Outstanding Contribution to the People of Malaysia

Dato' Dr. Annabel Teh Gallop

Historian, Datuk Dr Annabel Teh Gallop, who was born in Britain and raised in Brunei, has spent more than three decades traveling the world to promote historic manuscripts written in the Malay language. Very few people have done this.
“We will all pass on, but our writings will last, and that’s what keeps me going”.
- Dato’ Dr Annabel Teh Gallop - 

Initially majoring in mathematics, Dr Gallop later earned a Master in Malay Studies and a PhD on the Malay Seals. In addition to being a member of the editorial board for the journal “Indonesia and the Malay World,” which is based at SOAS, University of London, Dr Gallop was appointed adjunct professor at the Language and Communications Faculty of Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin in Terengganu for the academic year 2017–2018. In addition to these roles, she co-directed the British Academy-funded research project Islam, Trade and Politics across the Indian Ocean (2009–2013), which looked at Ottoman connections with Southeast Asia. She also served on the committee of the Association of Southeast Asian Studies in the UK (ASEASUK).
She is currently employed as the Head of the Southeast Asia section in the Asian and African Collections of the British Library. About 10,000 printed books, journals, and newspapers as well as 120 manuscripts written in Malay and Jawi can be found in the library’s Malay division.

Showing His Majesty the Yang Dipertuan Agong some of the Malay manuscripts
in the British Library, December 2019

Her work on Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean writing traditions, book cultures, the art of the Qur’an, Malay and Indonesian manuscripts, letters, documents, and seals, and comparative Islamic diplomatics earned her the distinction of being recently elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in September 2019.

Her current research focuses on Qur’anic art in Southeast Asia. An understanding of the material and cultural features of manuscripts as a critical complement to their textual significance is a recurring theme in her study. Dr Gallop has been digitising precious old Malay papers so that anyone interested in learning more can easily access them. Her work has rekindled interest in old Malay manuscripts, which are rich in language as well as in drawings and unspoken meanings. Since she earned her doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 2002 with the thesis “Malay Seal Inscriptions: A Study in Islamic Epigraphy from Southeast Asia”, she has been recognised as the world’s foremost authority on the study and history of ancient Malay letters, manuscripts, seals, and documents. Dr Gallop has been sharing her knowledge and research on ancient Malay letters, manuscripts and seals as a rich heritage of the Malay world with many local and international heritage organisations. Among the many organisations that she has worked with was the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society on Seals as Sources for the History of Negeri Sembilan in 2013, Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu, University Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2006.
She also worked with reputable Malaysian scholar Farish A Noor and art activist Eddin Khoo in the publication of Spirit of Wood, the art of Malay woodcarving: works by master carvers from Kelantan, Terengganu and Pattani in 2003 and with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka on the publication of Dunia Percetakan Melayu hingga tahun 1900: Suatu Tinjauan Awal in 1995, in the cataloguing and historical documentation of Ensiklopedia Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu in 1994, Pendokumentasian Koleksi Melayu di UK: Pendokumentasian Bahasa dan Kesusasteraan in 1991.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Press, in collaboration with the British Library and the Lontar Foundation in Indonesia has just published her remarkable catalogue of more than 2,168 Malay seals that date from the second half of the 16th century to the early 20th century and sourced from more than 70 public institutions and 60 private collections worldwide. Chicago University sells and distributes her work throughout North and South America, and Bernard Quaritch Ltd., a rare book and manuscript distributor, does the same in the United Kingdom. From London to Singapore, Dr Gallop lectures about these exquisite masterpieces with such eloquence and authority that any conference on Malay manuscripts, letters, documents and seals and the art of the Islamic book in Southeast Asia would be incomplete without her presence.