Palm leaf manuscripts from South East Asia and Sri Lanka


Collection of manuscripts from South East Asia, India, Sri Lanka and Tibet written on palm leaf, paper and metal acquired in autumn 2014 from the estate of engineer Vagn Petersen (d. 2006).

The collection consists of 461 manuscripts and ten printed texts. 401 manuscripts are written on palm leaves, 37 on paper and 2 on metal. The ten texts are printed on paper.

The texts are written in Burmese (35), Pali (58), Thai (11), Lao (38), Shan (4), Khmer (1), Sinhalese (247), Odia (Oriya) (1), Sanskrit (48), other Indian languages (2); Jawanese (2), Balinese (5), Nevari (5) and Tibetan (14).

Some of the manuscripts have been protected by covers, mainly made of wood, with or without decorations. The decoration are made by painting or cutting, sometimes only on the outer surfaces but few include painted decoration on the inner surfaces too.

The content of the manuscripts are Buddhist texts, literature or magic.

The Thai manuscripts are written on paper and most of them are illustrated with multi-coloured images and decorations. The manuscripts from former Burma, Laos and Sri Lanka are inscribed on palm leaves and many from Sri Lanka are talismans illustrated with various symbols.

The manuscripts date from 18th to the early part of the 20th century. Their condition is fairly good but some are worn and lack small parts of text.

Please note that the collection, with singular exceptions, is uncatalogued and can therefore not be accessed or delivered as digital copies.


Other examples of palmleaf manuscripts in the collection:


  (OS Acc. 871)
Two leaves from a Sinhalese charm


 (OS Acc. 871)
To other leaves from the same palmleaf manuscripts as shown above





 (OS Acc. 874)
Examples of Sinhalese talisman


 (OS Acc. 870)