Jessica M. Rice: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8734-7004

Document Type





Palm leaf manuscripts, Preservation, Conservation, Metadata, Optical Character Recognition, Digitization, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism




Thanks to the Special Collections Research Center of Syracuse University Libraries


Archival Science | Library and Information Science | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


Many thousands of palm leaf manuscripts, in South Asia and elsewhere, are currently in danger of being lost due to physical deterioration. These manuscripts contain irreplaceable cultural, religious, scientific, and artistic works. Palm leaf manuscripts, which can be centuries old, are found in numerous private collections, temples, monasteries, libraries and museums. The sheer number and wide dispersal of palm leaf manuscripts provide significant challenges to conservation and preservation, including both ethical and technical considerations. A literature search and examination of palm leaf manuscripts shed light on the urgent need to proceed worldwide along two fronts simultaneously: rapid digitization of critical palm leaf manuscripts as well as physical stabilization of other manuscripts deemed high priority for possible digitization or future treatment. After a review of the historical and cultural significance of palm leaf manuscripts, as well as their basic physical structure and construction, some specific conservation issues were considered including loss compensation, consolidation, and protection from insect and fungal attack. Some traditional treatments for manuscripts, including herbs and oils, were discussed, as well as more recent approaches including chemicals, vapor humidification, and leaf casting. Although a number of national and international projects are beginning to address the massive numbers of decaying manuscripts, these efforts are not enough to stop the ongoing loss of cultural treasures and knowledge. Further research is needed into efficient and effective methods of surveying and prioritizing palm leaf manuscripts for treatment, best practices in physical stabilization, and addressing culturally sensitive issues.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.