The TST project (2019–2022)

The TST project is funded by the research program FRAL 2018 (ANR & DFG).


Partners: CEIAS in Paris (UMR 8564, EHESS & CNRS), Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) in Hamburg, Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), Staats- und Universitäts-bibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky (Stabi).

PIs: Emmanuel FRANCIS (CNRS, CEIAS, UMR 8564, EHESS & CNRS) and Eva WILDEN (Universität Hamburg).

Bnf INDIEN 528: Tamil manuscript, Tamil syllabary, ca 1800-1850. Photo: E. Francis, 2019, courtesy of the BnF.

In recent years, progress has been made both in the digitisation of Indian manuscripts as well as in the field of codicology, setting new standards for cataloguing. The trend is towards putting online the images along with elaborate catalogues. One important aspect of well-catalogued digital collections is the possibilities they offer for statistically relevant research both with respect to questions of script development as well as dating and with respect to the various paratextual elements―such as colophons, prefaces and satellite stanzas―with their wealth of information on the provenance and transmission of the objects in question.

Both Hamburg and Paris still house important collections of Indian manuscripts which have been lying more or less dormant. The Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) holds Europe’s most remarkable collection of some 700 Tamil manuscripts, along with several smaller collections in Sanskrit and various local languages. The state and university library of Hamburg (Staats- und Universitäts-bibliothek Carl von Ossietzky, i.e. Stabi) has a similar collection of almost 500 manuscripts, most from Southern India, the majority in Sanskrit, but also some in Tamil and other vernaculars.

The project aim is to make significant portions of both these collections available online along with their catalogues and to engage into the large-scale investigation of paratextual materials. On the one hand, this will significantly improve our understanding of the times, places and communities who produced and transmitted the objects. On the other hand, the material unearthed will allow us to focus more closely on the intersection between the literary and the oral tradition, because sub-genres like prefaces and mnemonic verses hover between established literary conventions and local, often oral traditions.

While the respective libraries, the scholarly community, and the general public will benefit from the extension of the libraries online databases, publications will include case studies on classical Tamil literary and grammatical traditions, on various fields of Sanskrit learned traditions and from other languages, but also on the amply documented encounter of Western and Indian traditions in the form of missionary documents.


Suganya ANANDAKICHENIN (Universität Hamburg), Nalini BALBIR (PARIS-3/EPHE), Jonas BUCHHOLZ (Universität Hamburg), Jean-Luc CHEVILLARD (CNRS), Giovanni CIOTTI (Universität Hamburg), Daniele CUNEO (PARIS-3), Victor D’AVELLA (Universität Hamburg), Martin DELHEY (CSMC), Florinda DE SIMINI (University of Naples), Hugo DAVID (EFEO, Marco FRANCESCHINI (University of Bologna), Pondicherry, India), Camillo Alessio FORMIGATTI (Bodleian Libraries), Zoé HEADLEY (CEIAS), Karsten HELMHOLZ (CSMC), Harunaga ISAACSON (Universität Hamburg), Ilona KĘDZIA (University of Krakow), Erin McCANN (Universität Hamburg), Monika MÜLLER (Stabi), Cristina MURU (University of Tuscia), Jérôme PETIT (BnF), Vinodh RAJAN (Universität Hamburg), Thillai Chidambaram RAJARETHINAM (EFEO, Pondicherry), T. RAJESWARI (EFEO, Pondicherry), Isabelle RATIE (PARIS-3), Stefan THIEMANN (Universität Hamburg), Margherita TRENTO (CEIAS & University of Chicago), Uthaya VELUPPILLAI (InALCO), Vincenzo VERGIANI (University of Cambridge), G. VIJAYAVENUGOPAL (EFEO, Pondicherry), Ines G. ŽUPANOV (CEIAS)

2 thoughts on “The TST project (2019–2022)

  1. M.Gobalakichenane

    ‘MY DREAM’
    Dear all,
    I had a dream, 40 years ago, when I went through the ‘Mss Indien’ (in fact Tamil) preserved in BNF, Paris and unearthed the MSS 143 to 158 related to the Diaries of Viranaicker II, Anandarangappillai and Tiruvengadapillai (in fact, two Tiruvengadapillai’s, I named Tiruvengadapillai III and Tiruvengadapillai IV).
    I found that the English version of Anandarangappillai’s Diary was not complete as it was considered until then and also tried to draw the interest of several specialists and authorities in France and in Pondicherry (EFEO, IFI and University) during more than 15 years, without any success. Probably some of you – not so young – were aware of this.
    Academic people in USA were publishing several books related to Tamil language, culture and diaspora, whereas, in UK (cf. trading post Madras in 1639) and France (cf. trading post Pondichéry 1674) such publications were far less, due probably to lack of funds and may be to unequal distribution of existing funds to about twenty languages (named ‘vernacular’, term not applied for cinghalese, thai, khmer, for example) of Indian Union.
    As far as Tamil literary works are concerned, during the last two thousand years, several thousands of literary works have been lost in Tamilnadu, due to tropical climate, ignorance and also voluntary destruction for political, cultural and sociological purposes.
    1/ Tamil has been recognized ‘officially’ as classical language in 2004 (recognition necessary for funding purpose) while it was such for more than two thousand years;
    2/ EU has decided to allot a fund to Tamil through this FRAL 2018.
    Tamil manuscripts are preserved not only in Paris and Hamburg, but also in other National Archives (The Hague, Copenhagen, Halle, etc. – probably in Eastern Europe also -) and in other cities of France. They should be also revealed to the academic and large public. With the present digitalisation facilities, so many things become possible.
    I am happy to see this new bud of Tamil studies in EU and I wish you all great success, with new findings in South Indian history and culture.
    With my sincere congratulations,
    M.Gobalakichenane (Orsay, France)

    1. Emmanuel Francis Post author

      Dear M. Gobalakichenane,
      Thanks for your appreciation!
      The dream will in fact last for 3 years. Let us see then what we will have achieved.
      With very best wishes.
      E. Francis


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