Since it was published the Sejarah Melayu has rightly been considered the most important Malay historical work, and consequently there exists a fairly extensive literature on this text, written mostly by English scholars. Nevertheless a critical edition of the Malay Annals, as it is commonly called in English, is still lacking; the problems of its genesis and structure have barely been touched, and although the text has been known for more than a century we are still in the dark as to when exactly it was written. We shall be unable to solve the various problems involved until all manuscripts known to exist have been studied and a critical edition has been brought out.
The study of manuscripts, however, is very time-consuming, and not everyone is in a position, or has the leisure, to devote himself to the task. An additional difficulty in the case of the Sejarah Melayu is that the manuscripts are found scattered over libraries in various countries: in Indonesia (Djakarta, Museum Pusat), in the United Kingdom (mainly in London) and in the Netherlands (Leiden). 1 The number of manuscripts of the Malay Annals is fairly large.
In the libraries mentioned above there are more than twenty, and the number rises to nearly thirty when the related texts are also taken into account. It goes without saying that not all of these manuscripts have the same value; some are fragmentary or otherwise incomplete; others are just copies of existing manuscripts, and some are even copies of the printed text. This large number, however, is remarkable in itself and bears testimony to the high regard in which the Malay Annals have always been held. Yet we should bear in mind that all these manuscripts are late copies dating from the nineteenth century. Marsden, in his History of Sumatra,2 after having mentioned the Sulalatu'l-Salatin or Penurunan segala raja-raja, goes on to say that he had been unable to obtain a copy. But this may only mean that in Marsden's days the text was not to be had in Bencoolen and apparently was only available in Johore and Riau, that is, in the Malay areas in the stricter sense of the word. Besides manuscripts there exist printed texts and translations as well, and these are set out below ..... Read More