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.

Workshop on the Vajrāmṛtatantra by Prof. Francesco Sferra

Manuscript Or.158, colophon with the date Nepāla saṃvat 282 / 1162 CE.

Prof. Francesco Sferra (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples), will hold a two-hour workshop on the Vajrāmṛtatantra, a Buddhist Tantric work transmitted in a very old Nepalese manuscript kept in the Cambridge University Library (Or.158, dated 116 CE). Only one other manuscript of this text is known to have survived and is presently kept in a library in China. The reading and interpretation of selected passages will be integrated with the examination of images of the manuscript, thus providing both an introduction to manuscript analysis as well as to philological methodologies.

The workshop will take place on Monday January 20th, from 10.30am to 1pm in room at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge.


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.

Lecture by Prof. Harunaga Isaacson

Title page of C. Bendall’s Catalogue

Friday 27 January, 3 pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge

Bendall and beyond: Cataloguing the (Buddhist) Sanskrit Manuscripts in Cambridge University Library.

Prof. Isaacson will give a lecture about the Buddhist manuscripts in Cambridge, the achievements of Bendall’s catalogue and someof the work that remains to be done.

Lecture by Prof. Dominic Goodall

Ms Add.1049

Two leaves from ms Add. 1049, Pārameśvaratantra

Monday 5 December, 3 pm, room 7, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge

Palaeography and the Oldest Surviving Śaiva Tantra, the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā

Professor Goodall (Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient, Paris) will discuss relative chronology of early Tantric texts, for which MS Add. 1049 (early 9th c.) in the UL collections is a crucial piece of evidence.