Sulalat Al-Salatin or the Genealogy of Kings is possibly the most recognizable Malay work. In its monumental text it embraces centuries of Malay history, describing several important historical events, as well as fictional stories and sometimes somehow exaggerated narratives.
The work was described by the scholars as “the most famous, distinctive, and best of all Malay literary works” (R. O. Winstedt, History of Malay Literature, 1939), “one of the most, if not the most, important texts of Malay literature” (Chambert-Loir, 2005) and “the unequaled jewel of Malay literature” (Chambert-Loir, 2017).
The text, combined of original stories and several older texts, probably started developing in the late 15th or in the 16th century and was traditionally read to the public. Until the 19th century the text survived in the various forms and lengths as a manuscript.
Sulalat Al-Salatin was first printed in Malay language as a book in 1841 in Singapore, based on a text, edited by the scholar Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir. The script used was the Jawi alphabet, a script based on the Arabic lettering and traditionally used for several languages of the Southeast Asia.
Our book, printed by Brill in 1884, in Leiden, was based on this 1841 Singapore edition and was edited by H. C. Klinkert (1829 – 1913), a Dutch Mennonite missionary, translator and teacher of Malay at the Leiden University.
Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir
The author / editor of this version of Sulalat al-Salatin was Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir (1796–1854), born in Malacca, who worked as a munshi (a scribe, a secretary and a teacher) in Singapore. He was born to parents of Tamil and Yemeni descent and was described as a Jawi Peranakan, a member of an elite ethnic group found primarily within the Malaysian state of Penang and in Singapore.
After several positions on the field of writing and teaching, Abdullah became a scribe an copyist to Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781 – 1826) a British statesman, Lieutenant-Governor of the Dutch East Indies between 1811 and 1816, and Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen (1818–1824). Sir Stamford Raffles is best known for his founding of modern Singapore and the Straits Settlements.
Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir also worked as a translator of the Gospels for the London Missionary Society and the American Board of Missions. He died suddenly in 1854 in Jeddah or Mecca during the Hajj pilgrimage.
Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir was one of the pioneering and most influential Malay writers of his time. His most famous works were an autobiography Hikayat Abdullah (1849), Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke Kelantan (1838), an author’s travelogue from Singapore to Kalantan, which was the first commercially published Malay literary text, and Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke Mekah, a posthumously published travelogue to Mecca. For his realism, Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir is regarded as one of the first reporters of his time and area.
As Abdullah bin Abdul al Kadir’s edition of the Sulalat Al-Salatin, first published in Singapore in 1841, is today almost unobtainable and does not appear in any auction records nor in any institutions in Worldcat, the Leiden edition from 1884 becomes the first obtainable printed example on the market.
We could only trace around six examples of the book on Worldcat (Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg, University of Melbourne Libraries, Bibliothèque nationale de France, New York Public Library System, Utrecht University Library, Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden). The title is sometimes listed under the Dutch translation Sadjarah Malajoe of de Maleische Kronieken. Other examples appear to be electronic copies. We could not find any other examples of the book in the auction records for the past decades.
References: OCLC 910081125, 224722596, 963161972, 1245328303. Cf.: Henri Chambert-Loir, The Sulalat al-Salatin as a Political Myth , Indonesia, No. 79, 2005, pp. 131-160 ; Henri Chambert-Loir, The History of a History: The Variant Versions of the Sulalat al-Salatin. Indonesia, No. 104, 2017, pp. 121-177.