Since it was published the Sejarah Melayu has rightly been considered the most important Malay historical work, and consequently there exists a fairly extensive literature on this text, written mostly by English scholars. Nevertheless a critical edition of the Malay Annals, as it is commonly called in English, is still lacking; the problems of its genesis and structure have barely been touched, and although the text has been known for more than a century we are still in the dark as to when exactly it was written. We shall be unable to solve the various problems involved until all manuscripts known to exist have been studied and a critical edition has been brought out.

The study of manuscripts, however, is very time-consuming, and not everyone is in a position, or has the leisure, to devote himself to the task. An additional difficulty in the case of the Sejarah Melayu is that the manuscripts are found scattered over libraries in various countries: in Indonesia (Djakarta, Museum Pusat), in the United Kingdom (mainly in London) and in the Netherlands (Leiden).1

The number of manuscripts of the Malay Annals is fairly large. In the libraries mentioned above there are more than twenty, and the number rises to nearly thirty when the related texts are also taken into account. It goes without saying that not all of these manuscripts have the same value; some are fragmentary or otherwise incomplete; others are just copies of existing manuscripts, and some are even copies of the printed text. This large number, however, is remarkable in itself and bears testimony to the high regard in which the Malay Annals have always been held. Yet we should bear in mind that all these manuscripts are late copies dating from the nineteenth century.

Marsden, in his History of Sumatra, after having mentioned the Sulalatu'l-Salatin or Penurunan segala raja-raja, goes on to say that he had been unable to obtain a copy. But this may only mean that in Marsden's days the text was not to be had in Bencoolen and apparently was only available in Johore and Riau, that is, in the Malay areas in the stricter sense of the word.

Besides manuscripts there exist printed texts and translations as well, and these are set out below:
1)    The first printed text was that edited by Abdullah bin Abdulkadir Munshi and published in Singapore about 1831; republished anonymously (by H. C. Klinkert) in the Netherlands (Leiden) in 1884; later published again, in a romanized edition, by Teeuw and Situ-morang (Djakarta/Amsterdam) in 1952.
2)     An edition by Ed. Dulaurier in the Collection des principales Chroniques Malayes (Paris 1849-1856), which, however, was not completed due to the death of Dulaurier.
3)      The well-known Shellabear text.
4)    The Raffles 18 version, published by Sir Richard Winstedt in JRASMB XVI, Pt 3 (1938); translated into English by.C. C. Brown in the same Journal, Vol. XXV, Pts 2 and 3 (1952).
5)    An edition published in Indonesia and edited by Datuk Madjoindo (Djakarta 1959), Arabic characters, 2 volumes.
6)    The first translation into English was made by John Leyden; it appeared posthumously in 1821, edited by Raffles: Malay Annals: translated from the Malay language….. with an Introduction by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (London 1821). This translation — a very free rendering of the Malay text — ends with the death of Tun Ali Hati, that is, where the edition of Abdullah also ends.
7)     Finally, a French translation (incomplete) must be mentioned: Le Sadjarah Malayou (L'Arbre genealogique malais) ou histoire des radjas et des sultans malais depuis les origines jusqu'a la conquete

Before Leyden's translation appeared, however, other writers had already given extracts and translations of the subject-matter found in the Sejarah Melayu, namely van der Vorm and Valentijn. The latter gave an account of the history of the Malays and a genealogical list of their kings with (Christian) years. The information given by him is basically the same as that provided by van der Vorm. Elsewhere in his work, Valentijn enumerates the Malay books in his possession, among them "Soelalet Essalatina, or the genealogy of the kings of the Malay coast and of Malacca; however (he adds), this I possess not in Arabic, but in Dutch letters." Winstedt has tried to argue, but on insufficient grounds, that Valentijn made use of a Raffles 18 version.
Almost two decades before Valentijn, Petrus van der Vorm, in the Introduction to the second volume of the Collectanea Malaica Vocabularia,  had given a brief account of the history of the Malays, from a genealogical list of the Malay kings which contained the years of their accession to the throne and the duration of their reign. By calculating backwards he found that the beginning of the Malay kingdom "fell just before or in the early days of the Hijrah year 573, which began with us on June 29 of the year of Our Lord 1177." Valentijn, who mentions van der Vorm and gives the same data, had also calculated backwards. He arrived at about 1160 as the year in which the Malay kingdom had been established, that is, about seventeen years earlier. Valentijn, however, had based his calculation on solar years, whereas van der Vorm, more correctly, had taken lunar years, and this explains the discrepancy of about seventeen years between Valentijn and him.
Van der Vorm, too, gives a list of Malay works, among them the Sulalatu'l-Salatina, saying: "Finally, it must be said that anyone interested in the Malay language ought to study the work entitled Sulalatu'l-Salatina or penurunan segala raja, not only on account of the language but also because of the contents which inform us about the descent of the Malay kings and the fortunes of the Malay kingdom till the coming of the Portuguese."
Exactly what kind of texts van. der Vorm and Valentijn (perhaps not the same but very much alike) had at their disposal is difficult to say, because these texts have not been preserved. It is unlikely that Valentijn's romanized copy of what is named by him the Sulalatu'l-Salatina was copied from the kind of texts known to us at present by that name, be it the text of the Raffles 18 version or what I call for the sake of convenience the Abdullah and Shellabear texts. The latter versions did not yet exist in Valentijn's time (why this is so will become clear later in this article) and as regards the Raffles 18 version, Valentijn's translated text seems to me to be quite different, and more like another text which we shall discuss presently.
It is more likely that in both cases we have to do with fairly brief texts entitled Sulalatu'l-Salatina, that is, Genealogy of the Sultans.
In the Malay manuscript collection of the Leiden University Library I have come across a text, Cod. Or. 3199 (3) part 4, bearing the title Cheritera asal raja Melayu punya keturunan and showing in its contents a marked similarity with what was mentioned by van der Vorm and Valentijn. A relation between the texts used by van der Vorm and Valentijn and this text is obvious as names and whole phrases are sometimes identical. This Cheritera asal raja? Melayu punya keturunan (the Malay name is an apt rendering of Arabic Sulalatu'l-Salatin which, however, does not appear in this text) has one salient characteristic which makes it unique: in addition to mentioning the duration of reign of the individual kings, it also gives dates, that is, years of their succession and demise. The combined occurrence of these two data is remarkable because it is not found elsewhere in Sejarah Melayu texts. The Raffles 18 version does indicate the periods for which the successive Malay kings occupied the throne but it does not give dates, whereas the Shellabear and the Abdullah texts contain almost no indications as to periods of reign, nor do they mention dates.
Both Valentijn and van der Vorm, who as has already been said made use of texts which are very closely related to the text of Cod. Or. 3199 (3) part 4, mention the name Sulalatu'l-Salatina. To this name van der Vorm adds the Malay name (or translation) penurunan segala raja?. Although the text of Cod. Or. 3199 (3) part 4 does not bear the title Sulalatu'l-Salatina, but in contents and in various other respects is very similar to two texts of that name, we may infer that the name Sulalatu'l-Salatina, now known as the Arabic name of the Sejarah Melayu, was originally the name of a genealogical kinglist.
It was just stated that an indication of duration of reign and dates being found in combination was a salient characteristic not found in any of the manuscripts of the Malay Annals known to us. The question now presents itself: Did there ever exist manuscripts of the Sejarah Melayu of that kind ? It is not possible to give a precise answer to this question. In his valuable article on Riau, Netscher gives a list of the Malay sultans. "This list", he says, "is based upon the Malay historical work Sulalatu'l-Salatin. I have compared three manuscripts, one of which, in the possession of the present sultan of Lingga, is already very old and has apparently been kept up to date." Further on in his article, on p. 149, he states that "the dates have been given in accordance with the information submitted by the present Raja Muda, Raja Ali, and in particular by his well-informed brother, Raja Abdullah.
At the same time an accurate and thorough comparison of dates found in some Malay manuscripts has been, made, and the ones which seemed the most reliable have been taken as a basis." Netscher then gives the same information as provided by van der Vorm and Valentijn. On the strength of what Netscher tells us about these Malay manuscripts I tend to the conclusion that we are here dealing with kinglists like the one found in Cod. Or. 3199 (3) part 4, and not with a Sejarah Melayu text as in the printed versions. As already mentioned before, none of the Sejarah Melayu manuscripts known to us has dates, and it would therefore seem most strange if Netscher about 1850 had seen manuscripts of the Sejarah Melayu with dates. Salient again, however, in the description of these manuscripts given by Netscher, is the occurrence of the name Sulalatu'l-Salatin which, as we have seen, was also mentioned by van der Vorm and Valentijn.
We may therefore safely accept the view put forward by Linehan, when he speaks of "the first written material (pedigrees etc.), which formed a basis for the chronicle that ultimately emerged as the Malay Annals...", without necessarily agreeing with his terms chronicle and annals. In other words: The Sejarah Melayu has developed from a kinglist which mentioned periods of reign with dates and gave concise information about the individual rulers. This kinglist subsequently became enlarged by various stories and otherwise historically relevant material which was inserted into it in suitable places, but at the same time it lost its dates. The Malay Annals or Sejarah Melayu as we know it today is primarily a book of tales and anecdotes of the past and not so much a historical work, although it contains a wealth of historical material.
The view that the Sejarah Melayu has developed from a kinglist which was extended by inserting stories seems to be corroborated by a remarkable little manuscript, namely Maxwell 105 in the library of the Royal Asiatic Society in London. A brief description of this manuscript was given by W. E. Maxwell n as early as 1878. A few years later he also gave a translation of the second part containing the genealogy of the Malay rulers of Perak, under the title: "The history of Perak from native sources. Translation of part of Perak Salsila, or 'Book of Descent' of the Royal Family, commencing with the death of Sultan Mahmud, the last king of Malacca."  In his description Maxwell informs us that he obtained the manuscript from Raja Osman, Bendahara of Perak. On the fly-leaf of this manuscript there is a note in pencil-by Winstedt, dated 12/9/33, saying: "This MS. starts off as an abbreviated Sejarah Melayu and ends with the history of Johore and especially (fols. 25-36) of Perak, which last part is translated by Sir William Maxwell in JRASSB, No. 9, June 1882, pp. 95-108."
For our purpose, the importance of this manuscript lies in the first part, which was not translated by Maxwell. The fact is that it contains a rather brief version of the Sejarah Melayu as found in MS. Raffles 18.
Now there are two possibilities: either this text is an abbreviated Sejarah Melayu as stated in Winstedt's pencil-note, or the Raffles 18 text itself is an enlarged text on the basis of a text like Maxwell 105, with inserted stories. The second possibility should not be excluded at the outset, although a decisive answer can only be given after a thorough study of all the problems involved. Maxwell 105 has no dates; it does give the duration of reigns of the successive kings; and on the one hand it is more circumstantial than the Malay kinglist mentioned before, but on the other hand is much shorter than the text of Raffles 18.
Another point which ought to be mentioned is that it lacks an introduction. It has an abrupt beginning commencing in the middle of the tale of Raja Chulan envisaging the conquest of China. The manuscript itself lacks one page containing eight lines, because it begins with an illuminated left page which contains eight lines, that is, a recto side, so that only the verso side of folio 1 is missing. As a matter of fact, this verso side of fol. 1 must likewise have had the same number of lines. This, however, would be insufficient, at least compared with the relevant part of the text in Raffles 18, to form a reasonable beginning, so that we must infer that the manuscript from which it was copied was already defective.
However this may be, between Maxwell 105 and Raffles 18 there exists a direct and unmistakable connection: the complete first part of Maxwell 105 is also found in Raffles 18 but scattered through it, the opening lines of Maxwell 105 being found on p. 51 of the printed text of Raffles 18 and the closing passage of the first part on p. 216.
So far we have discussed what could be termed two prototypes of the Sejarah Melayu, and in this discussion mention has already been made of the Raffles 18 version of the Malay Annals. The number of manuscripts of the Sejarah Melayu preserved in libraries is twenty-nine in all, namely 11 in the United Kingdom (10 in London and 1 in Manchester); 12 in the Netherlands (11 in Leiden and 1 in Amsterdam) ; 5 in Indonesia (Djakarta) and 1 in Russia (Leningrad). Because the Leningrad manuscript is not accessible for the time being, we are left with twenty-eight. All these manuscripts are late copies, at the earliest dating from the early nineteen century. If we have a closer look at these twenty-eight manuscripts, we see that:
1)     two manuscripts represent the Raffles 18 version, namely Raffles 18 of the Royal Asiatic Society and Cod. Or. 1704 of Leiden University Library. The latter is, however, incomplete and contains the first half of the text only;
2)     the following six manuscripts are incomplete: Raffles 35, 39, 68, 76 (London), Cod. Or. 1760 (Leiden) and KBG 11 Mai. (Djakarta). Because of their fragmentary character these manuscripts are not of primary importance to the question of the variant versions of the Sejarah Melayu;
3)     a short version is contained in five manuscripts, namely Raffles 80, Farquhar 5, SOAS 36495, 36499, and KBG 189 W (Djakarta). This is the version as published by Abdullah bin Abdulkadir Munshi in 34 chapters and ending with the death of Tun Ali Hati. It is a version which is also contained in the Shellabear recension;
4)     two are copies of the (short) text printed in Singapore (the Abdullah text), namely Klinkert 5 and Cod. Or. 6669 (Leiden);
5)   a long version is found in no less than nine manuscripts, namely Maxwell 26 (Royal Asiatic Society) and Manchester 1; Cod. Or. 1703, 1716, 1736, 3210 (Leiden) ; Koninklijk Instituut 631 (Leiden); KBG 188 W and 190 W (Djakarta). Like Shellabear, this version ends with the mention of the attack of Jambi on Johore (1673) in the colophon. The relevant differences between the short version and the long version are briefly as follows:

(i)  short version chapter II has become two chapters, II and III, that is to say, the history of Minangkabau is more detailed and different. These chapters II and III are followed by a fourth chapter, missing in Shellabear, and containing the sequel to the story of Chitaram Shah (comp. the final passages of Shellabear chapter I, where Bichitaram Shah);

(ii)  the data about the parentage of Hang Tuah are different. In the long version mention is made of a delegation sent by Malacca to Macassar which on its return brings Hang Tuah as a gift from the king of Macassar to the sultan of Malacca (see appendix). Reference to this passage is made by R. O. Winstedt who apparently saw only one manuscript of this type;

(iii) the end of the short version, the account of the death of Tun Ali Hati, is here followed by a number of chapters relating episodes of the subsequent history of the Malays;

(iv) the rebellion of Hang Jebat, which in the short version is ascribed to Hang Kasturi. In addition, there is a considerable number of minor differences and variant readings which it is not possible or necessary to mention here. A combination, or perhaps we should say a blending, of this short version and the long version has resulted in the text of Shellabear. The Shellabear recension is actually the short version with added to it the extra segments of the long version after the account of the death of Tun Ali Hati, but without most of the variant readings of the first part, and so the Shellabear redaction has become a hybrid text. One of the manuscripts used by Shellabear in editing his text was Maxwell 26;
6)      an enlarged version brought up to date until well into the nineteenth century is found in one manuscript, KBG 191 W (Djakarta), of which there are two copies in the Leiden University Library, Cod. Or. 7304 and Cod. Or. 6342, the latter presented to the Library by Sir Richard Winstedt. This enlarged version is a Malay history which is an edited and in several places abbreviated text of the Sejarah Melayu followed by an eighteenth century history of the Straits of Malacca told from the Siak point of view. It is a highly important text which could perhaps best be characterized as a Hikayat Raja Akil;
7)    one type-written romanized copy contains a drastically rewritten text which in several respects differs from the redactions mentioned above. The manuscript belongs to the Royal Institute for the Tropics in Amsterdam. Its provenance is not yet clear, but it is certain that it originates from Palembang, and I would therefore like to call it a Palembang version of the Malay Annals. The Sejarah Melayu part ends abruptly with the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese.
Finally, a few words ought to be said about the introductions to the Sejarah Melayu.
The Raffles 18 version has here a position of its own. It has a fitting introduction which is well suited to the text. As date it mentions 1021 H, i.e. 1612 A.D. I see no cogent reasons to reject or to doubt this date, and in my opinion we may safely assume that the Raffles 18 version of the Malay Annals was drafted in this year.
Most of the other manuscripts have retained this original introduction, but preceded by a new introduction superimposed on it and even in some places overlapping, as has so convincingly been shown by Linehan. Winstedt was the first to note that the Arabic preamble had been cribbed from the introduction to the Bustanu'l-Salatin, written by al-Raniri in 1638. In London there are four manuscripts (Raffles 35, 39, 80 and Farquhar 5) which do not have this same Arabic preamble; they have a different one, but for the rest they are the same. Raffles 35 and 39 are incomplete; the other two contain the short version.
In the first part of this introduction shared by both the short version and the long version there occurs the puzzling passage of a hikayat yang dibawa orang dari Goa. This passage has given rise to various unsatisfactory interpretations. In almost all cases Goa has been interpreted as referring to Goa, the former Portuguese settlement in India.
The most recent argument in favour of this interpretation is that of Gibson-Hill. Linehan, in his Notes already referred to several times in this article, tried to argue that not the Indian Goa was meant but that one ought to read guha or gua, and that the reference was to Gua, north of Kuala Lipis in Ulu Pahang, where a copy of the Malay Annals had been preserved and later brought to Johore and edited there in 1612.
The view held hitherto with regard to the date of the Malay Annals has been that the Raffles 18 version of the Malay Annals is the history brought from Goa, that is Goa in India, and was written before 1536, and that the ordinary version of the Malay Annals, that is the versions as found in the editions of Abdullah and Shellabear, was a reworking of the Raffles 18 text made in Johore in 1612.21 I do not think that this view is correct and would like to suggest the following:
The Raffles 18 version dates from 1612 as is stated in its introduction. It mentions as the author (or editor) the Bendahara. This statement is corroborated in the second bob of the Bustanu l-Salatin, fasal where al-Raniri introduces the Bendahara Paduka Raja yang mengarang Sulalatu'l-Salatin as one of his sources with regard to the genealogy of the Malay kings.
We must assume that a Sulalatu'l-Salatin like the one contained in Raffles 18 at one time found its way to Goa in Celebes, perhaps through the intermediary of the Malay community there. Later, after the infiltration of the Buginese into the Straits of Malacca, that is after about 1720, they brought a copy of this text with them to the Riau Archipelago, and it was in their circles, the most likely being the court of the Buginese Yang Dipertuan Mudas in Riau that this hikayat was diperbaiki, that is: edited. There was also inserted therein the account of the delegation sent to Macassar which on its return brought a Mampawa princeling who was later to become the famous Malay Laksamana Hang Tuah.
The problem of the relation between the short and the long versions still needs further study. It is possible that we are here dealing with two successive redactions, the short version being the first and the long version a later redaction. The reverse, however, may also be possible, although perhaps not very likely. In that case, the short version would be a probably uncompleted text edited from an existing longer version.
As to the genesis of the text of the Sejarah Melayu we can now draw up the following table showing probable consecutive stages:
        I.            a kinglist, a text like the one found in Cod. Or. 3199 (3) part 4 (van der Vorm, Valentijn, Netscher).
      II.            a text like the first part of Maxwell 105.
    III.            The Malay Annals = Raffles 18.
    IV.            a. the short version, similar to the text edited and published by Abdullah Abdulkadir Munshi in 34 chapters and ending with the account of the death of Tun Ali Hati; b. the long version, mentioning in the colophon the attack of Jambi on Johore (1673).
      V.            a. an enlarged version, type KBG 191 W, an edited text relating Malay history from the Siak point of view and ending with a detailed account of the Palembang War (1819-1821) and the part played therein by Raja Akil, subsequently Sultan of Sikudana (Hikayat Raja Akil); b. a Palembang version.
Summarizing, we come to the following conclusions:
        I.            The Raffles 18 text is dated 1612, i.e. the beginning of the seventeenth century. This text has predecessors (kinglist and, possibly, a text of the type of Maxwell 105).
      II.            In the course of the eighteenth century this text was edited in Riau at the court of the Buginese Viceroys, who had brought it with them from Goa in Celebes. The result has come down to us in two versions, a longer version and a shorter version, which are closely related.
    III.            Both the shorter version, i.e. the Abdullah text, and the longer version (and this includes also the Shellabear text) are late texts. The most plausible inference is that they date from the second half of the eighteenth century, when the Buginese Viceroys' court had firmly established itself in the Malay world.
    IV.            The shorter version was the first to become known, through the translation into English by John Leyden (1821) and the edition of the Malay text by Abdullah bin Abdulkadir Munshi (about 1831).
      V.            The longer version is found in a greater number of manuscripts than any of the other versions. This version is as yet only known in a very defective way through the hybrid text of Shellabear, this recension being a blending between the longer and shorter versions. This longer version apparently went unnoticed in the edition of Dulaurier, where it is found, although incomplete, in the readings of Dulaurier's manuscript A (= Cod. Or. 1716) in the notes.