South-East Asian manuscripts


The South-East Asian collection encompasses around 4,100 manuscripts in the languages Batak, Burmese, Javanese and Balinese, Cambodian, Lampung, Laotian, Malayan, Thai, Vietnamese and the languages of the Philippines.

From point of view of quantity, the Indonesian languages (Javanese-Balinese) constitute the largest group (2,650), followed by Burmese (900) and Thai (500). The manuscripts consist of an unusual variety of materials: paper, palm leaves, dluwang, bamboo, wood, textile fabric, ivory, bone, stone, gold, silver and other metals.

Overview in the order of languages

Batak-manuscripts – Cod.Batak

The 25 Batak manuscripts (count of 2015) are predominantly folding books made of tree bark, containing spells from Sumatra.

Burmese manuscripts – Cod.birm.

Buddhist texts, predominantly in Pali, partly with comments in Burmese, and astrological writings (horoscopes, etc.), numerous forms of religious orders (kammavācās) of different designs, apotropaic and divinatory objects and a number of – frequently illuminated – manuscripts of the minority people of the Shan. Many of them are designed as folding books.

Mahesara bhesaya kyamh̩ (Buddhist mythology)  (Cod.birm. 286)

Javanese-Balinese manuscripts – Cod.jav.

The Javanese manuscripts, usually from northern Bali and mostly written on palm leaf, encompass texts of Hinduism, medicine, to a smaller extent also of Islamic or Buddhist content, as well as magical and literary texts. The collection also encompasses book cases and writing utensils.

Javanese manuscript  (Cod.jav. 2592)

Cambodian manuscripts – Cod.kamb.

11 Khmer palm-leaf manuscripts.

Lampung manuscripts – Cod.Lamp.

11 manuscripts, predominantly folding books made of tree bark, also coming from Sumatra.

Laotian manuscripts – Cod.laot.

36 Laotian manuscripts.

Malayan manuscripts – Cod.malai.

14 Malayan manuscripts written in Arabic script. In addition to religious texts, there are also texts of local historical interest, for example on the history and the law of the duchy of Kutai (Cod.malai. 7 and Cod.malai. 8), or a letter written in the 19th century by a Bornean chief to Emil, Count of Bentheim, who was serving the Dutch rulers (Cod.malai. 3).

Letter by a chief on the island of Borneo  (Cod.malai. 3)

Thai manuscripts – Cod.siam.

The Thai manuscripts, frequently in the form of folding books, include predominantly writings of Buddhism, among them kammavācās and jataka cycles (Brah-Malay manuscripts), medicine, astrology, cat typologies and literary texts. The collection also includes a number of optically very appealing book cases.

Among the already digitized items there are::
An illustrated folding book  (Cod.siam. 97)
Samut päp glong (Thai poetry)  (Cod.siam. 98)

Philippine manuscripts – Cod.philipp.

10 manuscripts with texts of the Mangyahan written on bamboo.

Manuscripts of Vietnamese provenance

The manuscripts of Vietnamese provenance do not constitute a linguistic classification group of their own. They bear the classification marks Cod.sin. 82 – 84 and 214 – 255.

Overview of digitized manuscripts  |  Further information