Dublin Core




Sandalwood is a small- to medium-sized tree of the genus Santabalum which usually obtains nutrients through photosynthesis as well as by becoming partially parasitic to the roots of other trees. Two common forms are Indian sandalwood, Santalum album, and Australian sandalwood, Santalum spicatum. Sandalwood’s aromatic wood and roots - as well as its essential oil - are commonly used as incense for religious and medicinal purposes. Its wood is also used decoratively. The tree’s fruit is edible and does not contain the same strong fragrance as its wood.


Sandalwood trees are native to East Indonesia, the Pacific Islands, and North Australia. Its distribution also extends to Chile, Hawaiian Archipelago, and New Zealand. Since ancient times, sandalwood oil production was led by India, and its aroma was esteemed by people of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. The ancient Egyptians imported this wood and used it in medicine. It was later known as the East Indian sandalwood in the commercial realm. In the sixteenth century, sandalwood played an important role in the expeditions of Krishnadevaraya, the ruler of Vijayanagara Dynasty, and was brought to the Deccan plateau. Around 1792, the sandalwood trade was monopolized by Tipu Sultan after he declared the tree to be royal. The monopoly was continued by the later Maharajas of Mysore and the Karnataka Government until recently. The sandalwood trade has resulted in severe exploitation and the tree has entered the vulnerable category of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List.


In Ms. Fr. 640:
Fol. 15v - "Tablets"
Some are made from boxwood inlaid with ebony, sandalwood, ivory, or gold and silver like damascening. Then one writes on it with silverpoint, and next erases it with a cuttlefish bone by rubbing them.


Alan Davidson and Tom Jaine, eds., “Sandalwood,” Oxford Reference (Oxford University Press, 2014),

A. N. Arun Kumar, Greta Joshi, and H. Y. Mohan Ram, “Sandalwood: History, Uses, Present Status and the Future,” Current Science (Current Science Association, December 25, 2012),

“Sandalwood” World Encyclopedia, (Philip's, 2014),

Sahar Bostock, “Tablets,” in Secrets of Craft and Nature in Renaissance France. A Digital Critical Edition and English Translation of BnF Ms. Fr. 640, ed. Making and Knowing Project, Pamela H. Smith, Naomi Rosenkranz, Tianna Helena Uchacz, Tillmann Taape, Clément Godbarge, Sophie Pitman, Jenny Boulboullé, Joel Klein, Donna Bilak, Marc Smith, and Terry Catapano (New York: Making and Knowing Project, 2020), DOI:

Image: Francis Sinclair (after I. Sinclair), “Sandalwood (Santalum album): flowering and fruiting stem,” c. 1887. Chromolithograph. Wellcome Collection, Wellcome Library no. 25343i.

Elia Zhang, Columbia University




“Sandalwood,” om+ka, accessed June 4, 2023,

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