Menachem Ali Goes Around The World Hunting Ancient Manuscripts

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Menachem Ali saat berada di salah satu negeri yang dikunjunginya. Dia hobi mengoleksi manuskrip lawas. (Foto: dok. M. Ali)

UNAIR NEWS – Collecting rare manuscripts or books is an uncommon hobby, moreover going to flea markets and going abroad to hunt desired old and rare books. This has been an interest of   Mochammad Ali, S.S., M.A. Min., philology lecturer of Indonesian Literature program FIB UNAIR. Thousands of rare books are well kept in his cabinets.

“I have a program to collect all Indonesian heritage manuscripts, especially of East Java which are still in flea markets. I buy them before taken by foreigners,” said the lecturer who focused on pesantren philological research.

As lecturer, Ali felt that he had to give the best to his students, especially related to pesantren and Islamic manuscripts. He started hunting for rare manuscripts and books in 2009, when he was teaching in FIB UNAIR.  

“If I bring the real manuscript, the students will be challenged to know more about Indonesian heritage,” said Ali.

Other than manuscripts, the man born in Gresik also collected old printed books. He got most of his collections when he was browsing in flea markets. In his opinion, there were many interesting things there so it became his main destination during for trips.

“I also collect old printed books on pesantren philology such as the Qur’an in Javanese transcription. While I was at Marocco, I also hunted some manuscripts in Hebrew and Arabic,”  added Ali who usually listed his target books before going abroad.

Consequently, when he got back from his trips abroad, his suitcases was full of books. “If I bring a suitcase abroad, when I arrive home, my clothes are not in the suitcase as I replace with books. I gave my clothes away,” he said.

In his hunt, Ali wanted to categorize his collections into local language, regional, and international. Some of them are all religions’ bibles in any languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi (Persian), Urdu, Greek, Coptic, Sanskrit, Hindi, Dutch, English, Javanese, Madurese, Malay and so on.

“For example, I want to have Al-Quran in Greek. Or I want to have Buddhism bible in Arabic,”Menachem Ali said.

In his cabinets, thousands of rare books are kept in local languages or foreign. The collection was divided into three big theme, nationality, religion and culture.

“Other than my books, I am also interested in three things, nationality, religiosity, and culture. So, they are divided into three big genres. Insya Allah, there’s no other collections like mine,” Ali said. (*)

Author: Hasan
Editor: Defrina S. Satiti

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