Sovereign Signs: Titles of Kingship on Malay Seals
Gallop, Annabel Teh
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The recent publication of a new catalogue of over 2,000 Malay seals—defined as seals from Southeast Asia, with inscriptions in Arabic script—makes available for the first time a substantial corpus of primary source material from the Malay archipelago, dating from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century. The main function of the inscription on a Malay seal was to identify the seal owner and to locate him or her within their social, political and spiritual universe. This was evoked through an iteration of his/her title and/or personal name, sometimes accompanied by a pedigree, a place name, a date, a religious expression, and an amuletic formula imbued with protective powers. In this article the titles of Malay kingship inscribed on seals will be explored through the various component elements: the prefatory honorifics, the title proper of the ruler, and the sovereign epithets used to confirm and magnify his status.