From ancient times up to early 19th century the palm leaf was the main writing material in Sri Lanka. The art of palm leaf book making was a unique feature of Sri Lankan religious and academic culture. Buddhist sacred script (Tipitaka) and related literature as well as works on other mundane subject fields such as medicine, art and crafts were committed to writing on palm leaves.
Due to foreign invasions and natural disasters most of the palm leaf manuscripts are not in existence today. However, thanks to the efforts of Ven. Mahasangha in the country a considerable number of palm leaf books are still available in Buddhist temples throughout the island.
Although these valuable documents have received the attention of the authorities for a long period of time even up to now there is no national programme to preserve and make them available for study and research. Having considered the absence of a single library devoted to the collection, preservation and provision of access to palm leaf manuscripts in Sri Lanka the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Kelaniya commenced to construct a special library building for the purpose in 2008 and it was ceremonially opened in 2011. The library was named as the Palm Leaf Manuscript Study and Research Library.
The library expects to be the centre of excellence on traditional national knowledge contained in palm leaf manuscripts through the creation of a digital library devoted to collect, preserve, study, research the palm leaf manuscripts in Sri Lanka irrespective of their subject content.
The library will collect palm leaf manuscripts found in temples, monasteries, personal collections as digitized or original copies, organize them with complete bibliographical details in a computerized database to provide access to those who engaged in manuscripts and related studies.