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Berlin State Library boasts 700 historical Indonesian manuscripts

News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, October 24, 2017  /  08:35 am
Berlin State Library boasts 700 historical Indonesian manuscripts

One hundred thirty of around 700 Indonesian manuscripts at Berlin State Library have been digitized. (Shutterstock/Cineberg /

The Berlin State Library in Germany houses approximately 700 historical Indonesian manuscripts among its collection of 80,000 from all over the world.

Thoralf Hanstein, an expert on Arabic, Islamic and Ottoman Studies at the library, told the Antara news agency during a recent library visit that many of the manuscripts from Indonesia dated back to the 18th century.

The ancient items are stored in a temperature-controlled room for preservation, and only authorized personnel are allowed to handle them.

One hundred thirty of the Indonesian manuscripts at the library, which is locally known as Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, had been digitized, Hanstein said.

Here are some of the old manuscripts from Indonesia housed at the Berlin State Library, according to Antara.  

Majmuah manuscript

The Berlin State library hosts one of the oldest collections of ancient Quran manuscripts and Majmuah manuscripts. Hanstein presented the Majmuah manuscripts, a collection of many Javanese texts written in the Arabic or Pegon alphabet.

In the text on Islam in Java, there is a picture of animals resembling lions.

"This is Buraq, the vehicle of the Prophet," said Hanstein, who is fluent in Indonesian.

Read also: Great Indonesian literature: Tales of Panji

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

The library also holds parts of Mpu Tantular's Book of Sutasoma, a Javanese manuscript written on palm leaves in the Balinese alphabet.

"An original text of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is written on this manuscript," Hanstein said, referring to the national Indonesian motto translated as "Unity in Diversity."

Multilingual texts

Hanstein also noted that there were 69 Bataknese manuscripts in the collection, some of which contained instructions on choosing a good day for marriage. 

Some of the Javanese manuscripts, meanwhile, are about issues related to Islam and mysticism.

There are also manuscripts written in the Ternatenese language using the Arabic alphabet and featuring wax seals.

Indonesia's second-oldest manuscript

The oldest Indonesian manuscript owned by the library is one that dates back to the 15th century. It includes 70 sheets written on the bark of the Gebang palm tree.

"[It's from] between the year 1407 and 1467, it is Indonesia's second-oldest manuscript, the first one being housed at the National Library [in Jakarta]," Hanstein said. (liz/asw)

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