Bark books AKA: Pustaha or pustaka

Bark books come predominantly from the Batak region of Sumatra in Indonesia. They are also found in the Celebes Islands (Sulawesi).

What is a bark book?

MS 3048

MS 3048


Bark strips are cut from the Alim tree; bark books have also been made from bamboo. In India bark books have been made from bhoja-patra or bhurja-patra (birch bark).

Inscriptions are written in lines parallel to the lines of the bark. More often than not the texts deal with magic and divination. They are a kind of notebook for the medicine man

Method of making a bark book:

From the earliest times, the easiest way to make a book was by folding. Bark books are accordion-style folded bark strips, upon which text is inscribed.


I found these two at the National Library, of unknown date.
Batak book MS 3048



No covers; folded leaves accordion style; inscribed.

Batta Book – NanKivell Collection MS4295


from Sulawesi

from Sulawesi


Smooth, naturally curved covers, folded leaves accordion style, inscribed. From Sulawesi.batta bark book

Also has a woven tie to keep book closed. Currently housed in clamshell box.



Voorhoeve, P(1951). Batak Bark Books. YY 091.095981 v951

Bark book   collections:

British Museam Add 4726 (oldest?)

Royal Netherlands Academy of Science

Van der Tuurk Collection

John Rylands Library



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