Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts


This book offers an integrated study of the texts and images of illustrated Malay manuscripts on magic and divination from private and public collections in Malaysia, the UK and Indonesia. Containing some of the rare examples of Malay painting, these manuscripts provide direct evidence for the intercultural connections between the Malay region, other parts of Southeast Asia and the rest of the world. In this richly illustrated volume many images and texts are gathered for the first time, making this book essential reading for all those interested in the practice of magic and divination, and the history of Malay, Southeast Asian and Islamic manuscript art.

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Farouk Yahya, Ph.D. (2013), SOAS, University of London, is Senior Teaching Fellow at this university. He was assistant curator of the exhibition The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections (2014-16) in the Brunei Gallery, SOAS.
"Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts is a pioneering study in the field of Malay manuscripts and deserves to be appreciated as an invaluable contribution to scholarship in Islamic art history. It will function as a fundamental resource for future research and teaching on the singular visual and material culture of the Malay lands." - Yuka Kadoi, in: Orientations, January/February (2018)
"This is an important book. It makes a significant and original contribution to a little-known aspect of Malay manuscripture – illustrated Malay manuscripts on magic and divination – previously either ignored, or sampled very selectively, or approached tangentially through ethnographic studies… With its exceptionally wide-ranging references and thorough investigation, this book delivers much more than the sum of its parts, and constitutes a landmark in Malay manuscript studies." - Annabel Teh Gallop, in: Aseasuk News no. 61, Autumn (2017)
"This comprehensive book resembles a well written encyclopaedia in targeting every aspect of Southeast Asian notes on divination and magic .." - Majid Daneshgar, in: Southeast Asian Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3 (2016)


Translations and Transliterations



CHAPTER 1: Introduction: Malay Magic and Divination Manuscripts
Malay Magic and Divination Manuscripts
Importance of the Art Contained

CHAPTER 2: Malay Magic And Divination
The Malay Spirit World
Magic and Divination
Magicians and Shamans
Tools of the Magician


CHAPTER 3: Early Manuscripts and European Collecting Activities
Manuscripts during the Srivijaya Period
Magic and Divination Manuscripts from the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
Later European Collecting Activities and Scholarship

CHAPTER 4: Material and Format
European Paper and Watermarks
The Folding-book Format
Binding and Covers
Colophons, Seals and Other Documentary Evidence
Inks and Colours

CHAPTER 5: The Contents: Texts and Images
Relationship between Text and Image
Some Issues Regarding the Sources of the Contents
Titles, Opening Statements and Arrangement of the Texts
Magical Rites
Divinatory Techniques

CHAPTER 6: The Art: Iconography, Style and Illumination
General Remarks on the Illustrations and Diagrams
Anthropomorphic Beings
Talismanic Designs
Illumination and Decorative Elements
Chinese and Western Influences and the Impact of Printing and Photography

CHAPTER 7: Production, Patronage and Consumption
Professional Magicians
Female Magicians
The Religious Milieu and Pondok Schools
Patronage of the Royal Courts and the State Magicians
Commissions by European Colonial Collectors
Printed Books on Magic and Divination during the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
Magic And Divination Manuscripts and Books during the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-first Centuries

CHAPTER 8: Conclusion

APPENDIX: Catalogue



All interested in the history and practice of magic and divination, Malay, Southeast Asian and Islamic manuscript art, and colonial discourse between Europe and Southeast Asia.
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