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Javanese manuscript of an Islamic version of the story of Joseph and his brothers

Serat Yusup.
[Java], [ca.1800?]. Small folio in 10s (26.5 x 18 cm). Manuscript in the Javanese language, neatly written in the Javanese script in black ink on Javanese dluwang "paper" (beaten paper mulberry bark, a sort of tapa). The leaves are numbered in Arabic numerals on the versos, perhaps by the same hand as the main text. Lacking 2 leaves (E5.6: ll. 43-44). Sewn at three stations (the middle one perhaps without a support), with dluang "paper" wrappers laced onto the bookblock with tacket-like vertical cords at the head and foot of the spine (11 or 12 each), headbands in the form of 3 rows of herringbone stitches, and with the first leaf and last leaf pasted down to the facing wrapper. [2], [122 of] 124, [1] ll. including 2 integral end-leaves preceding the title-spread.
€ 14,500
A ca. 1800 Javanese manuscript giving an Islamic version of the story of Joseph and his brothers, translated from a Malay text (retaining some Malay loan words). The story is well known in the West from the Old Testament (Genesis 37-50, from the first book of the Hebrew Torah), where it is set in Canaan and Egypt in the second half of the 16th century BCE and is thought to have been written in more or less its Old Testament form ca. 600 BCE. The Old Testament version has long been popular among Jews and Christians, but a version of the story also appears in the Quran, including many details not found in the Old Testament.
Dluwang is not quite true paper, since it is not made in a mould, but a kind of tapa (made from fibrous sheets cut from the inner bark of the paper mulberry, fermented, beaten, dried and polished to make thin, pliable sheets): a material used like cloth or paper on many South Pacific islands.
With 4 pages of text in a different hand on A1v-3r (13-15 lines per page, with a few additional notes in the head margin), preceding the double-page opening and probably added by an early owner. Three short text passages have been blacked out (the longest 2½ lines), presumably censored, but with an effort one can still see the text. Lacking 2 leaves (E5.6: ll. 43-44) and with mostly marginal worm trails in about 36 leaves (more serious in ll. 89-98, with the loss of the outer cm of the first 4 lines of text on leaf 97), damage in the gutter margin of the last three leaves, only slightly affecting the text, the lower outside corner worn or eaten away in the first half, not reaching the text, and the first 3 leaves tattered, slightly affecting the text written on the end-leaves. Most of the leaves remain in good condition, with only an occasional minor stain. The spine is somewhat skewed and the wrappers are tattered and scuffed, with some creases. A fascinating Javanese Islamic manuscript, telling the famous story of Joseph and his brothers.
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Islamic culture  >  Islamic Art & Culture