Javanese studies have long been directed by critical editions commissioned by European patrons. The survey and digitisation of texts written for private use allow scholars to understand the different textual traditions. However, these collections are often kept in private homes, where they are exposed to tropical weather and pests.
Javanese private collections depict a side of the region’s literature not often found in museums and court collections. These materials, consisting of tales written by scribes residing near shrines, notebooks scribbled by commoners, and works produced by courtiers without patronage from nobles and sovereigns, show to what extent individual Javanese scribes departed from the tradition. The majority of the collection is dated from the pre-industrial 19th Century.
As the manuscripts are kept in private homes, they are vulnerable to the tropical weather and the owners lack the ability to preserve them properly. The material is often overshadowed by the better-kept and already digitised archives of the region. Many of the manuscripts have already been lost.
The project digitised 396 manuscripts from private collections in Central Java. The survey focused on the cities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta, with a few samples from Gresik. The project highlighted three crucial historical moments: the contrast between the central and peripheral courts in the early 19th Century, the importance of Chinese script before the Anti-Communist/Chinese massacre, and the interpretation of the national curriculum by Javanese students in the Late Colonial to Early Republican Era.