Current Issue Article Abstracts
Spring 2017 Vol. 2.1
• • • • • • • •
This special issue of Manuscript Studies is dedicated to the memories of Henry Ginsburg and Toshiya Unebe. Ginsburg passed away in 2007 suddenly at the age of sixty-six after serving as the curator for Thai, Lao, and Cambodia collections at the British Library. Jana Igunma, in the first essay, writes about his life and work extensively. Toshiya Unebe was a contributor to this volume. He sadly passed away at the age of forty-seven in Nagoya, Japan, as this issue was in the final stages of production. The editorial team helped finish his article. Dr. Unebe was a Jodo Shinshu priest, a scholar of great range, a rare intellect, and a person of unshakeable integrity. He leaves behind a wife and two children and will be terribly missed by his friends, family, and colleagues. To learn more about his remarkable life, I direct you to my profile of Dr. Unebe in Samuels, McDaniel, and Rowe, eds., Figures of Buddhist Modernity in Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016): 23–25.
My office is on 36th Street in Philadelphia. Within a twenty-mile radius, there are more than thirty Thai restaurants, three places to practice Vipassana meditation from students who studied in Thailand, four actively working Thai language teachers, seven places to practice Thai kickboxing, a cultural center where Thai-Americans and non-Thai enthusiasts can practice classical Thai music and dancing, two Thai markets, and a major Thai Buddhist monastery. Thai-style Buddha images are sold in several curio shops, and one tattoo parlor advertises Thai protective tattoos. If you go to New York or Los Angeles, the number of ways of experiencing Thai culture increases exponentially. Thai people have traditionally been great exporters and promoters of their culture abroad, providing readily available access to it in places like Philadelphia, London, Rome, Berlin, Paris, Sydney, São Paulo, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv, and Tokyo. In the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, however, the first way most foreigners—at that time this contact was limited largely to members of the leisure and upper classes—encountered Thai/Siamese culture was not through kickboxing (Muay Thai) or Pad Thai noodles, but through manuscripts.
Over half a thousand Thai manuscripts are currently being held in British institutions, with the largest collection at the British Library. Other important collections are at the Wellcome Library, the Royal Asiatic Society, the Bodleian Library and the John Rylands Library.
Thai manuscripts and historic documents first came to Britain as a result of trade contacts, and documents from the earliest period include official letters and materials received from Thai counterparts. Manuscripts were also brought from Thailand by missionaries, travelers, traders, and officers of the India Office stationed in Burma, others were systematically collected by educators and scholars with a particular research interest. The largest number of manuscripts contains Buddhist scriptures and texts related to Buddhism, many of them in Pali language. However, almost all topics that can be found in the Thai manuscript tradition are represented in the collections held in the UK, for example literary and linguistic works, traditional medicine and healing practices, customary laws, cosmology and astrology, fortune-telling and divination, and animal treatises. Approximately a quarter of these manuscripts are illustrated or decorated in some way; some being outstanding examples of the tradition of Thai manuscript painting and manuscript decoration.
This diversity is the result of the different intentions and ambitions of the collectors. Some collectors carefully chose material that they had a certain research interest for. For example, Henry Ginsburg who was fascinated by the beauty of Thai manuscript art built the most important collection of illustrated Thai manuscripts in the UK (held at the British Library). Another collector, Henry Wellcome, was particularly interested in medical texts and artefacts; therefore his collection contains dozens of medical treatises and herbals.
Many manuscripts were given to British institutions after the death of a collector, and the trade in manuscripts only began to play a role in the second half of the 20th century. In my article I will give an overview of Thai manuscript collections in the UK, and major contributors and builders of these collections.
Finding Thai manuscripts in German museums and libraries is a daunting exercise. There are eight national libraries, twenty-five state libraries, and about eighty university libraries. As for the museums, of the thirty-nine ethnological museums, there are at least fourteen with collections that include objects from Asia. The standard publications on Thai material are both incomplete and out of date.
This paper centers upon the collectors, beginning with August the Strong, who in 1728 acquired a Thai scroll. A century later, there began a steady trickle of acquisitions. Details of how Thai manuscripts came to Germany are presented for the century between 1830 and 1930. The collectors were missionaries, explorers, diplomats, travelers, traders, and Europeans in the employ of the Siamese Government. Altogether, the Thai manuscript material in Germany is a mixed batch indeed: some documents proved to be of great value, but there are also many incomplete items and standard pieces of literature. Hence the title: "Cultural Goods and Flotsam".
In this article I present a short description of the three illuminated Thai manuscripts kept in one of the libraries of the University of Naples "L'Orientale", the Biblioteca Maurizio Taddei. These three manuscripts contain various Buddhist jātakas and also non-canonical works, in Pali and in Thai. They are adorned with beautiful depicted images which have been here reproduced.
The article discusses illuminated manuscripts of Central Thailand, dealing with the different formats and different scripts (Khom, Thai, and Mon) used for different purposes, and their eventual evolution to print technology. We focus on manuscripts from Wat Pak Khlong, Phetchaburi, and illustrate examples from its small but precious organic collection. The themes of the illustrations are both narrative and non-narrative. The narratives, such as the story of the thaumaturge monk Phra Malai, are didactic. The non-narrative paintings might be described as simply decorative, but they draw on a rich animal lore that is detailed in scholastic literature. The texts recorded in the manuscripts, such as the story of Phra Malai, the Mahabuddhaguna, and the Unhissavijaya, have complex relationships to Thai Buddhist liturgy. A genre on the delineation of monastic boundaries illustrates a core concern of Theravāda monasticism throughout Southeast Asia.
Manuscripts from the Kingdom of Siam in Japan
This essay works backwards and forwards from a few known points in the history of an early 13th-century illuminated missal at the Bodleian Library (MS. Bywater adds. 2), eventually filling-in the gaps to establish an unbroken chain of provenance from the present day back to the creation of the manuscript at the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny within about five years of 1208.
This article demonstrates the importance of the Chester Beatty Library's collection of Thai manuscripts and more broadly highlights the importance of including the study of Ireland in the history of the study of Asia. I hope it also encourages future scholars to look to Ireland when writing the intellectual history of exchange between Asia and Europe. Even though Ireland was not a colonizing power, indeed, it was colonized for most of its pre-modern history, its libraries and museums attest to a people that spread far and wide across the globe sometimes as a point of necessity and sometimes in the spirit of exploration.
Siamese Manuscript Collections in the United States
Susanne Ryuyin Kerekes and Justin McDaniel
This article provides a brief survey of public collections of Thai manuscripts held in the United States, which is home to roughly 650 Thai manuscripts. Of the twenty institutions that house Thai manuscripts, the following five are highlighted in this article: the Asian Art Museum, the University of California at Berkeley, the New York Public Library, Princeton University Libraries, and the Walters Art Museum. The second half of this article details a few key manuscripts held at the University of Pennsylvania: the Abhidhamma chet Kamphi, one book of the Phra 'Aphaimanī epic, and a rare set of royal decrees. In short, this overview illustrates the vast diversity of genres of Thai manuscripts held in the United States – including a Thai translation of the Gospel of Matthew – as well as the diversity of its collectors in the nineteenth-century, the majority of whom were women.
Borthwick Institute for Archives by York's Archbishops' (review)
Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections by Jeffrey F. Hamburger et al., and: Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections eds. by Jeffrey F. Hamburger et al. (review)