Category Archives: Posts

TST Webinar 1

Since the online TST workshop (September 21st, 2020) was very fruitful and since it is not clear when the TST members will again meet in persons because of the current pandemic, TST has started a series of monthly webinars.

Metal cover of BnF Indien 113, a multiple-text manuscript containing the Akattiyar Tēvārat Tiraṭṭu — The source this picture of INDIEN 113 is BnF

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Punctuation poetry in MS Sanscrit 616

In India, the 19th century was a period in which manuscripts, lithographs, and printed books were all being produced at the same time. We often imagine a linear sequence in which manuscripts are copied as lithographs, which are then replaced by books, but reality is usually not so straightforward. In fact, manuscripts were sometimes produced by copying lithographs and printed books by hand, for a variety of reasons — for example, see Francis 2017, “The Other Way Round: From Print to Manuscript”.


Sanscrit 616. All manuscript images are courtesy of the BnF.

Sanscrit 616. All manuscript images are courtesy of the BnF.


Sanscrit 616 is a particularly interesting example of this phenomenon. It is a palm-leaf manuscript of the Amarakośaviveka, copied from a lithograph made in 1850 in Pune. Continue reading

A wedding invitation around MS Sanscrit 1868

Pieces of scrap paper are often used as sleeves or envelopes for manuscripts. The re-use of discarded material was also prevalent in bookbinding, where they were employed to line or repair a binding, or as endpapers — for example, see “The Fix: Binding Waste” (Smith 2014). The result is that material that was once considered ephemera — such as newspapers, catalogs, or even medieval manuscripts — are unintentionally preserved.

Paper sleeve around MS Sanscrit 1868. All images courtesy of the BNF.

Paper sleeve around MS Sanscrit 1868. All images courtesy of the BNF.

The sleeve around MS Sanscrit 1868 is a slip of paper folded in half. Continue reading

For an easy reading

The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 72 and 73 is BnF

The manuscripts Indien 72 and Indien 73 in the BnF collection both contain a collection moral or didactic stanzas entitled Nīticāram (“The gist of moral teachings”).1 In both these copies of the same work, the root-text (mūlam) is accompanied by a commentary (urai), that is, each individual stanza is followed immediately by its commentary.

Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 73, f1r, stanza 1 of Nīticāram

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  1. An alternative title, Nīticākaram (“The ocean of moral teachings”) is found also in Indien 73. []

“Give it back after reading!”

The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 73 is BnF

The manuscript Indien 73 in the BnF collection is a collection of moral or didactic stanzas entitled alternatively Nīticākaram (“The ocean of moral teachings”) or Nīticāram (“The gist of moral teachings”) in the manuscript itself.

BnF INDIEN 73, front unfoliated folio Continue reading

An annotation positioning system in MS Sanscrit 612

In Sanskrit manuscripts, marginal annotations are often followed by a number, indicating the line where that annotation applies (counting either from the top or from the bottom). But in the Amarakośa manuscript that forms part of Sanscrit 612, the scribe takes a different approach.


Sanscrit 612, folio 1v

Sanscrit 612, folio 1v. All manuscript images are courtesy of the BnF.


This paper manuscript in Bengali script takes a familiar form, mimicking the shape and size of palm leaves. The text of the Amarakośa, a popular Sanskrit lexicon, is written four lines to a page, surrounded by a generous margin on four sides. In this manuscript, the scribe has taken the opportunity to fill the margins with a commentary on the text. However, as in this folio, the commentary is much too dense for the line-numbering system usually employed for marginal annotations. Continue reading

Quick palaeographer — a quick app for palaeography

As part of my research with the TST project, I need to study manuscripts in many different scripts from different periods. This can be especially difficult when trying to read annotations — the tiny, scribbled text on the margins of a manuscript. To help myself become familiar with how a particular scribe writes, I’ve created a quick tool for doing palaeography.


You can load an image of a manuscript, and then use SHIFT-click to draw boxes around akṣaras. Then, you can tag those akṣaras. They can have more than one tag; for example, in the demo above, I’ve tagged the ji akṣara as both “ji” and “i_diacritic”, so that it appears under both categories.

The manuscript in the demo is Sanscrit 611, a heavily-annotated Amarakośa in old Bengali script. The photo is courtesy of the BnF.

You can use the tool online at, or you can download the source code at The GitHub source also includes an example of a labeled image. I hope you’ll find it useful!

Back to squinting at annotations…

BnF INDIEN 478: Cāmināta Piḷḷai’s Nacaraikkalampakam

A blogpost by Margherita Trento

The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 478 is BnF

Indien 478 (ex-Tamoul 478) is a palm-leaf bundle (440 x 25 mm) between wooden planks containing the manuscripts of two poems, the Nacaraikkalampakam by Vittuvāṉ Cāmināta Piḷḷai (unfoliated f.1A, f.2A, and 57 ff.), and the Caṟuvēcuraṉ catakam (also spelled Caṟuvvīcuraṉ catakam) by a certain Ñāṉappirakācam (unfoliated f.1B, f.2B, and 26 ff.) (Cabaton 1912, p. 68). The first unfoliated folio in the bundle functions as title-folio for the whole composite manuscript (CM), and bears the title of both works (Fig. 1). Unfoliated f.1A (Fig. 2) and unfoliated f.1B are the title-folia of the Nacaraikkalampakam and the Caṟuvēcuraṉ catakam respectively.

Fig. 1 —  The wooden cover and unfoliated folio 1, that is, the title-folio — Courtesy of BnF

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