Batak Pustaha [Magic Book]

Material Information

Batak Pustaha [Magic Book]
Series Title:
Objects of instruction : treasures of SOAS
Added title page title:
Pustaha (magic book)
Added title page title:
Magic book
From the William Marsden collection.
Place of Publication:
Sumatra, Indonesia
Publication Date:
Tree bark ( medium )
H21 x 17.8 cm in
Concertina style, on sheets of bark. Enclosed within wooden boards.


Subjects / Keywords:
Magic ( lcsh )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Indonesia -- Sumatra
0 x 102


The Batak of northern Sumatra are grouped within the Austronesian language family, although there are numerous ethnic groups, dialects, kinship systems and religious customs. Each group has its own alphabet, perhaps via the ancient Javanese Kawi script rather than directly from South Asia. The ‘bark’ books were traditionally made from the bast of the alim tree (Aquilaria malaccensis). This is cut into strips and folded concertina fashion, with ink applied to engraved lines of writing. The pustaha record various types of knowledge, including cures for illness, massage, the production of amulets, offensive magic and shooting. There are also calendars used to determine auspicious days for journeys, planting, marriage, house-building or other social activities. (Text by John T. Carpenter and Yoshiko Yasumura, from the exhibition catalogue: Objects of instruction : treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Anna Contadini, Editor. London : SOAS, University of London, 2007.) ( en )
General Note:
Formerly part of the library of the Orientalist and linguist William Marsden (1754-1836), a portion of which he presented to King's College London in 1835.
General Note:
The 'Objects of instruction : the treasures of SOAS' exhibition was funded through a generous gift from the Foyle Foundation and with the support of the Arts & Humanities Research Council.
General Note:
Source: A. Contadini (ed.), Objects of Instruction : Treasures of the School of Oriental and African Studies. London : SOAS, University of London, 2007, p.67, no.49.
General Note:
From Northern Sumatra.

Record Information

Source Institution:
SOAS, University of London
Holding Location:
Archives and Special Collections
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
MS 41836 ( soas manuscript number )
54345790-db0d-42a7-b568-3853bf1abb3c ( calm recordid )