Palm-leaf manuscript


This book was written by hand, possibly by a Buddhist monk, on strips cut from dried palm leaves. The script is Old Thai and the people who produced it were maintaining an ancient tradition; dried palm leaves have been in use as writing materials in South and Southeast Asia dating back to the 5th century BCE, and possibly much earlier. The text is comprised of Jātaka tales, which are poems and stories of the various lives of the Buddha before he achieved enlightenment.

The binding is also an example of a traditional South Asian method of connecting the pages by running a string through holes pierced across the center of each leaf. If stretched out, it would resemble a window blind in structure. It is interesting to compare this method to early modern European bindings: both used wooden boards at the front and back to protect the text and both employed a method of sewing to connect the pages. Except for the caution needed when reading this text due to the brittleness of the dried palm leaves, the action of moving from page to page is surprisingly similar to turning the pages in a modern bound book. The extremely narrow rectangular format of the palm-leaf manuscript, with the text running parallel to the long edges of the leaves, is the distinctive feature of this style of book. The yellow cord you see holding the leaves together is a replacement used when the binding was repaired at some point before Kent State University acquired it.

Publisher Produced in northeast Thailand
Date 1880
Extent 60 cm
Institution Kent State University
Repository Special Collections and Archives
Portion Digitized Photograph of: Closed exterior of manuscript
Access Rights This digital object is owned by Kent State University and may be protected by U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, USC). Please include proper citation and credit for use of this item. Use in publications or productions is prohibited without written permission from Kent State University. Please contact the Department of Special Collections and Archives for more information.
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Format of Original book


Curated by Kathleen Siebert Medicus with guest contributors