Clive Farahar Antiquarian Books - Rare and Antiquarian Books and Manuscripts

SUMATRA. A Pustaha, Magic Book of the Batak People of Northern Sumatra,    19th Century,
20 pages of text on 16 leaves, with 18 images of red cockerels, bound concertina style between plain carved boards, held with 2 woven fibrebelts, 4½ x 7¼ ins. 11.5 x 18 cms. preserved in a clamshell cloth box,
Pustaha were written on bark from the Alim tree. In Batak culture the use of writing was restricted to the esoteric knowledge of a 'datu', a shaman or medicine man, which required the use of an arcane language called Hata Poda for remedies, magic or divination. The subjects covered by the Pustaha have been summarized as the Art of Preserving Life, the Art of Destroying Life and Astrology. It therefore combines elements of religion, medicine and astrology. Many of the divinations described in the present Pustaha are made by beheading a chicken or cock, letting it fall on the ground under cover of a basket, and interpreting the meaning of its position when uncovered. The first paste-down and the first free leaf have a section 1¼ins. piece missing from the foot of the page, and there is some discolouration affecting the text of 4 pages. A note attached to the upper board reads - "From a visit to the British Museum 19.4.72. This is the note book of a medicine man dictated to his pupils. It comes from Sumatra and is approx. 200 years old. There are about 20 in the British Museum. No one can translate it. Medicine books often have cocks."

Stock ref: 14102