Burmese Kammavaca Manuscript

19th Century

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A striking complete manuscript copy of a sacred Burmese text.

  • 16 leaves lacquered in red with elaborate overall decoration in gilt, 14 leaves with lines of black/dark brown lacquer text in "magyi-zi" script written recto and verso.
  • Two leaves with text on one side only.
  • Unbound as issued between a pair of wooden cover boards, lacquered in red and with gilt decoration on outer surfaces, covers and text leaves with a single hole for tying.

The Kammavaca is a Pali term describing verses from the Tipitaka that relate to rituals of monastic life and ordination. It is considered to be one of the most sacred of Burmese religious texts often commissioned by lay-people as works of merit when a son entered a Buddhist monastery. "Kammavaca are volumes of one, five, or nine extracts from the Theravadin Vinaya, each relating to specific ceremonies associated with monks. Noel F. Singer writes that the earliest kammavaca consisted of folios made of plain palm leaves, each of which had four lines of square-inked script on a gold or silver background" ("Kammavaca Texts"). "In the 17th century, folios began to be made of pieces of cloth coated with lacquer and painted with cinnabar, and the square letters were written in thick, black lacquer. Designs in gilt, which had been reserved for the ends of folios, end papers, and wooden coverboards, now began to appear between the lines of text. By the end of the 19th century, the lines of script on the folio increased to six or seven and sheets of brass or copper were introduced as folios" (Falconer). 


John Falconer, and others, Myanmar Style Art, Architecture and Design of Burma, Hong Kong, 1998, p. 177; "Kammavaca Texts: Their Covers and Binding Ribbons," Arts of Asia, 23, May-June 1993

Condition Report

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Like New

Wear to gilt, small losses to some corners and edges, all typical and commensurate with age and use.


End to End

Height: 74.25 inches / 188.59 cm

Width: 20.5 inches / 52.07 cm

Each Leaf

Height: 4 inches / 10.16 cm

Width: 20.5 inches / 52.07 cm




Religious manuscripts

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