As a result of purchases made by MEP missionaries in Asia and donations received from a few French orientalists, the IRFA has in its collections about 125 “Asian” manuscripts, all of which are particularly rare.
This collection includes mainly Buddhist documents, produced between the 17th and 19th centuries in Southeast Asia, on vegetable supports (in particular on latanier or palm leaves called “olles”). The collection also keeps Indian manuscripts recognizable by their South Indian spelling (especially Tamil or Kannada) and, more rarely, manuscripts on paper, bound in the Chinese or Japanese style or folded on the model of “orihons”.
1/ The most precious set is made up of manuscripts in Pali, along with a few others in Burmese, Thai and Laotian. It has been catalogued in an extremely precise manner by the philologist Jacqueline Filliozat, member of the Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient.
Jacqueline Filliozat has also drawn up a Liste des textes contenus dans les manuscrits pâlis des Missions étrangères de Paris.
These 53 manuscripts can be consulted in our reading room.
2/ A second set contains the rest of the collection, which is more varied. Only a very sparse inventory could be drawn up.
The manuscripts of this second collection have not been studied enough for the moment and are at the disposal of specialists for any more detailed investigation.