In the vast maze of information once in a while something stands out. Last week my eye was caught by a beautiful wooden book. In the monthly magazine of the National Library of Australia I read an item about ‘Old, Rare and Beautiful Books on Indonesia’, because my eyes were triggered by a colorful illustration of fish. Since I am taking an illustration class these days, illustrations have my special attention 🙂
But the next page contained even a bigger surprise; a book made of bark. The library owns two Batak bark books of uncertain age. The Batak people of northern Sumatra had their own script, which is seen in tree-bark manuscripts created by magicians and healers for their rituals, oracles and medical recipes.
The book is very simple, it is accordion shaped and it looks like only one side has been described. The picture is a bit grotesque, because the size of the booklet is actually very small; 8 x 6 x 1 cm (folded). A very handy, small notebook 🙂
Bark is not the only thing used to write on in earlier times, Indonesians also used to write on palm-leaf. The examples in the Australian library are not of great age, as writings on such fragile material do not survive well in the tropics. The acquired manuscripts are copies, believed to date from the nineteenth or twentieth century.
Of course I also want to show the image that first triggered my attention, the beautiful illustration of fish.