|Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary|
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in one series in original order.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains a two volume, 335 page typescript of the autobiography of Munshi Abdullah, as translated from the Malay by W.G. Shellabear. Shellabear's translated version was published in 1918 and consists of fourteen chapters.
Burke Library record group:
Missionary Research Library Archives: MRL4, Southeast Asia
Using the Collection
Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Information concerning copyright, fair use, and reproduction requests can be consulted at Columbia's Copyright Advisory Office.
Item description, MRL4: The Autobiography of Munshi Abdullah, 1918, box #, folder #, The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Formerly part of the independent Missionary Research Library (MRL), these records were moved with the MRL to the Brown Memorial Tower of Union Theological Seminary in 1929, and accessioned by the Burke Library at the time of the MRL's closure in 1976.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary
Material was cataloged by Lynn A. Grove on 1988-07-19. Materials were placed in new acid-free folders and boxes. The finding aid was created by Debbie Liu in 2012 with the support of the Henry Luce Foundation, and edited by Leah Edelman in 2020.
2020-08-25 PDF converted to EAD and description updated by Leah Edelman.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Munshi Abdullah (1796-1854), born Abdullah bin Abdul Karir, was a writer, teacher, and translator of Malay, the national language of Malaysia. Abdullah was born in the Malaysian state of Malacca and spent a significant amount of time in Singapore as an interpreter and tutor of Malay. At age 13, Munshi Abdullah began teaching and writing Koranic texts to Indian soldiers of the Malacca garrison stationed at the Malaccan Fort. From these soldiers he was given the Malay nickname "Munshi", or teacher of language. In December 1810, Abdullah was hired as a copyist and scribe for British East Indian administrator and founder of the port City of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. From 1815, Abdullah worked as a translator for the London Missionary Society, translating the Gospels into Malay as well as teaching the language to British missionaries. In 1819, he arrived in Singapore to begin work as an interpreter and taught Malay to British and American missionaries and Indian soldiers. Additionally, Abdullah also occasionally served as a secretary to Sir Stamford Raffles and was a printer to the press for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Singapore.
Abdullah's writings are considered to be highly influential and mark an early stage in the departure from classic to modern Malay literature. Munshi Abdullah is best known for his journalistic approach and colloquial style about the life and times of the Malay people. His most famous publication, Hikayat Abdullah (Abdullah's Story), was written between 1840 and 1843 and was published in 1849. Hikayat Abdullah was one of the first Malay texts published commercially.