Malay world of maritime Southeast Asia is home to hundreds of different
linguistic and ethnic groups, but for centuries the port-kingdoms of the
coastal areas have been linked by the faith of Islam and by their shared use of
the Malay language for trade and diplomacy.
In all these regions - from Sumatra to the southern Philippines - there
is a manuscript culture which is recognizably Islamic, written on paper in the
Arabic script, with books laid out in typical Muslim fashion, with symmetrically
decorated double pages and triangular tapered colophons, often beautifully
illuminated. But while there is a
growing awareness of the importance of manuscripts as unique sources for many
aspects of Malay culture and society, scholarly attention remains focused on
their content rather than form, and the study of the art of the Malay book has
barely begun. There are many reasons
for this gap in our knowledge, of which the following can be highlighted.
European studies of Malay have always focused on language and literature: in
the 17th century to serve the needs of trade, diplomacy and evangelism, and by
the 19th century for administrative, bureaucratic and military purposes. In support of these preoccupations, Western
centres of Malay studies have traditionally concentrated on the study and
teaching of Malay philology and literature, right up to the present day. Accordingly, the presence of decorative
elements in Malay manuscripts is rarely remarked upon, even in manuscripts
and - crucially, for the purposes of the study of Malay manuscript art - almost
no published reproductions of decorated Malay manuscripts were available prior
to the past two decades. In fact, as
far as I am aware, hardly a single reference to the artistic aspects of Malay
manuscripts appears in early Western writings until a mention, in passing, in
Wilkinson's account of Malay letter-writing in 1907.3 This silence is matched on the Malay side:
there are no Malay manuscript treatises on book illustration,4
nor are there any known references in Malay texts to the decoration of
manuscript books or documents.
Furthermore, while Malay manuscripts form a clear subset of the larger
family of Islamic manuscripts, the art of the Malay book has been all but
totally neglected by scholars of Islamic art, due to a long-held perception of
Southeast Asia as a marginal region on the fringes of the Islamic world, a
mind-set which is only now beginning to change.
the study of the art of the Malay book - as is the case in all Islamic cultures
- must take as its point of departure the Holy Qur'an, as the supreme Book, the
manuscript on which the greatest energy, cost and effort would have been
expended in any Muslim court or society.
But Western collectors appear to have shown relatively little interest
in acquiring copies of the Qur'an from the Malay world, compared with their
well-documented interest in literary and historical manuscripts. Until very
recently, the British Library held only two Qur'ans from Southeast Asia, both
acquired by John Crawfurd during the British administration of Java
(1811-1815). Even when Qur'ans are held
in Western institutions, a further obstacle to their study in the context of
Malay manuscript art can be attributed to the way in which Western manuscript
collections have traditionally been organised and managed primarily on the
basis of language. Thus Qur'ans from
Southeast Asia will not be listed in catalogues of Indonesian or Malay manuscripts
but in catalogues of Arabic manuscripts, in which the few Southeast Asian
examples are almost invariably overshadowed by much larger numbers of older or
finer Kufic, Mamluk, Safavid, Ottoman or Mughal examples.5 In some cases, the Southeast Asian
provenance of a Qur'an may not even be apparent from an institutional catalogue
without further recourse to the biography of the donor or seller, or
examination of the manuscript itself.
third, and related, issue is the importance of conducting codicological studies
on a regional rather than strictly linguistic basis, and to this ends all the
manuscript products of a certain region should be considered together. Thus for a study of the art of the book in
Aceh one should look at Malay, Acehnese and Arabic manuscripts produced in
Aceh, or, for Madura, manuscripts from that island written on paper in Malay,
Arabic, Madurese and Javanese. However,
scholarly studies and reference tools are usually demarcated by language, and a
lot of effort is therefore required to bring together a suitable corpus of
works for examination.
this background of disinterest and neglect, in the past two decades certain
developments have greatly enhanced the climate for the study of Malay
manuscript art. Among the most
important was the establishment in 1985 of the Pusat Manuskrip Melayu (PMM) at
the Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia, whose vigorous and pro-active collecting
policies have led to the building up of a collection of over 2,400 Malay
manuscripts since its inception. Over
the same period of time, another Malaysian institution, the Muzium Islam - part
of the Pusat Islam, Bahagian Hal Ehwal Islam Malaysia, Jabatan Perdana Menteri
- has acquired a complementary collection of over a thousand Islamic
manuscripts written in Malay and/or Arabic, including, apparently, over 300
Qur'ans (Ali 1997:109 n.4). The same
market conditions which sustained these developments also led to the slow but
steady appearance on the international Islamic art market - and in the illustrated
catalogues of the major London auction houses - of a number of Southeast Asian
collecting activities have been accompanied by no less important efforts at
documenting Malay manuscripts, spearheaded again by the PMM, which has been in
the forefront of cataloguing not only manuscripts in its own collections but
also those of other institutions. The
past decade has also seen a surge in the publishing of catalogues and studies
of manuscripts. Thanks to wider public
interest in manuscript art and to technological advances which have greatly
reduced the cost of reproducing images, many of these recent publications are
lavishly illustrated, with a special emphasis on illuminated and decorated
result of these developments in the dual fields of collection development and
documentation, there are now a considerable number of published reproductions
of illuminated manuscripts from Southeast Asia, and easier access to
unpublished ones, so that it may at last be possible to begin to investigate
the art of the Malay book, or, at the very least, certain specific aspects of
term 'Malay book' is used in this study in a very broad sense, to refer to
manuscript volumes or codices from Southeast Asia written in the Arabic script,
usually in the Malay or Arabic language, but sometimes in other regional
languages such as Acehnese, Minangkabau, Javanese or the Tausug language of
Sulu. Manuscript books on paper from
Southeast Asia only survive from the late 16th century, and most of the
examples in public collections date from the 18th or 19th centuries. In the Malay book, illumination usually
takes the form of purely ornamental patterns using floral, foliate and
geometric motifs in a range of colours, sometimes with the addition of gold but
rarely with silver. The orthodox
Islamic prohibition of the depiction of living creatures in official or
religious contexts was taken to heart by Malay scribes, and - with only a few
late exceptions, particularly from Java - there is no evidence of a tradition
of figural illustration in Malay manuscript books.
subject of this study is all graphic devices which serve to adorn, emphasize or
beautify the text in Malay manuscript books, whether in the form of elaborate
illuminated frontispieces or chapter headings, or simple marginal ornaments or
text markers. 'Illumination', from the
Latin illuminare, 'to enlighten or
illuminate', refers to the embellishment of a manuscript with luminous colours,
especially gold and silver (Brown 1994:69).
In this study, the terms 'illumination' and 'decoration' will be used
more or less interchangeably, but with a slight difference of qualitative
emphasis: the term 'illumination' is preferred for more ornate examples of ornamentation,
while the scope of 'decoration' is broader, encompassing even the most basic
graphic embellishments of the text. At
present, there is no standard Malay vocabulary for the description of
decorative features in Malay manuscripts.
to the study of Islamic illumination that we naturally turn in search of a
framework for a study of Malay manuscript art, and it is somewhat surprising to
find that that the study of non-figural Islamic illumination is relatively
unevenly treated, with the attention of art historians traditionally being
focused on miniature painting. Indeed,
some of the problems mentioned above in connection with Malay manuscripts
appear to be common to the study of other illuminated Islamic manuscripts:
inadequate descriptions of ornamentation in manuscript catalogues; the paucity
of published reproductions; and the lack of a standard descriptive vocabulary,
whether in Arabic or in English, and of an internationally-recognized and
stable classification of decorative elements (Akimushkin & Ivanov 1979:35;
Polosin 1995:16). Nonetheless, there
are masterly studies of illumination in Persian manuscripts, surveying the
chronological development of types of illumination such as initial 'sun-burst'
roundels (shamsa), chapter headings (úunwÂn), full-page illumination of initial pages (sar-lawÐ), and borders and colophons
(Ettinghausen 1939; Akimushkin & Ivanov 1979). On the other hand, the subject matter of the text, whether
religious, literary or scientific, is the basis of a study into the function of
illumination in Islamic manuscripts (Waley 1997), while an 'archaeographic'
approach highlights the need for more scientific and exact methods of
describing illumination in Islamic manuscripts to enable the reconstruction of
the principles of graphic proportion on which the work of illuminators was
based (Polosin 1995)
is therefore a wide choice of approaches available for the study of the art of
the Malay book, such as a chronological study, starting with the oldest known
illuminated Malay manuscripts of the early 17th century and tracing
developments up to the early 20th century, or a series of regional studies,
based on manuscripts from particular states or produced by certain ethnic or
linguistic groups. Also important is the
identification of influences on Malay manuscript illumination, whether foreign
(Ottoman, Persian, Indian, Chinese or European) or intra-regional (Javanese,
Bugis, Batak, etc.), or from other artistic media, such as wood-carving,
textile design, metalwork, or architecture.
A study of manuscript art could also be based on genres of texts,
distinguishing between illumination found in Qur'ans and, say, other religious
texts, divination manuals or literary works such as hikayat and syair, whose
poetical structure makes clear demands on the graphic layout of the page. Alternatively an analysis could focus on the
types of illumination commonly found in Malay manuscripts: illuminated
double-page openings; colophons, whether triangular or round; chapter and section
headings; marginal ornaments; and text frames and borders. Another criterion which could usefully be
introduced is that of the nature of patronage, distinguishing between
manuscripts produced for traditional Malay rulers and those produced within the
urban kampung of Batavia for the
'court' of the Dutch Governor-General, and those created in more restricted
circumstances in villages and religious schools.
of these criteria would need to be considered for a full understanding of the
art of the Malay book, but at this stage of the investigation it would be a
mistake to take a normative approach and select a method - whether
chronological, regional, typological or generic - and attempt to apply this
rigorously to Malay manuscripts.
Rather, the material should be allowed to speak for itself, to see what
patterns emerge naturally from the evidence.
The current state of our knowledge of Malay manuscript art can be
likened to a jigsaw puzzle where each piece represents a single decorated
manuscript. In just one or two areas, a
considerable number of jigsaw pieces can be joined together to display a
relatively clear picture. More often,
only two or three pieces fit together, confirming the underlying presence of a
pattern the precise characteristics of which cannot yet be discerned, or a
small number of individual pieces may be grouped together on the basis of a
common colour or motif, but cannot yet be joined to reveal the image described
therein. Most commonly of all, there
are numerous individual pieces whose position in the general scheme of things
is still completely unclear.
of each of these scenarios will be explored below. Firstly. there is a
recognizable 'Acehnese style' of manuscript illumination, where more than
thirty manuscripts can be 'linked together' to outline a distinctive school of
manuscript art. Secondly, and much more
tenuously, there are several small groups of four or five manuscripts, two of
which hint at the existence of a distinctive style of illumination from the
east coast of the Malay peninsula, while another indicates that Chinese Islamic
manuscripts may have exerted some influence on Malay manuscript art. Thirdly, there is a manuscript that, until
recently was regarded as a single piece of the jigsaw that could not be fitted
in to the overall picture, until the discovery of another single piece. Put together, the two suggest that a
distinctive 'Penang style' of Malay manuscript illumination may have flourished
in the early 19th century.
An 'Acehnese style' of manuscript
[click to enlarge]
the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese in 1511, the kingdom of Aceh in north
Sumatra rose to become the most powerful Islamic state in Southeast Asia in the
16th and early 17th centuries, with a thriving literary culture. Aceh was still an independent state in the
late 19th century when the Dutch colonial government based in Java was
attempting to consolidate and expand its control over the whole Indonesian
archipelago. Aceh was attacked in 1873,
heralding a war which dragged on into the early 20th century. During this long conflict, large numbers of
manuscripts were captured from Aceh, ending up partly in Batavia, where they
are now held in the National Library of Indonesia in Jakarta, and in Holland,
primarily in Leiden University Library, the Koninklijk Instituut voor Tropen in
Amsterdam, and the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden. Even where no information is given in the
manuscripts themselves, their Acehnese provenance may be determined by their
known status as war booty, or they may have been donated by well-known figures
in the military campaign. The flip side
of this pillage is that there are probably more manuscripts from Aceh preserved
in public collections today than from almost any other Malay kingdom, and
despite the looting there are still substantial numbers of manuscripts in Aceh,
in the Museum Negeri Aceh, the Dayah Tanoh Abee, a traditional Islamic college,
and the Yayasan Ali Hasjmy in Banda Aceh.
From a survey of these manuscripts, which mostly date from the 19th
century, a distinct style of double-page illumination can be discerned. The two defining features of this style are:
The text block is surrounded by a decorated rectangular border, the
verticals of which are extended up and down to form two columns flanking the
text block on left and right. The tops
of these columns always slope inwards, usually in a wavy line.
On the outer three sides of the text block (i.e. top, bottom, and
facing the vertical edge of the page) are arches which may be semicircular,
triangular or ogival in shape. The
arches on the vertical sides closest to the foredge are nearly always flanked
by two 'wings', which may be either delicate tendrils or more substantial
In addition to these two major features,
certain other characteristic elements are very commonly found:
- delicate finials may project from the cusps of the arches
- the text block may be framed by a looped vine, which starts from each
of the four corner and rises to a loose intersection at the midpoint of each
- there may be a plaited border
- the colour palette is limited, generally comprising only red,
yellow/ochre and black, sometimes including brown and green, and occasionally
far, over thirty manuscripts have been identified which fit this picture,
mostly dating from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Over half the number are Qur'ans, and the others mostly contain
religious texts such as the popular Masail
al-muhtadi li ikhwan al-mubtadi and the Sirat
al-mustaqim of Nuruddin al-Raniri, one manuscript of which is said to have
been copied during the reign of Sultan Alauddin Muhammad Syah of Aceh
(r.1781-1795). Twenty four manuscripts
have definite or very likely Acehnese provenances, while the remainder have
been identified as Acehnese on the basis of their decorative features,
including a Qur'an said to be 'written by a Malay', reproduced in 1913 in the
first edition of the Encylopaedia of
Islam (Vol.1, Pl.X).
This is not to suggest that all
manuscripts from Aceh conform to a single decorative template, and there are
many other illuminated manuscripts from Aceh with different decorative
features, such as a boldly-decorated Qur'an now in the Muzium Negeri Pulau
Pinang, formerly owned by Teungku Nyak Abu bin Teungku Chik Ahmad of Aceh8. However, there are not such large numbers of
illuminated manuscripts in any other single style, and, conversely, no
manuscript which fits all the criteria above has been identified as coming from
anywhere else. So we can have some
confidence in identifying a specific school of Acehnese manuscript
illumination, dating at least from the late 18th century and lasting into the
late 19th century.
Illuminated manuscripts from the east coast
of the Malay peninsula
Acehnese style is characterized by its self-confidence and unswerving sense of
identity, a superb sense of architecture, and its striking and bold use of line
and colour. But for greater delicacy, a
more subtle palette and a more refined aesthetic sensibility, we have to turn
to the Malay peninsula. The numbers of
known illuminated manuscripts from this region are so much smaller that it is
more difficult to talk with conviction about identifiable styles of
illumination. Nonetheless, it seems
probable that one of the finest schools of Malay manuscript illumination
flourished on the east coast of the Malay peninsula, in the states of
Terengganu and Kelantan and the southern Thai region of Patani, and two
distinctive features have been noted which may be characteristic of this
first feature is a border hugging the outer edges of a double-page opening,
which is rounded at the corners and sometimes in its undulations mirrors and
complements the scalloped edges of the decorative frame around the text block. From this outer border projects a series of
finials that reach out to smaller rays protruding from the decorative frame of
the text block, evoking the relationship between stalagmites and
stalactites. This feature has been
noted in two Qur'an manuscripts which appear to be from Terengganu, one
apparently dated 1871 and now in the Muzium Islam (Manuskrip 1984:17; Tamadun
1997:206) and the second in the Muzium Budaya Melaka, and also in a guide to
reading the Qur'an (Manuskrip 1984:7).
second distinctive feature is a motif found usually in the arches that protrude
from the vertical sides of a double-page illuminated frame, but sometimes in
the top and bottom arches as well. The
arches are formed by two interlocking 'waves' which are then surmounted by a
small ogival dome. The seven
manuscripts noted with this feature include a prayerbook, Dala’il al-Khayrat by al-Jazuli, in the PMM (MS 1273); a Kitab Maulid in the Muzium Negeri
Kelantan with a Patani colophon (MZ(KN)146:86); a copy of the Hikayat Hang Tuah in the Muzium Negeri Terengganu
(H 83 10); and a very fine Qur'an acquired by the British Library in a London
auction in 1996 (Or.15227). Possibly
the oldest example is a superb volume containing the Bustan al-Salatin and Taj
al-Salatin, acquired in Pontianak in 1812 and now in the Royal Asiatic
Society (Raffles Malay 42)9. It should also be noted that so far, this
particular 'interlocking wave' motif has not been seen in published Qur'ans
from other parts of the Islamic world; nor is it known from manuscripts in
Indonesian or Dutch collections (which contain relatively few manuscripts from
the Malay peninsula).
indeed the motif does derive from the east coast of the peninsula, there is
another possible reason for the rarity of these manuscripts. In 1882, a devastating fire in Terengganu
destroyed the Sultan's official residence and 1,600 other houses, doubtless
including those of court officials and aristocrats who would naturally live
near the palace. This fire, which
'swept away all direct evidence of earlier Malay architecture in the Trengganu
capital' (Sheppard 1986:33) may also have wiped out, in a single blow, a large
proportion of the written heritage of the state. For we know from two surviving letters that the quality of
illumination of royal letters in Terengganu in the early 19th century was
perhaps higher than in any other Malay state10,
yet few examples of fine old manuscripts from Terengganu are known.
third issue is the question of the influence of Chinese Islamic manuscripts on
Malay manuscript illumination. Over the
past two decades, the international Islamic art market has witnessed the
emergence, for the first time, of substantial numbers of Chinese Qur'ans and
other Islamic manuscripts, dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries.11 This entire genre of Qur'ans was almost
unknown prior to the 1980s, save for two examples in the Chester Beatty Library
in Dublin (Arberry 1967:78, Pl.70). The
script and layout of these Qur'ans follows a standard format: double page
openings with decorated frames have three lines of text, while normal pages
have five lines. Many Chinese Qur'ans
were created in sets of 30 separately-bound juz'
(a thirtieth-part of the Qur'an; plural: ajzÂ), rather than as
a single volume. Two such Qur'an juz' are held in the Muzium Negeri Pulau
Pinang (PM/034/96 and PM/036/96), acquired in 1996 from a Muslim student from
China studying in Pahang;12
another example is held in the Muzium Islam Melaka; and the British Library has
also purchased a number of individual juz'
over the past decade.
decorative elements of these Chinese Qur'ans appear to shed some light on
certain otherwise inexplicable illuminated Malay manuscripts. This is particularly evident in the case of
some Malay manuscripts in the British Library from the John Leyden collection,
which were probably acquired either in Penang, where Leyden stayed with Raffles
from October 1805 until January 1806, or Melaka, where he stayed from April to
June 1811. Several of his manuscripts -
notably a copy of the Hikayat Muhammad
Hanafiah, copied by Muhammad Kasim in 1805 (BL MSS Malay B.6, reproduced in
Gallop & Arps 1991:71) - have on the opening pages decorative rectangular
borders filled with a lotus flower in profile and trailing vines similar to
those found in Chinese Qur'ans.
notable in Chinese Qur'ans is the incorporation of characteristically Chinese
architectural features in marginal ornamental devices, for example as sajdah markers indicating places for
prostration. These architectural devices
help to explain the decoration in an extraordinary manuscript in the National
Library of Indonesia (A.70, reproduced in Kumar & McGlynn 1996:47) of the Mawlid sharaf al-anam, 'The birth of the
most noble of men', a text on the Prophet Muhammad, which is adorned with
numerous architectural constructs whose Chinese origin can now be more clearly
therefore possible that certain elements in Malay manuscript illumination may
be traced back to Chinese roots, especially in areas with large Chinese
populations like Penang, Melaka, Palembang and the north-coast cities of
Java. Alternatively, in some cases the
shared ornamental vocabulary of some Malay and Chinese Islamic manuscripts may
reflect a common origin from Central Asian prototypes, disseminated east and
southeastwards over many centuries.
A possible 'Penang style' of Malay manuscript
In the first case discussed above, enough pieces of the jigsaw can be
fitted together to reveal strong evidence of an Acehnese school of Malay
manuscript art. In two other cases the
evidence is more scanty but suggests, firstly, an 'East Coast' style of
illumination, and secondly, the possible influence of Chinese Islamic manuscripts on certain illuminated Malay
manuscripts. In many, many more cases,
we only have individual manuscripts of great artistic interest but which cannot
yet be linked with others to tell a story.
One of the most impressive of such artistic icons is a superb
manuscript of the Taj al-Salatin,
'The Crown of Kings', in the British Library, which is perhaps one of the
finest examples of Malay manuscript illumination known. This Malay text, an ethical guide for
rulers, was composed in Aceh in 1603 by Bukhari al-Johori ('of Johor', or
al-Jauhari, 'the jeweller'), and the British Library manuscript was copied in
Penang by a scribe named Muhammad bin Umar Syaikh Farid on 4 Zulhijah 1239
(Saturday 31 July 1824 AD). Technically
almost flawless, it is nonetheless completely atypical for a Malay manuscript,
with countless features that set it apart from other illuminated Malay books.13 While the stunning frontispieces draws
heavily on the artistic vocabulary of Indo-Persian and Ottoman manuscripts of
the 17th and 18th centuries, these elements are combined in a Malay fashion that
distinguishes this book from manuscripts from either of the possible source
cultures. Particularly notable is the
setting of the lines of text on the first two pages within white cloudbands
edged with black ink against a ground of gold.
This is a very common illuminating device in Indian, Persian and Ottoman
manuscripts, but has not been encountered in any other Southeast Asian Islamic
manuscript. Also very unusual in the
Malay context is the predominance of dark and light blue used in conjunction with
gold and yellow; the combination of blue and gold is again characteristic of
Islamic manuscripts west of the Malay world but is rarely found in Malay
manuscripts, where the dominant colours are red and yellow. The manuscript is written on English paper
with a watermark date of 1820, which is burnished or polished: this is another
feature common to other Islamic manuscripts, but not Malay manuscripts.
The final pages containing the colophon, with the name of the scribe
and date of copying, are equally technically and artistically accomplished, but
rather different in stylistic tenor. No
gold is used here, and the graduated multi-lobed outer frame is not commonly
found in other Islamic manuscripts, where - as in the frontispiece - lobed
frames tend to conform to a rectangular pattern. The name of the scribe, and various pious benedictions in Arabic,
are given in three cartouches while the final one contains the date written in
Persian: this is yet another unusual feature for a Malay manuscript. The scribe was therefore familiar with
Malay, Arabic and Persian, and may have been of Indian descent.
No comparable Malay manuscript which could shed light or contextualise
any of these unusual features in the Penang Taj
al-Salatin was known, until the recent appearance of a Qur'an in the Muzium
Negeri Pulau Pinang. According to the
information label in the Museum, the original owner of this manuscript was
Encik Muhammad Noordin Merican, who in 1877 presented it to his son-in-law
Hasyim Yahya Merican, who in turn gave it to his daughter Che Ahmad Nachar (Ma'
Wan), who was the mother-in-law of Haji Fathil.
Although very different from the Taj
al-Salatin, this Qur'an too is copied with the greatest care and artistry,
with exquisite calligraphy and verse markers, and is itself in many ways an
equally unique and atypical illuminated manuscript. Like many Malay Qur'ans, there are three major illuminated
double-page openings, at the beginning of the Qur'an, in the middle and at the
end. But while most single-volume
Qur'ans just mark each 30th part of the text with a small decorative marginal
marker, this Penang Qur'an is unusual in marking each juz' with a full double-page decorated frame, every one of which is
unique, each based on a palette of red, yellow and green.
In the present context of our search for connections between
manuscripts, the most important feature is the shape of the outer lobed frame
of the double-page illuminations, which is remarkably similar in both the
Penang Qur'an and the Taj al-Salatin. Although this is perhaps the only
characteristic common to the two manuscripts, it is deemed distinctive enough
to be significant, and suggests that this shape of frame might be
characteristic of a Penang style of illumination in the 19th century. But
perhaps even more striking is the individuality, creativity and extraordinary
level of technical accomplishment of both manuscripts, and the eclectic array
of sources, which in each manuscript has been absorbed and then re-proferred in
a wholly individual form, entirely consistent with multi-lingual, multi-ethnic
and multi-cultural world of Penang in the 19th century.
1. I am extremely grateful to the Director of the Muzium Negeri Pulau Pinang (MNPP), Khoo Boo Chia, for enabling me to study the collection of Malay manuscripts belonging to the MNPP on 22.12.2000.
2. For example, one of the finest examples of Malay manuscript art - the double-page illuminated frontispiece of a copy of the Bustan al-Salatin (RAS Raffles Malay 42, ff.1v-2r, reproduced in Gallop & Arps 1991:68-69) - is not even mentioned in two catalogue descriptions of this manuscript (van der Tuuk 1866:14,28; Ricklefs & Voorhoeve 1977:138).
3. 'Besides being most carefully drafted, a Malay letter had to be made as handsome as possible. It was sometimes adorned with floral patterns such as we find one the illuminated pages of ancient books' (Wilkinson 1907:22).
4. Compared with, for example, the (admittedly unique) Javanese work on manuscript illumination compiled in Yogyakarta in 1860 (RAS Javanese 46, reproduced in Gallop & Arps 1991:94-95).
5. A notable exception is the collection of Qur'ans from Southeast Asia in Dutch institutions, which, by virtue of their large number, is presented as a cohesive whole in the most recent handlist of Arabic manuscripts in Dutch collections (Voorhoeve 1980:277-9).
6. Up to twenty Southeast Asian Islamic manuscripts have appeared in London auction rooms between 1985 and 2002 (based on a study of catalogues published by Christie's, Sotheby's and Bonhams).
7. See, for example, Gallop 1991; Gallop & Arps 1991; Ahmad 1992; Gallop 1994; Katalog 1995; Kumar & McGlynn 1996; Aksara 1997; Wieringa 1998.
8. 250 ff, ca. 30 x 22 cm; recently rebound by Arkib Negara Malaysia and heavily laminated. According to the information label in the manuscript, it was presented to the Museum by Puan Hajah Raguan bte Muhammad Haniff and her mother, Cik Fatimah bte Haji Hussain, of No.352 Dato Keramat Road, Penang; Cik Fatimah was a cousin of Teungku Nyak Abu.
9. The spatial gulf between Pontianak and the East Coast is not, in itself, an insuperable obstacle to this theory. Pontianak was an important staging post on the sea route between the east coast of the Malay peninsula and the islands of Riau-Johor. There were also very close links between the ruling families of Pontianak and Johor, and between those of Johor and Terengganu, and it is likely that important manuscripts travelled between the courts as gifts or were sent for moral edification.
10. Reproduced in Gallop 1994:39 and Wieringa 1998:388.
11. For an introduction to this group of Qur'ans, see Bayani 1999:12-21.
12. Pers.comm., Khoo Boo Chia, 22.12.2000.
13. A full description of the illumination is given in Gallop 1991:174.
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Akimushkin, Oleg F. and Ivanov, Anatol A. 1979. The art of illumination. In Basil Gray (ed) The arts of the book in central Asia, 14th-16th centuries, pp.35-57. London: Serindia.
Aksara. . Aksara. Jakarta: Yayasan Harapan Kita. (Indonesia indah; Buku ke-9).
Ali Wan Mamat, Wan Haji. 1997. Kegiatan pengumpulan manuskrip Melayu di Malaya pada abad ke-19 dan 20. Jurnal filologi Melayu, 6:101-112.
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