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Pali manuscript

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 10 May 2017

Biographical History

According to Wikipedia: "Palm leaves were used as a writing material in the Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia dating back to at least the 5th century BCE...The text in palm leaf manuscripts was inscribed with a knife pen on rectangular cut and cured palm leaf sheets; colourings were then applied to the surface and wiped off, leaving the ink in the incised grooves. Each sheet typically had a hole through which a string could pass, and with these the sheets were tied together with a string to bind like a book."

Pali is a liturgical language, the canonical language of Theravāda Buddhism. It is an Indo-Aryan language closely related to Sanskrit. The earliest known examples, found in Sri Lanka, date from the first century BCE. Although it fell into disuse in India in the fourteenth century, it survived elsewhere until the eighteenth and is today a subject of study among scholars including the Pali Text Society (founded 1881).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Pali manuscript consists of a manuscript written in the Pali language on what appears to be palm leaf. There are forty or so leaves, approximately 1 1/2" by 14", bound between two pieces of bark or roughly-cut wood. A single string through the center connects the leaves and covers, and wraps around to hold the "book" together. The leaves appear to be written on one side, only although it is difficult to tell as they are in poor condition and much darkened. There is also a separate single leaf, roughly 2" by 20", written on both sides in the Pali language. It is in much better condition. Two holes in the leaf indicate it was once bound with others.

Arrangement of the Collection



Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Pali literature.
Palm-leaf manuscripts.
Religious literature -- Ceylon.

Genres and Forms

Palm leaf (material)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Pali manuscript,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Manuscript, gift of unnamed student, circa 1940[?]. Single leaf, provenance unknown.

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