Review
Books

Southeast Asian illuminated manuscripts

Book looks at Thai and Burmese historic texts from the British Library

    A 19th-century Thai treatise on the treatment of tumours Courtesy of the British Library

    The British Library has the largest collection of Southeast Asian manuscripts in the world. This book is a selection of illuminated manuscripts mainly from Thailand and Burma. Sacred scriptures, literary works and histories, texts on medicine (here, a 19th-century Thai treatise on the treatment of tumours), law, cosmology and fortune-telling are finely illustrated. The text explains the various categories of writing according to salient points of Buddhist thought and each caption carefully explains the illumination's subject and its relation to its text. Appendices explain technical terms and outline various theological concepts, such as the symbolic meaning of Buddha's footprint.

  • San San May and Jana Igunma, Buddhism Illuminated: manuscript Art from Southeast Asia. The British Library, 272pp, £50 (hb)