Tag Archives: Manuscripts

Early Vocabularies of Malay – the British Library

“Among the Malay manuscripts in the British Library which have just been digitised are a number of vocabulary lists and dictionaries in Malay, compiled by visitors to the region as aids to learning the language. The study of Malay in Europe dates back to the …” (read more)

Source: The British Library’s Asia and Africa Blog Early vocabularies of Malay

Letter of Sultan Zayn al-‘Abidin to Afonso de Albuquerque, 1516

Love and affection from Sultan Zayn al-‘Abidin, ruler carrying out the commands of Almighty God, to the Governor-General at the fortress of the King of Portugal who binds all countries in his kingdom,

Be it known,

When we saw the letter from you which Giovanni brought we were filled with joy and happiness at the depth of the good relations between us. And when the Portuguese envoy arrived from Kollam or Malacca we welcomed him warmly and provided him with everything available in our country. Be assured our love for you has not wavered from the beginning until now.

After this, there arrived here one Manuel Falcão, a most immoral character.

First, when a ship arrived at Samudera from Pariaman with many people from Samudera on board, he took thirty gold dirhams. And he sold the crew and the rest were murdered.

Second, on the arrival of a ship from Bengal he took two hundred and twenty dirhams and one servant woman. Also, a cargo ship from Bengal which should have come to Samudera he commandeered to Malacca along with a great deal of cargo belonging to people from Samudera which was on board the ship.

Third, he took cargo from another ship and more people were murdered.

Fourth, he demanded from us one hundred and twenty dirhams by force and twenty items of cargo.

Fifth, he kidnapped fifty male and female servants from among the servants of the people of Samudera and shipped them to Malacca.

Sixth, he demanded from us fifty bails of pepper by force.

After this, Gaspar Machado also arrived here. He too is a very evil person.

The first thing he did was, on the arrival of a cargo ship at Samudera from Diu, he took from them two hundred dirhams by force.

Second, when a cargo ship arrived at Samudera from Cambay which was owned by the King of Cambay captained by ‘Ali Khan he took from them one hundred dirhams.

Third, when a cargo ship arrived at Samudera from Pulicut which is Nati carrying cargo owned by people from Samudera, he took one hundred dirhams from them by force and violence.

Fourth, when a cargo ship arrived at Samudera from Nawur that is Nati he took one hundred and twenty dirhams,

Fifth, when a ship arrived at Samudera from Barus containing a cargo belonging to the Sultan of Bengal he took one hundred quintals of tin and 4000 incenses and he sold the whole crew on this ship.

Sixth, many are the people of Samudera whose wealth he has taken by force and violence, and many are the judges and officials who have been enraged by him because of this behavior.

For these reasons, we lay before you our situation as we sincerely believe that this has not been ordered by the King of Portugal or by you. The King does not even know about the behavior of Manuel Falcão and Gaspar Machado because we are firmly convinced that the King and yourself as Governor-General do not want to damage your own port because our port is your port, and so we seek your protection.


This is an imaginative translation based on the translations of A.C.S. Peacock (2016): “Three Arabic letters from North Sumatra of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries”, Indonesia and the Malay World, DOI: 10.1080/13639811.2016.1153219 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13639811.2016.1153219 and Taqiyuddin Muhammad, “Naskah Surat Sultan Zainal ‘Abidin (Wafat 923 H/1518 M)” http://misykah.com/naskah-surat-sultan-zainal-abidin-wafat-923-h1518-m-2/.

Peacock (2016) writes on the various manuscripts:

“The letter from Sultan Zayn al-‘Abidin IV of Samudera-Pasai, 1516–17. Arquivo Nacional Torre do Tombo, Lisbon. Colecção de cartas, Núcleo Antigo 891, mç. 1, n.° 59. Previous publications: Arabic text and Portuguese translation with significant differences from that presented here in dos Santos (1790: 127–30); translation only reprinted with additional notes in Alves (1999:228–30); Arabic text with a number of differences from that presented here and Indonesian translation in Muhammad (2013). Taqiyuddin Muhammad’s text is based on a poor quality image of the letter which accounts for most of the variations between his text and mine. It has not therefore usually been thought useful to record his variant readings. Help has also been provided by the Portuguese translation probably made in Malacca in 1516–17, presented in full in Appendix 1c. Although the translation is often imprecise, omitting crucial elements of the Arabic and sometimes supplementing it with additional information, it has the advantage that the translator was himself aware of the events referred to; it can therefore help clarify the frequently obscure Arabic text.”

British Library Digitised Manuscript Home

British Library Digitised Manuscript Home

Use the website to view digitised copies of manuscripts and archives in the British Library’s collections, with descriptions of their contents.

Some highlights include the Harley Golden Gospels, Beowulf, the Silos Apocalypse, Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook, the Petit Livre d’Amour and the Golf Book.

To consult the British Library’s main catalogue of manuscript material visit Search our Catalogue Archives and Manuscripts. Selected images of illuminated manuscripts can be found in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.

The content in the Digitised Manuscripts viewer is intended for viewing for research and study purposes. For any other use please see the British Library website’s terms of use, which can be found here.

The wily Malay mousedeer – Asian and African studies blog of the British Library

Many cultures celebrate an animal who, while not the largest or strongest, outwits all around him. In Europe this is Reynard the fox; in the Malay world of Southeast Asia it is Sang Kancil the mousedeer (pelanduk). Malay folklore is full of accounts of how the mousedeer gets the better of the other animals by his intellect and trickery. But in addition to oral tales and childens’ stories there is also a written epic in Malay, the Hikayat Pelanduk Jenaka or ‘Tale of the Wily Mousedeer’, probably dating from the 15th or 16th century, which is a highly sophisticated literary composition.   (Read more…)

kancil

Sumatran mousedeer. Drawing by a Chinese artist in Bengkulu, between 1784 and 1808, reproduced in William Marsden, A history of Sumatra, 3rd edition (London, 1811). British Library, NHD 1/8. Source: The wily Malay mousedeer – Asian and African studies blog