Malay Manuscripts from the British Library

Malay manuscripts serve as an important source of understanding the intellectual and literary heritage of the Malays. The manuscripts cover a wide range of subjects, such as history, religion, law, culture, folklore and legends. Some of these works were later re-published in printed format when printing was introduced first in Java then Penang, Malacca and Singapore in the 19th century.

The British Library holds a significant number of Malay manuscripts written in Jawi script, mostly on literature, history and law, dating from the 17th to the late 19th centuries. Highlights from the collection include the oldest known copy of the Malay history, the Hikayat Raja Pasai, as well as a number of important titles of Malay literary heritage such as copies of Hikayat Hang Tuah, Sejarah Melayu, Taj al-Salatin, Undang-undang Melaka and Adat Aceh.

The British Library also holds an important collection of Malay diplomatic letters and legal documents written in Malay, such as the Proclamation of the Capture of Batavia by the British (1811), bearing the signature of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles.

These manuscripts, letters and documents are now being digitised and published on the BookSG website. The digitisation of these materials is part of an ongoing collaborative project between the British Library and the National Library Board. Generously funded by William and Judith Bollinger, the project will digitise Singapore-related materials from the British Library and provide full digital coverage of these materials. The aim of the project is to improve access and to promote new research into these materials.

More digitised manuscripts will be made available in due course via the BookSG site as the project progresses.

The images will also be available on the British Library's Digitised Manuscripts online (search on keywords 'Malay' or 'Jawi').