SPL Hand Coloured Rare Book Collection Featuring Norman R Bobins

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Palm-Leaf MSS. Burma

Burma, ca 1850-1910
John Falconer, and others, 'Myanmar Style Art, Architecture and design of Burma', Hong Kong, 1998, p.177 - "Kammavaca Texts: Their Covers and Binding Ribbons", Arts of Asia, 23 May-June 1993.
Burma, ca 1850-1910

BURMESE MANUSCRIPT (late 19th-early 20th century). Palm Leaf Manuscript. [Burma: circa 1850-1910]. Eighty-seven leaves (2 5/16 x 20 inches), ten lines of dark brown inked text on recto and verso of each leaf, edges of leaves lacquered with cinnabar and gilded. Unbound between a pair of wooden cover boards, outer surfaces lacquered in brown with gilt decoration, covers and text leaves with a pair of holes for tying (ties lacking), all contained within a protective cover roll of bamboo strips, red and blue cloth, interwoven by variously coloured threads, the roll secured by a long woven binding ribbon or "sasigyo." All within a modern cloth box with a leather label. Kammavaca is a Pali term describing verses from the Vinata that outline various rules and rituals of monastic life and ordination. Young men in Burma are expected to spend at least some of their youth in a monastery as an initiate or an ordained monk. The families of these newly ordained men often commissioned the creation of a 'kammavaca' to present to the monks as an act of merit upon their son's entrance into the monastery. Kammavaca are volumes of one, five, or nine extracts from the Theravadin 'Vinaya,' each relating to specific ceremonies associated with monks. Noel F. Singer writes that "the earliest kammavaca consisted of folios made of plain palm leaves, each of which had four lines of square-inked script on a gold or silver background." "In the 17th century, folios began to be made of pieces of cloth coated with lacquer and painted with cinnabar, and the square letters were written in thick, black lacquer. On rare occasions, folios were ivory. Designs in gilt, which had been reserved for ends of folios, endpapers, and wooden cover boards, now began to appear between the lines of text. By the end of the 19th century, the lines of script on the folio increased to six or seven, and sheets of brass or copper were introduced as folios."