Spotlight on Collaborators I: the Grantha Connection

Dr Marco Franceschini, a research fellow and lecturer in Sanskrit at the University of Bologna, has returned to Cambridge for a three-months’ stint to collaborate with the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project. Dr Franceschini is an expert on the Grantha script that was used to write Sanskrit in South India. He is preparing the first-ever paleographic study on Grantha as used in manuscripts, and for that purpose he is building a database that contains thousands of digital images of characters and ligatures drawn from South Indian manuscripts, rather than relying on computer-generated glyphs. He is one of the contributors to the Encyclopaedia of Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa, which is being developed at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, and has recently completed an article on the analysis, interpretation and correspondence with the Gregorian calendar of the dates found in the colophons of manuscripts hailing from Tamil Nadu and written either in Grantha or Tamil (forthcoming, proceedings of the workshop “Reconstructing Space and Time: Localising Manuscripts through Para-texts”, organised by Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg, October 2013).

The UL Sanskrit collections include more than 40 manuscripts in Grantha, most of them on palm leaf. Most of these were part of the most recent large acquisition of South Asian manuscripts on the part of the Cambridge University Library, which dates from the early 1990’s and includes works in various scripts (besides Grantha, Malayalam and Tamil) and languages (Sanskrit, Malayalam, Tamil, Maṇipravālam). Until now the information available about these manuscripts was scanty and often inaccurate, and many of them had not even been properly class-marked, therefore remaining virtually unknown to researchers. In the course of his collaboration with the Project, Dr Franceschini will prepare online records for all the Grantha holdings in the UL, thus making them accessible to the public, and tap them for paleographic data that will be integrated into his database.