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Malay manuscript art: the British Library collections

Annabel Teh Gallop


MANUSCRIPTS wntten in the Malay language originate from throughout the Malay archipelago, the area occupied by the present-day nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and the southern, ethnically Malay, regions of Thailand and the Philippines. Malay manuscripts are usually written on imported paper of European, Chinese or Indian manufacture in a modified form of the Arabic script known as Jawi. The earliest extant Malay manuscripts on paper date from the sixteenth century and the tradition of copying manuscripts continued into the first half of the twentieth century. Decoration and illumination in Malay manuscripts are the exception rather than the rule, with most examples falling into two categories, decorated frontispieces and colophons of texts and illuminated royal letters.

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