On the last January 2007, I received an email from somebody called Adi in Jakarta. He told me that he is so appreciative with this blog, thanks Adi, I also appreciate your visiting to my blog.
Then, Adi told me that he personally holds a lontar manuscript on the Holy Koran (al-Quran). He named this manuscript as “mangli”, even I don’t know yet what this word means; there are 88 pages and 704 sheets of lontar leaf of this manuscript. Adi sent me some pictures of the manuscript written in 1714 AD.
What Adi told is quiet interesting for me because of Arabic script used by the scriber to write this lontar manuscript. As far as I know, a lontar manuscript commonly uses the old Jawa script (Kawi language), not the Arabic one. I suggested him to do further research on this manuscript, both philologically and historically, to know who the scriber is, for what purposes he wrote, and other information regarding the historical contexts surrounding it.
Doing research on manuscripts is one of the important keys to guarantee the continuity of knowledge to the next generations, and to preserve the content of manuscripts itself.
When a manuscript found, I also usually assume that the author or the scriber didn’t write only one work, so it is important also to consider the possibility of the existence of other works relating to him.
Because of its certain characteristics, the old manuscripts are so vulnerable. According to Prof. Isamu Sakamoto, a Japanese Conservation specialist, there are some factors could cause the damage of ancient manuscripts, whatever materials used. Among them are: (a) high humidity and water, (b) harmful insects, rats, and rodents, and (c) ignorance, human disasters, fires, and robbery.
It’s not easy to preserve manuscripts physically; even some institutions in Indonesia ---Yayasan Ali Hasjmy in Aceh is one of them--- still use a traditional preservation method, such as scattering clove (cengkeh) surrounding the manuscripts.
Sakamoto said that whatever methods of preservation are allowed, as far as it could hamper the damage of manuscripts. Japan itself has a method of preservation using Washi paper to laminate the damaged manuscripts.
Unfortunately, compared to other countries in the word (among them are the Netherlands and Japan), the Government of Indonesia has less attention to preserve these valuable cultural heritages, even somebody told me that the Indonesian National Library (Perpustakaan Nasional Indonesia) has no sufficient budget to collect and preserve the old manuscripts well.