To commemorate #SGBicentennial, we will be sharing a series of rare books in our collection that highlights Singapore, and the surrounding regions’ rich history.
Kicking off the series is the Hikayat Abdullah (Stories of Abdullah), which was one of the earliest lithographed works published in Singapore and deemed the ‘most ambitious and impressive Malay work ever printed in the Straits Settlements by that time’. Penned by Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, known prominently as Munshi (Teacher) Abdullah, it is an autobiography written in a direct reporting style using colloquial Malay and which gave accounts of his perceptions on various British officials such as Raffles and Farquhar; native princes; missionaries and merchants, apart from his observations on socio-historical and socio-political happenings during that period and his personal background and experiences.
Hikayat Abdullah was completed between 1840 and 1843 and was first published using the Jawi script in 1849. Various editions and translations have been reprinted since then and the oldest copy in our library is John Turnbull Thomson’s 1874 London-printed Translations from the Hakayit Abdulla (bin Abdulkadar), Munshi, with comments by the translator. Thomson was one of Abdullah’s many students over the course of his career. This English edition, however, is incomplete and contains inaccuracies. A. H. Hill’s annotated translation, published by the Journal of the Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society (Volume XXVIII Part 3, June 1955), is regarded as more authoritative.