Artificial Collection of South-East Asian Manuscripts

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 50 U DSE
  • Dates of Creation
      18th cent.-1967
  • Language of Material
      Pali English Dutch Central Khmer Burmese Sinhala Balinese Javanese Chinese
  • Physical Description
      1 linear metre

Scope and Content

This is an artificial collection of items arranged by date of receipt. A large number arrived in the Brynmor Jones Library as part of the donated collections of Professor Mervyn Aubrey Jaspan, though others have been purchased from and donated by other sources.

The collection is rich in rare and unique examples of the South East Asian manuscripts in the archives. There are four Ka-Ga-Nga texts - a folk tale and a poem on bamboo tiles, a legal digest on rattan and a letter on a bamboo cylinder. There are three extremely rare examples of tagbanua script on a bamboo cylinder and two bamboo strip texts (from Palawan Island in the Philippines). There are examples of Cham script (from Cambodia) in the form of a divination on paper and a Cham translation of a Malay mystical text on paper. There is one Toba Batak bark book of magical spells from North Sumatra. All the above were collected by Professor Jaspan during his researches into the languages particularly of Indonesia.

This artificial collection contains other examples of South East Asian scripts acquired by separate donation and purchase. One is a traditional script from Pasemah, South Sumatra, another is a Sinhalese manuscript in wooden boards with palm leaf pages and another is a Javanese folk tale in romanised script. Other manuscripts of this kind include a bill in Khmer, a bill in Chinese, two Cambodian lontar tessera printed on bamboo, a single palm leaf, gilded and lacquered with Burmese square script, a single complete manuscript on palm leaves in Pali script of 128 folios, a Burmese astrological calendar on palm leaf, a Burmese grammar with pali script and a braided manuscript binder from Rangoon with Pali script. The latter was presented by Dr Geoffrey Marrison, former keeper in the Department of Oriental Books and Manuscripts at the British Library, who compiled catalogues of many of the South East Asian collections now held by Hull University Archives. A donation by Miss Helen Stephens is a palm leaf manuscript of 88 folios of astrological texts in Balinese.

The papers described above fall into a particular category of manuscript - they are all rare examples of several South East Asian scripts. The remainder of the manuscripts in DSE are rather more miscellaneous. There are three albums of photographs largely of Malaya in the first part of the twentieth century, there is a letter from the 1920s about conditions on a rubber estate, some printed addresses from the first part of the century about visits from various dignatories and a grant dated 1823 signed by Thomas Stamford Raffles. There is a diary of a civil servant in Penang, a folk tale from Rejang and a history of the Rejang kingdom of southern Sumatra, an anthology of Malaya, some education material for the Dutch Indies and a register of the Borneo Rubber Estate Owners.

Note: A high proportion of the manuscripts written in South East Asian scripts are undated or impossible to date without specialist knowledge, and have therefore been dated to between the 18th and 20th centuries, which is the rough timespan covered by the collection.

The collection includes material in languages including English, Pali, Dutch, Khmer, Burmese, Balinese, Chinese, Cambodian, Redjang, Javanese, Toba Batak, Tagbanua, Sinhalese, Cham, and Ka-ga-nga.

Administrative / Biographical History

The South East Asian collection in the Brynmor Jones Library began alongside the foundation at Hull University of a Centre for South East Asian Studies in the early 1960s. The Centre was administered by a Board of South East Asian Studies chaired by Professor J Wilson of the Economics Department and the acquisition of South-East Asian research materials was vastly helped by the involvement of the librarian, Philip Larkin.

In 1968 Mervyn Jaspan was appointed to the chair of South East Asian Sociology at Hull University. He became director of the Centre for South East Asian Studies and there was rapid expansion in the 1960s with the library spending several years acquiring material through purchase and active pursuit of donations, many of which came from Professor Jaspan himself. In the 1970s the main holdings were boosted by the deposit of around 1000 of Professor Jaspan's books and pamphlets about the sociology and anthropology of South East Asia as well as many original texts, especially from Sumatra. Archival papers began to be acquired, including those of Dr David Bassett, F W Dalley, Dr Harry Parkin and Dr Roy Bruton.

The library also purchased in 1971 the valuable collection of Professor C Hooykaas including books and periodicals and Indonesian novels. Concentration on Indonesian material has led to it comprising about 30% of the total South East Asian holdings of the library and includes a microfilm copy of the Sumatra factory records for 1685-1825. At Professor Jaspan's urging these materials were given separate cataloguing and physical space in the main library and archives and upon his death in 1975 his research materials and original manuscripts were also donated by Helen Jaspan. Many manuscripts from Jaspan's personal collection lie at the heart of this collection at DSE and his own interest in collecting examples of South East Asian scripts is reflected in the organization of the collection.

Conditions Governing Access

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Other Finding Aids

Entry in South East Asian studies subject guide

Custodial History

U DSE/43-46 were purchased by Rev. Dr. Harry Parkin, when working as a missionary in Batak regions of North Sumatra during the 1960s and 1970s. Purchased from his widow in 1991, with the aid of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund

Related Material

Papers of Professor Mervyn A Jaspan [U DJA]