Burmese birth certificate in Pali

Most Exotic Language


Palm leaf manuscripts originated in sections of ancient India, Burma, and Thailand. Writing was done with a pointed instrument, and pigment was rubbed into the incised script. This single leaf is a 1246 Burmese Birth Certificate, in Pali, a language used only for formal records. The contents and dates of the other leaves shown here are unknown, though the illustrated one may have come from a Brahmin Academy in Puri, India.


The Holy Bible, title page


Eliot, John. The Holy Bible: Containing the Old Testament and the New. Translated into the Indian Language, And Ordered to be Printed by the Commissioners of the United Colonies in New-England, At the Charge, and with the Consent of the Corporation in England For the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Indians in New-England. Cambridge, Mass.: Printed by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson, 1663.

The Holy Bible, Genesis

John Eliot arrived in Massachusetts in November, 1631, and was ordained teacher of the church at Roxbury in 1632. He took up the study of the language of the Algonquin Indians in 1643 and was preaching in the native language by 1646. His great life’s work was his translation into the Algonquin language of the Bible, published in Cambridge in 1663. One can only marvel at the effort involved in translating the entire Bible into a language that had not been previously written down, and the gargantuan undertaking of printers Green and Johnson in setting the minuscule type for a language they had no knowledge of.

Known as the 'Indian Apostle', John Eliot was also involved in selecting a site and laying out a plan for the Indian town at Natick.


Manuscript collection of Aztec (Nahuatl)

Gates, William. Manuscript collection of Aztec (Nahuatl) and other native Mexican language documents. Assembled for their linguistic content, ca. 1547-1906.


This collection contains catechisms, prayers, confession guides, doctrinal works, and vocabulary lists in Spanish and Indian languages. Other unrelated documents are also included pertaining to religious or administrative matters. Subjects include the arrest of John Black, United States consul, an 1847 proclamation on the coming of the Americans, and an 1863 proclamation regarding the restoration of the empire under Maximilian.

Manuscript collection of Aztec (Nahuatl)

Displayed here is a sermon written completely in Aztec on the verso of an illustrated Jesuit broadside, printed at the College of San Ildefonsa, Mexico.