, reports, theses and links to relevant sites.

As such, repositories, cultural and national heritage centers, manuscript libraries and museums are encouraged to share and provide access to their manuscript contents and expert knowledge concerning Malay scriptorium.

Currently, the Digital Library of Malay Manuscripts provides full online access to more than 169 titles from four collections.

Malay Concordance Project

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The Malay Concordance Project  aims to help scholars to share resources for the study of classical Malay literature. Its main feature is a growing corpus of classical Malay texts, now comprising 165 texts and 5.8 million words, including 140,000 verses. These texts can be searched on-line to provide useful information about:
• contexts in which words are used,
• where particular terms or names occur in texts,
• patterns of morphology and syntax.

The site may be useful to those interested in Malay studies (including literature, history and culture) and linguistics.

Alphabetical as well as chronological lists of texts are available for searching. It is also possible to search for single words or complex conjunctions of words.

For copyright reasons, texts are not available for downloading as full texts. If search results from the MCP are being used in publications, the author must acknowledge the project in the footnotes and bibliography of their publication.

Exhibition: Silver from the Malay World

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15 July 2013 – 16 March 2014 V&A Museum London, UK

A special display at the V&A Museum in London explores the rich traditions of silver in the Malay world. Intricate ornament drawn from geometry and nature decorates dining vessels, clothing accessories and ceremonial regalia.

Silver from the Malay World features rarely seen collections acquired by three prominent British colonial administrators, who were stationed in British Malaya at the turn of the 20th century. The display also shows unique Malay metalwork: electrotype copies of the Perak royal regalia commissioned by the Museum in 1887.
More information at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/silver-from-the-malay-world/

An illuminated Malay Qur’an

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Annabel Teh Gallop, British Library

An exquisite illuminated Qur’an (Or.15227), dating from the 19th century and originating from the East Coast of the Malay peninsula, is the first Qur’an manuscript in the British Library to be digitised in its entirety. The manuscript was displayed in the British Library’s Sacred exhibition in 2007, and also featured in the accompanying book by Colin Baker on Qur’an manuscripts.

Beginning of Surat Yasin.  Or.15227, ff.222v-223r

Beginning of Surat Yasin. Or.15227, ff.222v-223r

On the basis of various codicological features the manuscript can be attributed to the cultural zone encompassing Kelantan, on the north-east coast of Malaysia, and Patani, in southern Thailand. In many ways the Qur’an is typical of manuscript production in Patani, with black endpapers of Thai manufacture, a cloth cover with elaborate stitched headbands, and illuminated frames with typical Patani features such as the ‘interlocking wave’ motif. And yet the exactitude of the drawing and colouring, and the repetition of ornamental details, is more typical of Qur’ans from the court of Terengganu, the richest centre for Islamic manuscript illumination in Southeast Asia. The hybrid character of this manuscript is emphasized by some other unusual features, including the presence of double decorated frames in the middle of the Book marking the start of Surat al-Kahf and Surat Yasin, instead of just at the beginning of Surat al-Isra’, as is usual in East Coast Qur’ans. Also of great interest are two unfinished monochrome frames in black ink (ff.303v-304r, 306v-307r); the zoom capabilities of the digitised manuscripts viewer can be used to follow how the artist worked.

Detail of an illuminated heading for Surat al-Mujadilah, with a marginal ornament marking the start of the 28th juz’, and a tiny red marginal inscription maqra’, indicating a portion selected for recitation.  Or.15227, f.273v (detail)

Detail of an illuminated heading for Surat al-Mujadilah, with a marginal ornament marking the start of the 28th juz’, and a tiny red marginal inscription maqra’, indicating a portion selected for recitation. Or.15227, f.273v (detail)

To see the fully digitised manuscript click here

[Please note that because the British Library digitised manuscripts viewer was developed for Greek manuscripts, the ‘open book’ viewing option is not suitable for right-to-left scripts such as Arabic, and therefore the ‘single’ view option should be used.]

The British Library Malay Qur’an joins other fully digitised Southeast Asian Qur’an manuscripts on the internet, including a superbly illuminated Acehnese Qur’an, Cod.Or.2064 in Leiden University Library, and four Javanese Qur’an manuscripts (Arabe 458, 582, 583 and 584) in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris.

Thus for the first time, it is possible to study online Qur’an manuscripts from three distinctive regional traditions in Southeast Asia.

Annabel Teh Gallop, ‘The spirit of Langkasuka? illuminated manuscripts from the East Coast of the Malay peninsula’, Indonesia and the Malay World, July 2005, 33 (96): 113-182, pp.146, 161.
Colin F. Baker, Qur’an manuscripts: calligraphy, illumination, design (London: The British Library, 2007), pp.92-93.