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Old 28th April 2013, 01:23 AM   #4
A. G. Maisey
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 6,259

What I will write here is probably not going to be well received, and many people will not agree with me. I accept this and I will not enter into debate to support what I will now write.

In my opinion the very best book that has ever been published dealing with the keris is the small (almost) booklet that was written by Garrett and Bronwen Solyom around 40 years ago. There is no identifiable error in this book, only varying points of view, and the information contained in it came from impeccable sources and was accurately repeated.

Every book on the keris that follows the Solyom publication fails in one way or another.

In recent years we have seen a plethora of beautifully printed coffee table books full of beautiful photographs. The focus of most of these books has been an artistic presentation of the keris. Some of these books have been really nice books to spend time with, looking at the pics, but I must admit, I’ve given up reading the captions, because many of these captions make me just a little concerned.

A recent book authored by Tony Junus varies a little from this theme and provides information which permits an interested reader to gain some sort of understanding of the fabric underlying the system of keris belief in Solo a couple of generations past. This book also functions as an advertising medium for the creations of its author, and has a very good presentation of beautiful keris.

Keris Jawa (Haryono Haryoguritno) provides a glimpse of the current systems of classification that are in general use, as well as many superb photographs and excellent illustrations.

The couple of editions of Bambang Harsrinuksmo’s “Ensiklopedi” provide lists of names and descriptions, something very useful to the pure collector, but possibly some of this information is rather questionable.

David van Duuren produced two excellent books on the keris:- The Kris (De Kris) and the one absolutely indispensable book dealing with keris knowledge:-

Krisses-A critical Bibliography-David van Duuren.Pictures Publishers,Polstraat 52,4261 BV,Wijk en Aalburg,Holland.

It would be an interesting exercise to measure the contribution to keris knowledge of the recent spate of picture books against the few books I have mentioned above.

However, even the excellence of some of the above publications does not provide an understanding of the keris in historical terms nor do any of these publications seek to address the big questions that surround the keris. Most of these books are essentially either eye candy or props to permit classification against a very basic present day comprehension, the exception being David van Duuren's bibliography, which functions as a key to keris knowledge.

More than 20 years ago I asked Empu Pauzan Pusposukadgo whether he had seen the most recent keris book that had hit the bookstores --- I forget what it was. His response as near as I can recall was something like

” No, and I have no wish to see it. All these books are written by people who understand next to nothing about the keris and they all repeat one another’s errors.”

Bapak Pauzan has written a book that is presently being produced and should be available around the time of Bulan Puasa. This should be an essential inclusion in every keris interested person's library, as it is the first modern book written by a practicing empu. Bapak Pauzan's orientation is the art of the keris, and I would expect to see this aspect of keris understanding prioritised in his writings.

Back in the mid-1980’s I gave a recently published book to my teacher , Empu Suparman. As he quickly scanned through it he became more and more agitated, and finally closed it, put it down and quietly said:-

“It’s a pity that people don’t learn about keris before they begin to write about them.”

I’m beginning to feel the same way.
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