The Fragile Palm Leaf Foundation (FPL) holds hundreds of unknown and unstudied manuscripts and texts. Access to this vast collection would revolutionise the study of Theravāda Buddhism, Pali philology, history, and literature. Due to neglect, mishandling, and theft, these texts risk disappearing forever.
The Fragile Palm Leaves collection primarily includes palm-leaf manuscripts containing texts in Pali and Southeast Asian vernacular languages, including Burmese, Shan, Tai Khun, Tai Lue, and Mon. The collection contains primary sources for the scholarly study of Burmese and Theravāda Buddhism, Pali philology, history, and literature, as well as pre-modern textual/scribal practices and manuscript culture. It also includes Xeroxes of hundreds of manuscripts from temple libraries.
Thousands of Burmese manuscripts have disappeared or have been destroyed due to poor storage, neglect, mishandling, and theft. Most monastic communities do not care for such manuscripts, and their conditions are dire. Some manuscripts are even burnt for fuel. Digitising the FPL collection will take many years, meaning many manuscripts will continue to deteriorate during this period. Scholarly expertise is urgently required to prioritise materials for preservation.
Part of a wider digitisation mission of the Buddhist Digital Research library, the project digitised and catalogued 300 fragile Pali palm-leaf manuscripts in Burmese script . Containing approximately 1,000 Buddhist texts. Local staff gained experience in photography, image editing, and file management, as well as training on handling material for digitisation.