On Air 3: Like a Tigress with her Cubs

yathā vyāghrī haret putrān daṃṣṭrābhir na ca pīḍayet |
bhītā patanabhedābhyāṃ tadvad varṇān prayojayet ||

Like a tigress who carries her cubs without gritting her fangs excessively, frightened both by a possible fall or by leaving wounds: this is how one should utter speech-sounds!
(Pāṇinīyaśikṣā 25)

The third release of the Cambridge Digital Library includes thirty-five new descriptions of Sanskrit manuscripts.

The bulk of the manuscripts catalogued consists of a collection of texts belonging to the Vedalakṣaṇa branch of knowledge (a total of twenty-eight manuscripts).[1] Twelve manuscripts contain śikṣā texts, works on phonetics and phonology dealing with the pronunciation and recitation of both Vedic and Classical Sanskrit, and other theoretical topics such as the accent-bearing unit, or providing list of Vedic words to be memorised on account of the ambiguity of their articulatory features. Another class of Vedalakṣaṇa texts, the Anukramaṇīs (lists of various features of the Vedic collection, for instance number and attribution of meters to different deities, indexes of titles of works about the Vedas etc.) are represented by seven manuscripts. Furthermore, a smaller group of four manuscripts of pariśiṣṭa texts has also been catalogued, as well as one multi-text manuscript containing the Vargadvayavṛtti and the Ṛgvedaprātiśākhyabhāṣya, and one manuscript of a texts on vedavikṛti[2], the Jaṭāpaṭaladīpikā.

All these manuscripts belong to the Cowell collection. Edward Byles Cowell was the first Professor for Sanskrit at the University of Cambridge. In 1873, he instructed Ralph T. H. Griffith of the Benares Sanskrit College to procure manuscripts of texts belonging to specific literary genres for his personal study, as well as for the Cambridge University Library. Until 1878 Griffith continued to send manuscripts to Cambridge.[3] The majority of these manuscripts belonged to Prof. Cowell, and after his death in 1903 they were all bequeathed to the University library. Many of these manuscripts are modern copies commissioned by Griffith, and thus they share many common features. For instance, it is possible to distinguish a series of three manuscripts all written in 1877: one manuscript of the Lomaśīśikṣā (Add. 1709), one of the Keśavīśikṣā (Add. 1710) and one of the Laghvamoghanandinīśikṣā (Add. 1711). Although only the first manuscript is dated, it is clear from the script that all three have been written by the same scribe. Moreover, most probably they were thought of as a single collection, since they share many common features: paper and layout are identical, and at the end of Add. 1709 the catch number 18 is written, which is repeated on the first folio of Add. 1710 and on the verso of Add. 1711 (a one-folio manuscript).

The release is rounded up by three Jaina manuscripts (Add. 2140, Anaṅgaraṅga; Add. 2286, Jñātādharmakathā; Add. 2377, Kālakācāryakathā), and four Nepalese manuscripts (Add. 1386, Avadānaśataka; Add.1396.2, Naiṣadhaprakāśa; Add. 1645, Śivadharma corpus; Or. 146.1, Raghuvaṃśa).

Add. 2286 “is especially valuable because it belongs to a set of the 45 Śvetāmbara āgamas commissioned by the members of the same family. This set is now scattered among different libraries. Some items have been traced in Berlin and in India. […] In this case, the colophon also gives the name of the donor, Jayakaraṇa, a resident of Khambhat; he and his family members systematically collected manuscripts of the Śvetāmbara canonical works […] The Cambridge University Library has two items belonging to this collection: this one and Add. 2252, the Antakr̥ddaśāvivaraṇa, the eighth Aṅga of the Śvetāmbara canon.”[4]

Among the Nepalese manuscripts, noteworthy is Add. 1645, a palm-leaf manuscript of the Śivadharma corpus from a very early date (1139 CE). As sometimes is the case in Nepalese manuscripts used also for ritual purposes,[5] its wood covers display illuminations (of both śaiva and vaiṣṇava inspiration!) in the internal parts.

Add. 1396.2, even if fragmentary, is still important, since it is one of the few witnesses of the Naiṣadhaprakāśa, a yet unpublished commentary by Śrīnātha on Śrīharṣa’s Naiṣadhacarita.

1. We would like to acknowledge the fundamental help provided by our external collaborator Dr Giovanni Ciotti for the cataloguing of these manuscripts.

2. Lit. “[textual] modifications of the Vedic texts”, i.e. recombinations of the words for mnemonic purposes.

3. To these should be added manuscripts Add. 1934-50, bought in 1878 from J.C. Nesfield, also based at the Benares Sanskrit College.

4. This passage is from the description of the manuscript written by our external collaborator N. Balbir, whose invaluable help is here acknowledged.

5. As suggested by the traces of oblatory materials smeared on the external part of the covers.


Buddhist Manuscript Culture: Textuality and Materiality

Programme (online version)

Programme (print version)

The two-day workshop held at the Faculty of Asian Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Cambridge was an attempt to analyze and look at Buddhist manuscript culture combining a more traditional philological approach with a broader perspective encompassing codicology and history of the book. The first day has been dedicated to papers dealing with the aspects of manuscript production and circulation, while the textual aspect has been the focus of the second day.

The discussions following each paper and the round table at the end of the two days were dominated by one key word: database. The urgent need for easily accessible and well structured data was felt as a priority above all for palaeographical and codicological studies—as it has been clearly pointed out in the papers by M. Delhey and C. Formigatti, as well as in the joint paper by H. Diemberger and M. Clemente.

Thanks to the contributions by H. Isaacson, F. Sferra, P. Szántó and G. Hidas, another aspect that emerged from the workshop is the importance of the Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts collections of the Cambridge University Library for the study of Tantric Buddhism.

Two papers were devoted to lexicography, both traditional and modern (by L. Deokar and M. Cone). The two speakers stressed the necessity of the application of a rigorous philological methodology in the examination of the data resulting by the analysis of manuscripts.

Last but by no means least, the influence of the material aspects of manuscripts (writing material, layout etc.) in shaping the text has been highlighted in three papers (by C. Scherrer-Schaub, A. Griffiths and V. Tournier), and it has been the focus of a lively debate during the round table.

Lecture by Dr Marco Franceschini

Dr. Marco Franceschini (University of Bologna) is currently collaborating with the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project in the cataloguing of South Indian Sanskrit manuscripts in Grantha and Malayalam script kept in the CUL collections. On Tuesday April 16th, 2013, 5pm, rooms 8 & 9, he will give a lecture with the title The Making of a Study of Grantha Script.

Ms EO 0069, Aṣṭādhyāyī, folio 22v

Dr. Marco Franceschini’s interests span from Vedic studies to Buddhist kāvya and, in the last years, South Indian Palaeography. Among many publications,he is the author of the fundamental An Updated Vedic Concordance, Harvard Oriental Series 66 (two volumes), Cambridge (Mass.)-Milano, Harvard University Press and Mimesis Edizioni, 2007.

Buddhist Manuscript Culture: Workshop Programme

Workshop at the Faculty of Asian Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge 12th-13th April
2013 Rooms 8 & 9

12th April

09.55–10.00 Welcome Address: Vincenzo Vergiani
10.00–10.45 Keynote speech: Cristina Scherrer-Schaub
The poetic of the page to beat time on the template. Inquiry into a
form adopted in Indian/Indic manuscripts outside India

Codicology and History of the Book

10.45–11.30 Martin Delhey (University of Hamburg)
On the date and provenance of North-East Indian and Nepalese Buddhist manuscripts: with special reference to the Indian monastery Vikramaśīla
11.30–11.45 Coffee Break
Chairperson: Camillo Formigatti
11.45–12.30 Harunaga Isaacson (University of Hamburg)
Scattered leaves: on some Buddhist Tantric prakīrṇapattrāṇi in Cambridge University Library
12.30–13.15 Hildegard Diemberger and Michela Clemente (University of Cambridge)
Tibetan book printing: tradition and technology
13.15–14.45 Lunch Break
Chairperson: Daniele Cuneo
14.45–15.30 Camillo Formigatti (University of Cambridge)
Buddhist Nepalese manuscripts in the Cambridge University Library collections: towards a typological classification
15.30–16.15 Arlo Griffiths (EFEO Jakarta)
The transmission of Buddhist scriptures to ancient Indonesia as witnessed by manuscripts preserved on Bali and inscriptions discovered throughout the archipelago
16.15–16.30 Tea Break
16.30–17.15 Vincent Tournier
Protective verses for travellers: notes on a leather fragment of the *Diśāsauvastika-gāthā*s recovered from the Bāmiyān region

13th April

Philology and Textual Transmission

Chairperson: Eivind Kahrs
10.00–10.45 Margaret Cone (University of Cambridge)
Reading Pali and Pali readings
10.45–11.30 Francesco Sferra (University of Naples “L’Orientale”)
Apropos of Some Buddhist Tantric Manuscripts: Add. 1108, Add. 1708.1, Or. 158
11.30–11.45 Coffee Break
Chairperson: Hugo David
11.45–12.30 Lata Deokar
Subhūticandra’s Amarakośaṭīkā
12.30–13.15 Péter-Dániel Szántó (University of Oxford)
Revisiting lists of Tantric Buddhist trespasses
13.15–14.45 Lunch Break
Chairperson: Hildegard Diemberger
14.45–15.30 Gergely Hidas
A new look at the Mahāśītavatī
15.30–16.30 Round Table
16.30–17.00 Tea Break
19.00 Conference Dinner



The Hanseatic Connection

Within the frame of the collaboration with the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC), Dr Formigatti recently presented two papers at two workshops held in Hamburg.

Edges, Frames and Frameworks in Manuscripts (25-26 January 2013)

The relationship between margins, frames, layout and pictorial and textual elements was the center of this short, yet very insightful workshop. The papers presented addressed it under many aspects. The interaction between visual (illumination, mise-en-page etc) and textual elements was the topic of five papers (by Frederike-Wiebke Daub, Ilse Sturkenboom, Andreas Janke, Uta Lauer, and Hanna Wimmer). One paper dealt exclusively with illumination and decoration within and without the frame of the page (Tina Bawden). Textual elements were the focus of two papers (by Camillo Formigatti and Vito Lo Russo).

Manuscripts in Motion (15-17 November 2012)

The starting point of this conference was the consideration that throughout history manuscripts moved from one place to another and from individual to individual, and therefore ‘the study of the “life” of any manuscript can be said to be incomplete if it does not consider its movements’ (from the conference’s call for papers). The papers presented focused on various aspects of the circulation of manuscripts both in Western as well as in Asian and African manuscript cultures. In the course of the conference, two distinct types of movements have been be identified: a movement within the same cultural sphere in which the manuscripts were produced and a movement that brought the manuscripts outside their original production place.

The first type of movement has been described in eight papers. Four of them dealt with the movement of manuscripts within the Greek and Byzantine cultural areas (by Giuseppe De Gregorio, Vito Lorusso, Boryana Pouvkova, and Alberto Camplani and Alin Suciu). Two papers were dedicated to the circulation of manuscripts in Buddhist milieus in North India and the

Himalayan region (by Martin Delhey and Orna Almogi). Two more papers described this type of movement in Chinese and West African cultures (Max Fölster and Dmitry Bondarev). Finally, one paper was devoted to the afterlife of Western music manuscripts (Eva Maschke).

Two papers discussed the second type of movement, describing how Arabic and Sanskrit manuscripts were brought to European libraries (Tilman Seidensticker and Camillo Formigatti). During the Q&A, manuscripts that were subject to this type of movement were very often defined as ‘colonial manuscripts’.

Finally, two papers dealt with both type of movements in Georgian and South Indian manuscript cultures (Jost Gippert and Eva Wilden).

On Air 2: A Tiny Christmas Gift

Five more digitised Sanskrit manuscripts have been recently added to the Cambridge Digital Library.

Add.1605 is a paper manuscript of a Nepalese commentary on the Anaṅgaraṅga, a 15th- or 16th-century erotic treatise composed for the Muslim aristocrat Lāḍakhāna, son of Ahmad of the Lodī dynasty.

Add.1649 is a palm-leaf manuscript of the Siddhisāra, an unpublished work on astrology and divination attributed to the Nepalese king Jayajyotirmalla (1408–1428 CE). This manuscript is probably the only extant witness for this work and has been written during Jayajyotirmalla’s reign.

Add.1703 is a palm-leaf manuscript of an important Tantric work on rituals, the Vajrāvalī, compiled by the famous abbot of Vikramaśila monastery, Abhayākaragupta (late 11th–early 12th century CE). According to the colophon, this manuscript was written in the famous Golden Monastery (hiraṇyavarṇavihāra) in the city of Pātan in the Kathmandu valley, during the reign of Jayajyotirmalla’s successor, Jayayakṣamalla (1428-1482 CE).

Add.2251.2 is one palm-leaf folio of the Jayamaṅgalā of Yaśodhara (fl. 13th century), a commentary on the Kāmasūtra of Vātsyāyana Mallanāga. This folio was inserted by mistake in place of the original folio 80 of manuscript Add. 2151.1, a complete palm-leaf manuscript of the same work.

Add.2251.3 is one palm-leaf folio of Kālidāsa’s Kumārasambhava. Although being in the same bundle as Add.2251.1 and Add.2251.2, this stray leaf is not related in any way to the other two manuscripts, since both the kind of palm leaf and the script are in fact entirely different.

Perso-Indica at Cambridge

During the past week, Dr Audrey Truschke (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge) has been assisting with the Sanskrit manuscript project. Audrey was brought in to catalogue a few manuscripts that mix Sanskrit and Persian texts, and she found several treasures. The two major works she examined are:

  • Two Persian and two Sanskrit manuscripts bound together that belonged to E.B. Cowell, the first professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge (appointed in 1867) who was also a connoisseur and translator of Persian poetry. The four texts in this particular manuscript (Or. 274) are all poetry, and three of the four works have marginal notes in Cowell’s hand. Few people know both Sanskrit and Persian today, and this manuscript attests to the immense linguistic skills of nineteenth-century Orientalists and their wide-ranging appreciation of Indian literary cultures.
  • A notebook of Samuel Lee, a noted Orientalist of the first half of the nineteenth century who served as professor of Arabic and later Hebrew at Cambridge. The present manuscript contains works in Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani. In addition, the backsides of a number of folios contain an unfinished Sanskrit vocabulary list (accompanied by English translations) that Lee may have been keeping as he tried to learn the language. However, the list is rather sparse and contains some odd translations, which suggests that Samuel Lee, like so many, found Sanskrit an incredibly difficult tongue.

Although such bilingual manuscripts are few in number in the Cambridge University Library manuscript collections, we hope that they will prove to be interesting for scholars working in the field of Indo-Persian studies (more about this area of research here and here).

On Privileges: the Kollam Plates at the Cambridge University Library

On 1-2 October Dr. Vincenzo Vergiani attended a seminar on the Kollam Plates at the British Museum, organised by Dr Elizabeth Lambourn (Principal Investigator, Reader in South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, De Montfort University) and Dr Roberta Tomber (Co-Investigator, British Museum) of the AHRC Research Network ‘Routes, Networks and Communities in the Medieval Indian Ocean’.

These copper plates draw their name from Kollam, an ancient port town on the coast of Kerala, and are also known as the Sthanu Ravi Plates, after the local ruler under whom they were issued (ca. 849 CE). They award trade privileges to two merchant associations, the Manigramam, an indigenous south Indian group, and the Anjuvanam, probably representing West Asian interests, who were associated to an eastern Christian church at Kollam. The documents are mainly written in Tamil in the Vaṭṭeḷuttu script, but they also bear 11 names in Arabic, in the Kufic script, 10 names in Middle Persian-Pahlavi, and a four names in Judaeo-Persian, of individuals who probably witnessed the grant on behalf of the larger groups. The names are not autograph signatures per se but rather group testimonials.

The University Library in Cambridge holds a set of brass plates reproducing the text of the original Kollam Plates in reverse, to be used for printing (ms Oo.1.14). These were commissioned in 1805 in Cochin on the initiative of the Scottish missionary Claudius Buchanan and were later used to produce a set of prints, also held in the University Library. Apart from their obvious historical interest, the importance of the Cambridge plates lies in the fact that they preserve a more complete text of the ancient document, without the gaps occurring in the originals, which must have suffered damage in the course of the 19th century. As the Cambridge plates are a unique item in the University Library collections, they will be included in the online catalogue of the Sanskrit Manuscript collections even though, strictly speaking, they are inscriptions rather than manuscripts.

Works in Progress

The Sanskrit Manuscripts Team has started the work on the critical edition of a number of important texts preserved in the South Asian manuscripts holdings of the Cambridge University Library:

  • Add. 1409, a palm-leaf autograph of the Rāmāṅkanāṭikā, a drama written in Nepal by the Buddhist author Dharmagupta and dated Nepāla Saṃvat 480 (1360 CE). The identity of author and scribe is clearly stated in the colophon on folio 140v:
    śrīdharmaguptaḥ kṛtī | pitrā putrakṛpāpareṇa nipuṇaṃ śāstrānvayaṃ śikṣita etām bhāvarasojjvalāṃ sa kṛtavān rāmāṅkitān nāṭikāṃ | śreyo’ stu | samvat 480 śuklaikadaśamyāṃ ravi vāso | tenaiva dharmaguptena śrimatā rāmadāsinā | bālavāgīśvareṇeyaṃ likhitā rāmāṅkanāṭikā || śubham astu sarvadā ||
    Two more manuscripts of this work have been catalogued by the NGMCP (reel no. C 6-9/inventory no.57047 and reel no. A 351-13/inventory no. 57048). One of them (C 6-9) is dated Nepāla Saṃvat 496 (1376 CE), i.e. only 16 years after the Cambridge manuscript. The short time-span between the two witnesses is a fortunate opportunity that will allow the editors to study the earliest phases of transmission of the text and, hopefully, enable them to find traces of author’s variants.
  • Add.1649, probably a codex unicus (of an extremely early date, 1412 CE) of the Siddhisāra, a work on astrology and divination. According to the colophon, the author is the Nepalese king Jayajyotirmalla (1408–1428 CE).
  • Or. 727, a palm-leaf manuscript of the Tantrākhyāna, dated Nepāla Saṃvat 604 (1484 CE). Most probably, this is the codex unicus of the complete Sanskrit version of the Nepalese recension of the Pañcatantra. Despite an early article by C. Bendall with an analysis of the content of the manuscript and a sample edition and translation of some tales, this Nepalese recension has been always studied on the basis of manuscripts of the Newari version, in which only the subhāṣitas at the beginning of each tale are in Sanskrit.

Wish us luck!