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Palembang Literary Week showcases Southeast Asia’s oldest printed Quran

Yulia Savitri

The Jakarta Post

Palembang, South Sumatra  /  Tue, April 23, 2019  /  03:30 pm
Palembang Literary Week showcases Southeast Asia’s oldest printed Quran

The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia is showcased at Palembang Literary Week. (JP/Yulia Savitri)

A literary exhibition in Palembang, South Sumatra, showcases classic works of literature spanning from the earliest history of the region, as well as archipelagic Indonesia as a whole.

The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia, alongside several ancient manuscripts, became the centerpiece of the exhibition, dubbed Palembang Literary Week, which will run until Sunday at the Palembang Grand Mosque. 

Throughout the week, visitors will be able to trace the region’s literary history from the days of the once-gargantuan Sriwijaya Empire, right up to the post-independence era of early Indonesia. 

Rare literary artifacts such as a two-century-old handwritten European letter, sabak (an early writing instrument made out of stone) and ancient stone inscriptions are among the highlights of the exhibition.

A Quran that was printed in August 1848, soon after the establishment of the first lithography-based printing house in the region under the Dutch occupation, also drew public attention, as literary experts have declared it the oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia.

The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia, seen in Palembang, South Sumatra.The oldest printed Quran in Southeast Asia, seen in Palembang, South Sumatra. (JP/Yulia Savitri)

Read also: Museum Islam Indonesia KH Hasyim Asy’ari shines light on history of Islam in archipelago

Palembang-based literature expert, Ahmad Subhan, said the extensive collection showcased at the exhibition proved that the provincial capital had experienced massive cultural shifts over the course of centuries. 

“Islam historians from Bayt Al-Quran Indonesia have considered the 1848 edition to be the first and the oldest known copy of a printed Quran in Southeast Asia,” Subhan told The Jakarta Post.

He went on to say that the oldest Quran was proof that Palembang had been one of the world’s earliest adopters of the printing technology.

“There are now only two original copies of the Quran left; one has become a part of [local religious figure] Abdul Azim Amin’s private collection, while the other has been acquired by the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Municipal Museum in Palembang,” Subhan said. (rfa/mut)