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Cooperation between the National Library of Indonesia and Leiden University Libraries is taking shape

The Panji manuscripts held by the National Library of Indonesia and Leiden University Libraries (UBL) will be digitised and exchanged thanks to a cooperation between the two institutions. On 3 December at a special meeting in Jakarta, a first set of digitised Panji manuscripts were shared which will shortly become available. It means the Panji manuscripts will become more accessible worldwide for education and research. Prior to the exchange, an agreement was signed at the University Library in Leiden. Both institutions plan to work closely together in the coming years.

The digitised Panji manuscripts can be accessed free of charge through the Khasanah Budaya Nusantara website of the National Library of Indonesia and UBL’s Digital Collections. Panji stories are popular stories from Java revolving around the eponymous protagonist Prince Panji. The stories always involve a prince and a princess, love and adventure. They can be quite complicated, featuring name changes, masquerades, incarnations and metamorphoses. The Panji stories are depicted in texts, in the theatre and in wayang.

Dozens of Panji stories exist in various languages, including Javanese-Balinese, Javanese, Malay, Sasak, Sundanese, Acehnese, and Buginese. The Panji stories are originally from Eastern Java, from where they spread over a wide area ranging from Indonesia to Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. They owe their great popularity to the story’s inherent flexibility, which is easily adapted to local traditions. The study of these Panji stories offers numerous new insights into the history, literature and culture of South East Asia.

The exchange agreement on the digitised Panji manuscripts was signed by Kurt De Belder (right), University Librarian, in the presence of Teguh Purwanto (left), who represented Muhammad Syarif Bando, head of the National Library of Indonesia.

UNESCO

The UBL holds a unique collection of more than 250 manuscripts containing age-old Panji stories. The Panji collection in Leiden was included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register together with the collections of Panji manuscripts in the national libraries of Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia in 2017. The register lists documentary heritage that is considered to be of exceptional value to the world.

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