Letter of Damar Wulan
The Serat Damar Wulan (MSS.Jav.89) is one of the loveliest Indonesian manuscripts in the British Library, with a treasury of illustrations depicting Javanese society in the late 18th century. The pictures are rich in humor and the artist had a marvellous eye for facial expressions and bodily postures (for example, a woman sleeping with her arm across her eyes, a sandal just balanced on a foot). Everyday things are depicted in fascinating detail, from birdcages to garden pots and textiles, with wonderful scenes of music and dance of enormous interest to performers today. A contemporary English note that accompanied the donation of the manuscript in 1815 states: “This Book is said to be 2 hundred years old,” but according to Dr. Russell Jones, the watermarks of the much-thumbed and soiled pages of Dutch paper, “J HONIG” and “J H & Z,” have so far only been found in Indonesian manuscripts dated around 1800 to 1855, and so a late 18th-century dating is perhaps most likely for this manuscript. Early scholars of Javanese texts were notoriously oblivious to the artistic aspects of manuscripts, but the Serat Damar Wulan proved irresistible. The manuscript begins with the accession of the daughter of Brawijaya (Kusuma Kancana Wungu) to the throne of Majapahit. It is dated Jumahat-Manis, 9 Rabingulawal, no year given.
Title in Original Language
Type of Item
215 folios ; 255 x 200 millimeters
- British Library manuscript reference number: MSS.Jav.89
- Annabel Gallop, “Everyday life in Java in the late 18th century: Serat Damar Wulan," Southeast Asia Library Group (SEALG) Blog, March 21, 2013, http://southeastasianlibrarygroup.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/everyday-life-in-java-in-the-late-18th-century-serat-damar-wulan/.
Last updated: August 8, 2014