A 14th Century Malay Code of Laws: The Nitisarasamuccaya

A 14th Century Malay Code of Laws: The Nitisarasamuccaya
Uli Kozok, author
Date of publication:  2015
Publisher:  Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
Number of pages:  408
Code:  NSC16
Hard Cover
ISBN: 9789814459747
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Edwin Wieringa, Asian Studies Review, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 471-472, 2017.

"The Nitisarasamuccaya is easily the oldest extant Malay manuscript. It is a relatively small pre-Islamic legal code consisting mainly of a list of fines. This book is a heavily annotated edition of it. Uli Kozok rediscovered the tree bark manuscript in 2002 during fieldwork in the village of Tanjung Tanah in Kerinci, Sumatra. Radiocarbon testing of a sample from a blank page indicated that "the manuscript was most likely produced during the fourteenth century, but an early fifteenth century date is also possible" (p. 53).

In 2004, Uli Kozok published an English-language monograph dealing with the same codex, followed in 2006 by a study in Indonesian. Both works involved scholars who are duly mentioned in this book (p.xiii). The present book is much more substantial and seems to be intended as the "definitive" edition, rendering the earlier publications obsolete. Kozok and his team should be thanked for providing us with the tools to study a most intriguing pre-Islamic Malay manuscript, long safeguarded in the interior of Sumatra as a sacred heirloom virtually unknown to a wider public. Photographs of its pages allow scholars to read the text for themselves, while this edition with its copious, learned commentaries might guide further interpretation. The importance of this unique manuscript for the study of Malay literary culture can hardly be overrated."

About the publication

That is why the impressive results of the fieldwork and subsequent analytical research by the German scholar, Dr. Uli Kozok, are remarkable. By devoting considerable time and funds to his project in the interior of Sumatra, Kozok has produced results that will change the writing of the history of Malay. [...] By conducting fieldwork (Kozok saw the text in Kerinci in August 2002), by following up leads from the colonial literature (Voorhoeve's compilation), by analyzing the text without depending on accepted knowledge and by taking the step of using the latest technology to obtain an empirical perspective about the material, Kozok has succeeded in laying a major part of a foundation for the rewriting of the history of Malay in Indonesia!     - James T. Collins (2004, pp. 18-19)

The e-chapter on " Pusaka: Kerinci Manuscripts" ,  is downloadable free of charge.


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