The South Asian Manuscript Book: Material, Textual and Historical Investigations

Programme (online version)

Programme (print version)

Following the workshop on “Buddhist Manuscript Culture: Textuality and Materiality” held in April 2013, this workshop will once again mainly focus on books as cultural artefacts, but it will broaden its scope to encompass all the major religious and intellectual traditions that constituted the South Asian manuscript culture, many of which are well represented in the collections of the University Library at Cambridge. Particular attention will be paid to aspects of the history of manuscripts in pre-modern South Asia such as their production, physical characteristics, decoration, use, circulation, preservation and accessibility in relation to broader dimensions of cultural practice, religious affiliation, patronage and locality. Its echoes and parallels in other parts of Asia, such as Tibet and Southeast Asia, will also be part of the picture.

Lecture by Dr Emmanuel Francis

Dr Emmanuel Francis (EHESS-CNRS, Centre d’étude de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud, Paris), an historian who specialises on South India, will give a talk with the title “Ellis and the Legend of the Cowpox: a Pious Fraud in Early 19th century Madras or How to Convince Indians to Accept Jennerian Vaccination.”

BIULO MS.IND.4, collections of the BULAC, Paris.

Dr. Francis will discuss the form, language and content of the Āṟāmāvaraviḷakkam (“Light on the sixth great boon”), a Tamil text composed by Francis Whyte Ellis (1777–1819) at the beginning of the 19th century in order to lift the reluctance of local population against the smallpox vaccination.[1]

Friday 31st January, 5.00pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

1. For more information on the topic, click here.


Lecture By Dr James Hegarty


Dānadharmaparvan of the Anuśāsanaparvan of the Mahābhārata: National Archives of Kathmandu Ms. Number 1/1321 (vi Itihāsa 36).

Dr James Hegarty (Cardiff University) will give a talk with the title “From the Himalayas to the Deep South: New Directions in the Study and Translation of the Manuscripts of the Sanskrit”, on Wednesday 27th November 2013, 4.00pm, room 214,Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.



Lecture By Prof. Jürgen Hanneder

Ms Or. 2262, particular of folio 94v1. A multi-text, composite manuscript from Kashmir, containing twelve different texts. In this image,the first stanza of the Bhusuṇḍopakhyāna (Samādhivarṇana, chapter 25 from the Nirvāṇaprakaraṇa of the Mokṣopāya)

Prof. Dr Jürgen Hanneder (Philipps-Universität Marburg) will give a talk with the title “To Edit or not to Edit. Observations Based on Recent Editions of Kashmirian Sanskrit Texts”, on Thursday 17th October, 5.00 pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

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).

Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Within the framework of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2012, the Sanskrit Manuscripts Project team has prepared a poster exhibition on the South Asian holdings of the Cambridge University Library:

Words and Images from Ancient India

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Common Room, Wednesday 24 – Saturday 27 October, Monday 29 October – Friday 2 November, 10am – 5pm.

The Director of the Project, Dr. Vincenzo Vergiani, will give a talk illustrating the

importance of the UL South Asian manuscripts collections for the understanding of pre-modern Indian civilisation:

A Scholar’s Dream

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, room 8-9, Saturday 27 October 11am-12am.