Batak Bark Book


Material Information

Batak Bark Book
Physical Description:
Handwritten and illustrated book made from folded alim tree bark


General Note:
Per : The Batak population of Sumatra consists of six different groups11, one of which is the Toba Batak group. The items on display originated in the Toba Batak community. The priest also used pustaha, books made of the bark of the alim tree, in which Toba Batak sacred knowledge was recorded. The pustaha and the inscribed bamboo containers were used to predict the future and identify auspicious days for religious ceremonies and travel. The priest's role has diminished in modern Batak society but the ritual objects continue to be works of art with great aesthetic value.
General Note:
Per : Bark Books (pustaha) : The bark books are made from a strip of the smooth inner bark of the alim tree (Aquilaria malaccensis), which is folded accordion-like to form a number of equal sized leaves. Wooden covers are attached to the first and last leaves; fine specimens may have carved covers and elaborate illustrations in the text, sometimes enlivened by red ink. For the most part, the texts of the bark books address either the art of preserving life or of destroying life. They were written by a datu (sorcerer or priest), for his own use and for transmission to pupils. Thus, the texts usually contain the phrase poda ni, which has been translated as “instructions for” or “relating to the theory of” by Petrus Voorhoeve. Because they contain specialist knowledge, the content of the bark books is often difficult for non-specialists to understand. They are written in a standardized language (called poda language by Voorhoeve) using an archaic Toba Batak dialect which retained many ancient words that were no longer used in spoken language.
General Note:
See "Pustaha: A Study into the Production Process of the Batak Book" from:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the source institution.
System ID: