Batak manuscript

Sumatra?, nineteenth century
MS Or.965

Batak bark books or pustaha, as they are known, are produced by the datu, the priests and healers of the Batak people who are skilled in the arts of preserving or destroying life, divination and astrology. Within the text are many kinds of spells, incantations such as formulae for killing opponents or causing them to fall ill. They are written in an ancient dialect, often including foreign loan words, which is difficult to decipher. Written on a long strip of tree bark, a material easy to obtain, they are then folded in harmonica-style. The text is written in lines parallel to the folds and these books usually have two wooden covers glued to the ends of the bark and held together by a plaited rattan string, but in this case these have been lost. This type of writing system is syllabic with each consonant sign including a vowel. It is read from bottom to top and left to right on the page.

Donated in 1918 by L. A. Goss, teacher of Burmese, who also gave books and maps to the Library.