Opening of the new Reading Rooms in the University Library

Please JOIN US for the official opening of the new Reading Rooms of the University Library on

11 February 2014,
from 4.15 until 7 pm
Witte Singel 27

Register now for workshops on data management, data mining, virtual research environments, MOOCs or copyright on 11 February 2014.  The workshops are for free and open for anyone involved or interested in tertiary education and/or research.

You can also take a guided tour to see the new facilities (incl. the multimedia centre and individual and group study rooms).

Want to take a virtual tour now?

Workshop programme

  1. Massive Open Online Content? The copyright pitfalls in the creation of a MOOC. (in English)
  2. Mine your own business: Data- & textmining E-science and Digital Humanities.
  3. Data management: your research data safe and accessible You spend a lot of time collecting research data, but how do you keep these safe and accessible – also after finishing your research? (in Dutch)
  4. Student repository: archive and display student theses What could the student repository do for your education department? We will show two main functions: archive and display. (in Dutch)
  5. Click with our special collections Consulting our special collections has become a lot easier, both online and offline. (in Dutch)
  6. Mediaroom premiere: an introduction to the collection of audiovisual materials for research and education at Leiden University. (in Dutch)
  7. Tour One of our staff will take you around the new areas and facilities in the University Library (in Dutch and English)

Register by e-mail

Programme for the afternoon:

16h15 Welcome by Kurt De Belder, University Librarian & Director of Leiden University Libraries
and official opening of the new reading room by Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Rector Magnificus Leiden University
16h30 Lecture: Virtual research environments in education
Henk Frencken, Teaching Advisor at ICLON
17h00 Workshop round 1: choose from our offer of workshops
17h30 Workshop round 2: choose from our offer of workshops
18h00 End of programme with network reception

The Heritage Collection of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) Amsterdam moved to Leiden

KIT Belder

When the library of the Royal Tropical Institute was forced to close its doors for good last year, it seemed for a moment that its splendid collection would be horribly fragmented or even literally be  lost altogether (to huge old paper recycle bins!). Despite serious efforts from various sides, it was, unfortunately, not possible to keep the collection as a whole in the Netherlands. The majority of the KIT library — almost 400,000 books and 20,000 journals — will be reallocated at the Library of Alexandria. The Heritage Collection, however, will remain in the Netherlands! On 12 December 2013 a memorandum was signed to make this unique collection officially part of the Leiden University Library holdings.

1,5 km paper and almost 25.000 publications have been moved to the Witte Singel where they have immediately been catalogued. Soon there will also be two websites with digitized material from that collection, among other things, a large number of maps. The newly obtained material is relevant to both students and researchers with an interest in the history and cultures of the Dutch East Indies, in colonial agriculture, economy and administration. The impressive collection of prints and manuscripts on and from Southeast Asia, Indonesia in particular, enriches the UB Special Collection splendidly.

Batak map KIT

map2 KIT

Asian Film Online

Asian Film Online is an online streaming video collection of nearly 500 narrative feature films, documentaries, and shorts, addressing themes such as modernity, globalization, national, cultural and sexual identity, female agency, and inequalities in opportunity amid social and political unrest.

Asian film online

On and from South Asia there are 115 films:  India (91), Sri Lanka (15), Nepal (5), and Bangladesh (4).

The count for  films on and from Southeast Asia  is minst 107: Indonesia (24), Malaysia (13), Singapore (12), Thailand (12), Philippines (42), Burma (2), and Vietnam (2).

 Other Asian countries are, of course, represented as well: China (32 films), Japan (23 films), and South Korea (105!). 

Just like Alexander Street Anthropology (also known as ‘Ethnographic Video Online‘) all films have transcripts, which are highlighted to show which part you are viewing; one can search through the transcript for a certain text and then jump to the section one is looking for. The transcripts are provided in various languages an scripts, besides the usual Western language also in many languages from South- and Southeast Asia, for instance Tamil and Gujarati, or Tagalog and Thai or Malay and Javanese, to name just a few. You can also make clips of any film to save in your own set (free registration), which you can then embed or share.

Alexander Street Press Film(1)

The UB Leiden has trial access to all these films until February 23, 2014, so be sure to go and watch before the trial is finished… and don’t forget to tell us if you like this collection, so we might go ahead and make a purchase. (SORRY — only for library users with a valid LU-card)

An illuminated Malay Qur’an

It’s months ago that I promised to post this … what happened? Nothing special, just too many plans, too much work, too little time. Hopefully I’ll have more time for blogging this year

— The very best wishes for 2014 to all of you (already quite late too… but good wishes are always welcome, aren’t they?) —

Annabel Teh Gallop, British Library

An exquisite illuminated Qur’an (Or.15227), dating from the 19th century and originating from the East Coast of the Malay peninsula, is the first Qur’an manuscript in the British Library to be digitised in its entirety. The manuscript was displayed in the British Library’s Sacred exhibition in 2007, and also featured in the accompanying book by Colin Baker on Qur’an manuscripts.

Beginning of Surat Yasin.  Or.15227, ff.222v-223r
Beginning of Surat Yasin. Or.15227, ff.222v-223r

On the basis of various codicological features the manuscript can be attributed to the cultural zone encompassing Kelantan, on the north-east coast of Malaysia, and Patani, in southern Thailand. In many ways the Qur’an is typical of manuscript production in Patani, with black endpapers of Thai manufacture, a cloth cover with elaborate stitched headbands, and illuminated frames with typical Patani features such as the ‘interlocking wave’ motif. And yet the exactitude of the drawing and colouring, and the repetition of ornamental details, is more typical of Qur’ans from the court of Terengganu, the richest centre for Islamic manuscript illumination in Southeast Asia. The hybrid character of this manuscript is emphasized by some other unusual features, including the presence of double decorated frames in the middle of the Book marking the start of Surat al-Kahf and Surat Yasin, instead of just at the beginning of Surat al-Isra’, as is usual in East Coast Qur’ans. Also of great interest are two unfinished monochrome frames in black ink (ff.303v-304r, 306v-307r); the zoom capabilities of the digitised manuscripts viewer can be used to follow how the artist worked.

Detail of an illuminated heading for Surat al-Mujadilah, with a marginal ornament marking the start of the 28th juz’, and a tiny red marginal inscription maqra’, indicating a portion selected for recitation.  Or.15227, f.273v (detail)
Detail of an illuminated heading for Surat al-Mujadilah, with a marginal ornament marking the start of the 28th juz’, and a tiny red marginal inscription maqra’, indicating a portion selected for recitation. Or.15227, f.273v (detail)

To see the fully digitised manuscript click here

[Please note that because the British Library digitised manuscripts viewer was developed for Greek manuscripts, the ‘open book’ viewing option is not suitable for right-to-left scripts such as Arabic, and therefore the ‘single’ view option should be used.]

The British Library Malay Qur’an joins other fully digitised Southeast Asian Qur’an manuscripts on the internet, including a superbly illuminated Acehnese Qur’an Cod.Or.2064 in Leiden University Library, and four Javanese Qur’an manuscripts (Arabe 458, 582, 583 and 584) in the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris.

Thus for the first time, it is possible to study online Qur’an manuscripts from three distinctive regional traditions in Southeast Asia.

Annabel Teh Gallop, ‘The spirit of Langkasuka? illuminated manuscripts from the East Coast of the Malay peninsula’, Indonesia and the Malay World, July 2005, 33 (96): 113-182, pp.146, 161.
Colin F. Baker, Qur’an manuscripts: calligraphy, illumination, design (London: The British Library, 2007), pp.92-93.

Call for Papers SEALG Annual Meeting 2014

Frankfurt, 27-28 June 2014

The Southeast Asia Library Group together with the Library of Southeast Asian Studies at Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University are pleased to invite you to this year’s Annual Meeting of the Southeast Asia Library Group in Frankfurt/Main (Germany), 27-28 June 2014.

The meeting will take place at the Bockenheim Campus and will include a Southeast Asian Studies Library tour with access to the closed stacks, as the library is affiliated with the main University Library.

Adopting last year’s format, we will have the presentation of selected papers on library and archive related issues on the first day, followed by the actual Annual General Meeting on the second day.


SEALG invites proposals for papers on any theme relating to collections, archives and the library work as well as recent developments in the field of South East Asian Studies.

A paper presentation should not exceed 30 minutes (including time for questions/discussuion). Paper abstracts should be no more than 200 words and must include a title, author’s name and affiliation, as well as contact details.

Please submit your paper proposal including abstract to Holger Warnk (email: or  Jana Igunma (email: or Doris Jedamski (email: not later than by 31 January 2014.

We encourage submissions from library and archive staff as well as from scholars and graduate students.

Publication of a paper will be possible in the SEALG Newsletter which is online on the SEALG homepage . Depending on the number and quality of the papers a printed publication in form of a monograph might be an option.

For further details and registration, please contact:

Holger Warnk
J.W.Goethe-University, Southeast Asian Studies,
Senckenberganlage 31, 60325 Frankfurt/M, Germany
Phone & fax: 0049-69-798-28445

Everyone will be most welcome and participation will not be restricted to library or archive staff. Please help circulate both this invitation and the Call for Papers. The Southeast Asia Library Group is looking forward to meeting you in Frankfurt.

Alte Oper (opera house) in Frankfurt
Alte Oper (opera house) in Frankfurt

Everyday life in Java in the late 18th century: Serat Damar Wulan

Some time has past since I enthusiastically announced to republish three articles by Annabel Teh Gallop that we had previously posted on the SEALG blog. After I had posted the first in the series on this blog, life did what it does best: keeping me from doing things that I plan to do. My apologies. However, here they come:

Annabel Teh Gallop, British Library

The newly-digitised 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 humour and the artist had a marvellous eye for facial expressions and bodily postures (a woman sleeping with her arm across her eyes, a sandal just balanced on a foot). Everyday ‘things’ are depicted in fascinating detail, from bird cages to garden pots and textiles, with wonderful scenes of music and dance of enormous interest to performers today, as Matthew Cohen points out in one of his latest posts on his blog Indonesian performances.

A contemporary English note which accompanied the donation of the manuscript in 1815 states ‘This Book is said to be 2 hundred years old’ (image numbered ‘front-i’), 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 ca.1800 to 1855, and so a late 18th-century dating is perhaps most likely for this manuscript.

A messenger on horseback bringing news Daha has been attacked by Balambangan (MSS.Jav.89, f.33v, detail).

Early scholars of Javanese texts were notoriously oblivious to the artistic aspects of manuscripts, but the Serat Damar Wulan proved irresistible. In 1953, Lina Maria Coster-Wijsman (grandmother of Javanese art historian Marijke Klokke) published a valuable study, ‘Illustrations in a Javanese manuscript’, identifying all the illustrations in the manuscript. For a concordance of her illustration numbers with the current folio numbers of the British Library manuscript (Damar MSS.Jav.89) click here.

Pages from the Serat Damar Wulan were also reproduced in colour in the British Library photographic exhibition Golden Letters, which travelled all over Indonesia in 1991, and in the book Early views of Indonesia, which was published in 1995 as a gift from the British government to mark the 50th anniversary of Indonesian independence. One picture showed Damar Wulan being prepared for his marriage by two formidable female attendants, looking exactly like the bossy professional wedding planners still active today. Imagine my surprise when, in 2000, I noticed on the wall of the Jakarta home of my friend Jennifer Lindsay a glass painting of exactly this scene, which she had bought in the market in Solo the previous year. (Knowing how much I loved the picture, in 2003 Jenny generously gave it to me, and it will eventually join the collections of the British Library). It was wonderful to see how, after a period of two centuries, the pictures in the Serat Damar Wulan were feeding back into the artistic life of Java. With the full manuscript now online, hopefully the digitised images will inspire many more such artistic re-creations.

Damar Wulan being prepared for his wedding, 18th c. (MSS.Jav.89, f.134v, detail), published in Early views of Indonesia (1995).

A glass painting of the same scene, produced in central Java, ca.1998.


L.M. Coster-Wijsman, ‘Illustrations in a Javanese manuscript’Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1953, 109 (2): 153-163
‘Editorial note‘, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 1953, 109 (3): 276.
Annabel Teh Gallop, Early views of Indonesia: drawings from the British Library. (London: British Library, 1995), p.58.

Bollywood, Mollywood and Western popular films

A couple of months ago I recorded an episode of the VPRO television programme Van Bihar tot Bangalore. Only recently, however, I finally had the time to watch that documentary on India’s film industry.  I was surprised and quite excited about what I learnt, thus I’ve dug a little further…

With its roughly 800 films produced yearly, the Indian film production is the largest film industry in the world and exerts an enormous impact on Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. In the ‘Western world’, Bollywood is a well-known phenomenon and has also attracted the interest of a number of researchers. My fascination, however, lies first and foremost with the various aspects of adaptation, in this case the adaptation and appropriation of Western stories [Yes, here she goes again… whoever knows me just a bit, will also know that this is my all-time favorite research topic].

bollywoodBollywood has adapted Western plots subtly.  The film Sholay [“Flames of the sun”], for instance, was inspired by the genre of Westerns such as Once upon in the West, The Magnificent Seven and For a few dollars more. Sholay came out in 1975 and was the prototype of all future ‘Curry Western’, the Indian equivalent of the Italian style Spagetthi Western.  [The  DVD Sholay, by the way, can be requested via the UB Catalogus, just like all other DVDs in the KERN collection.] Since the 1970s Bollywood has grown into one mega-film production factory, using elaborate sets to produce a film in only 2 to 3 months.

Far away from Mumbai’s Bollywood, however, in the town of Malegaon in the rather poor Nashik district in the Indian state of Maharashtra, another kind of film industry has begun to thrive. The Malegaon film — also lovingly called Mollywood by some —  rests mostly on the shoulders of one man:  the 35-year-old Shaikh Nasir, video store owner and passionate maker of parodies of popular films. First, he produced (very) low-budget remakes of Bollywood films, among them Sholay [Malegon ke Sholay, 2000], but recently, he is “taking on Hollywood”, to quote him. Not even trying to conceal the act of adapting, this “parallel cinema” as Ansari & Handa (2011) call it, enthusiastically indulges in the playful appropriation of ‘foreign stories’. The aim is not merely to entertain but also to mirror and criticize the harsh reality of economic strain and communal friction in the region. It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that the films are shot with a VHS camera. And if there is no budget for horses, then the ‘cowboys’ jump on rusty bicycles. No train that can be robbed? Then they go after the bus.

Filming Superman of Malegaon

Filming Superman of Malegaon

The fact that language, plot and setting are always entirely localized almost guarantees these films to be enormously successful. Nasir’s customers love the Malegaon’s versions of James Bond, Dirty Harry, Superman(of Malegaon), Spiderman and Mr Bean, the latter turning into Malegaon Ka Chintu. Malegon’s movie-stars speak Hindi and Urdu, except for Mr. Bean, of course, who doesn’t talk at all. He features in a (silent) TV-series, at least thirteen episodes of which can be watched on youtube. I haven’t watched all of them yet, but from what I’ve seen already I can state the following: Funny adaptation? Yes. A parody? Not really. A critical appropriation? No. Thus ‘merely’ an imitation? Could be. Alas, Indian TV doesn’t seem to be interested in any critical undertones.

Not mute at all and very mobile is the Malegaon Superman. The following very short youtube film is with English subtitles,  enjoy it!

If you like to see more about the Making of… Malegaon Superman, please watch the documentary below. It is a touching document of the life and work of those who created Mollywood, full of lovely details, and although it is not subtitled it will make you smile in admiration and sympathy.

More on the topic:

Supermen of Malegaon, Documentary on the Malegaon film production (65,58 min, no English subtitles)

Humaira Ansari & Namita Handa (2011): “Malegaon ka film industry” , DNA,, accessed 24-04-2013,    “PARALLEL CINEMA”

Sheila J. Nayar (2003), “Exploring Hindi Popular Cinema via Its ‘Chutneyed’ Western Scripts”, in Journal of Popular Film & Television (Summer 2003), Vol. 31 Issue 2, p.73-82.