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William Farquhar Correspondence and Other Malay Letters (1812-1832) at the Library of Congress

Notable Scholarship

A. Kohar Rony, former Southeast Asia Area Specialist at the Library of Congress, wrote about the letters in his article "Malay Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at the Library of Congress" in the journal Indonesia, No. 52 (Oct., 1991). In this article, Kohar Rony refers to the letters as “a bound volume containing handwritten correspondence and letters with official seals to the Chief British Resident in Singapore from heads of state in what are now Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia."

Following the publication of Rony's article, Asma Ahmat an intern at the Asian Division of the Library of Congress in 1989/90, published a Malay-language catalogue entitled Katalog Manuskrip Melayu di Library of Kongres, U.S.A. (Kuala Lumpur: Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia, 1993). Asma Ahmat’s catalogue is perhaps the most comprehensive description of the collection. In this work, the collection is given the designation “JAWI 12,” with the subheading “Koleksi surat daripada raja dan pembesar Melayu kepada Colonel William Farquhar, Residen Singapura,” which can be translated as “A Collection of letters from Malay kings and notables to Colonel William Farquhar, Resident of Singapore.” 

In addition to Asma, a scholar who has produced a significant body of work on the collection is Annabel Teh Gallop. Gallop's work constitutes the most in-depth study of letters in the collection. She has transliterated and translated eight letters in the collection: Items 16, 17, 35, 36, and 40 in Legacy of the Malay Letter=Warisan Warkah Melayu and items 26, 37, and 38 in her chapter, “Malay Sources for the History of the Sultanate of Brunei in the Early Nineteenth century: Some Letters from the Reign of Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam,” in From Buckfast to Borneo: Essays presented to Father Robert Nicholl on the 85th Anniversary of his Birth, 27 March 1995.

Another scholar whose work is relevant to the collection is Badriyah Salleh. His transliteration of Surat 111, "Daripada Tengku Pangeran Siak kepada Kolonel William Farquhar," in the Malay-language work, Warkah al-Ikhlas, 1818-1821, matches Item 31 in the collection.

One of the most recent pieces of scholarship of note on the collection is Gallop's far-ranging study on Malay seals that examines all the seals of the letters in this collection except for two (Items 16 and 35). She provides detailed information on 23 of the 25 seals in the collection including transliterations and translations of inscriptions, dates, images, and bibliographical notes where relevant. The seals examined come from the following places: Brunei (2 seals), Kampar in Pelalawan (1 seal), Kelantan (1 seal), Lingga (2 seals), Naning (1 seal), Pahang (1 seal), Palembang (2 seals), Pammana (1 seal), Riau (5 seals), Siak (3 seal), Singapore (2 seals), and Terengganu (2 seals). The two seals not covered are one from a Malay notable in Cambodia, and William Farquhar’s seal. This study can be found in her book Malay Seals from the Islamic World of Southeast Asia: Content, Form, Context, Catalogue.

In December 2020, Joshua Kueh, Southeast Asia reference librarian in the Asian Division of the Library of Congress, published a study titled “Malay and Bugis Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at the Library of Congress: An Update” on the provenance of the letters and other Malay and Bugis holdings in the Asian Division's collections. The article is available in Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society.

Selected Bibliography

The following titles link to either fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog or to the Library of Congress E-Resources Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.


A. Kohar Rony. "Malay Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at the Library of Congress." Indonesia, No. 52 (Oct., 1991), pp. 123-134.

Asma Ahmat. Katalog Manuskrip Melayu di Library of Kongres, U.S.A. Kuala Lumpur: Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia, 1993.

Badriyah Salleh. "Daripada Tengku Pangeran Siak kepada Kolonel William Farquhar," Warkah al-ikhlas, 1818-1821. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1999.

Gallop, Annabel Teh. Legacy of the Malay Letter=Warisan Warkah Melayu. London: Published by the British Library for the National Archives of Malaysia, 1994.

     --- “Malay Sources for the History of the Sultanate of Brunei in the Early Nineteenth century: Some Letters from the Reign of Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam," in Victor T. King and A.V.M. Horton (eds.), From Buckfast to Borneo: Essays presented to Father Robert Nicholl on the 85th Anniversary of his Birth, 27 March 1995. Hull: University of Hull, 1995.

    --- Malay Seals from the Islamic World of Southeast Asia: Content, Form, Context, Catalogue. Singapore: NUS Press in association with the British Library, 2019.

Hadijah Rahmat. "An American Missionary Journey into the Malay Printing World," in Lalita Sinha (ed.), Rainbows of Malay Literature and Beyond: Festschrift in Honour of Professor Md. Salleh Yaapar. Pulau Pinang: Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2011, pp. 103-122.

Kueh, Joshua. "Malay and Bugis Manuscripts and Early Printed Books at the Library of Congress: An Update." Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 93, Pt. 2, Number 319 (December 2020), pp. 45-64.

North, Alfred. Travel journal of Alfred North, Alfred North Correspondence and Other Documents, MSS 138, Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego. View online External

Proudfoot, I. Early Malay printed books: a provisional account of materials published in the Singapore-Malaysia area up to 1920, noting holdings in major public collections. Kuala Lumpur: Academy of Malay Studies and the Library, University of Malaya,1993, pp. 823-4.

Ta-Moore, Hong. "Founding Singapore: The Story of William Farquhar." 4 Corners of the World International Collections, Library of Congress. August 18, 2016.

Wilkes, Charles. Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition: during the years 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842. By Charles Wilkes...with illustrations and maps. In five volumes. Philadelphia: Lea and Blanchard, 1845. View online External.

Wright, Nadia. William Farquhar and Singapore: stepping out of Raffles' shadow. Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia: Entrepot Publishing Sdn. Bhd., 2017.