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Subject: Musical manuscripts in the Philippines

Musical manuscripts in the Philippines

From: Rene Teygeler <rene.teygeler>
Date: Thursday, November 27, 2003
Elizabeth Melzer <eamelzer [at] unimelb__edu__au> writes

>I was wondering if anyone knew of any other traditions of parchment
>or similar manuscript manufacture either in Asia or other tropical
>regions?  Or can anyone refer me to any contacts they have with
>knowledge in these areas either from a conservation or art history

The Philippines occupy quite a different position in the history of
paper and book in Asia.

Printing was introduced by the Spaniards who arrived in 1521 and
started already in 1593 with the Doctrina Christiana. In 1648 the
book production was up to 81 of which 24 in Tagalog, the local
language. Since the 16th century the country was heavily colonized
by Spain for more than 200 years and till today the Filipinos, Malay
from origin, are predominantly Roman Catholic. In the south the
sultans from Mindanao and Sulu, who resisted the Spanish occupation,
remained Muslim. There is little indication of Hindu and Buddhist
influence except on a few little islands.

Industrial papermaking started in 1941 and writing paper was
produced locally since 1949. Still almost all the pulp was imported.
In the 19th century the Americans did venture into fiber production
and especially Manila Hemp was a great export product. In the 1970's
many government agencies, NGO's and IO's stimulated fiber production
in connection with the pulp industry and small-scale hand
papermaking. Therefore Filipino archives must contain mainly of
imported European papers. It would not surprise me if you would find
very little Spanish papers as for a long time they considered their
own paper as inferior and they would prefer to use imported papers
from Italy and France even in their own country. The first printed
book Doctrina Christiana was printed on Chinese paper. As the
Chinese arrived before the Spaniards in the Philippines it would not
be surprising that they set up a small-scale handmade paper industry
for their own uses as for the production of offering papers (paper

In many Hindu and Buddhist societies the preparation of animal skins
is a religious taboo. In Muslim countries, however, the use of
leather bookbindings is very common. I know of many Indonesian
leather bindings from Sumatra and Java ever since these regions had
been introduced to the Islam. As a writing material parchment was
hardly used in Indonesia. Next to imported European paper palm
leaves and sometimes crude tree bark, beaten tree bark (tapa) or
bamboo was used for writing. The Mangyans from Mindoro for instance
used bamboo for their love songs written in a script derived from an
Indian script.

Parchment was used for nautical charts by European seamen, as paper
would deteriorate very quickly in the humid salty air.

In short: the bookbindings could very well have been produced
locally. The way I see it the bindings could have been influenced by
either the Spanish bindings or the Islamic bindings. Both the
Spanish and Islamic bindings should be recognized easily by an
expert. There might even be a tradition of local bindings with
particular Filipino motives. As for parchment or vellum I am not so
sure whether there could have been a local production center. I
would be very curious as to what animals they have used. Again for
an expert that would not be too difficult to find out and the quest
for the provenance of the material would be a lot easier.

Hope to have been of service,

Rene Teygeler (MA)
Research and Consultancy International Cultural Heritage
Utrecht, the Netherlands

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:44
                Distributed: Thursday, December 4, 2003
                       Message Id: cdl-17-44-004
Received on Thursday, 27 November, 2003

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