Fragile palm leaves digitisation initiative

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.

Project Details

Location: Thailand, South-Eastern Asia, Asia Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Buddhist Digital Resource Center Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £36,161 Commencement Date: 12/2018 Project Status: Completed
Project owner? Update this project

Related Projects

EAP1402 Pub003

19th-century documents from the Peruvian asylum el Manicomio del Cercado

The Victor Larco Herrera Hospital in the centre of Lima, Peru, was closed in 1917. Its archives, dating back to 1859, consist of medical documentation as well as administrativ…

Explore project
EAP1306 Silk Museum

The Caucasian Silk Circle: Digitising Photo Collection of the State Silk Museum in Georgia

The State Silk Museum of Georgia holds the only documentary evidence of the practice of sericulture in the 19th century. Taken during expeditions of the Caucasian Sericulture …

Explore project
EAP1294 team

Safeguarding for Posterity Two Private Collections of Palm-Leaf Manuscripts from the Tamil Country

The Kalliṭaikuṟicci and Villiyampākkam collections are palm-leaf collections held privately in India. The collections are essential to study the prevalent reading practices in…

Explore project