In the process of preparing manuscripts for digital reproduction, I often become more sensitive to the aspects which cannot be reproduced. High-quality, instantly-accessible images are an incredible boon to researchers around the world, but, inevitably, a representation of a 2-dimensional surface will not be able to capture a 3-dimensional object persisting in and changing over time. Moreover, as a human artefact, it is embedded in a rich cultural and historical context, which is only hinted at through imagery.
Two consecutive folios from Indien 54. All images courtesy of the BnF.
The interaction between materiality and human culture is captured beautifully in palm leaf manuscripts such as Indien 54, pictured here. Continue reading
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 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
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.
The sleeve around MS Sanscrit 1868 is a slip of paper folded in half. Continue 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”). 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
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
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. 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
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
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 720 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 720 (ex- Indien 74; Cabaton, Catalogue sommaire, 1912, p. 104) is a large paper sheet in plano (approximately 196 x 98 cm; Fig. 1).
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 338 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 338 (ex- Tamoul 338; Cabaton, Catalogue sommaire, 1912, p. 49) is a paper codex (385 x 250 x 9 mm) with a leather cover (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 338, the codex — Courtesy of BnF
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 336 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 336 (ex- Indien 336; described by Cabaton under the entry INDIEN 337, Catalogue sommaire, 1912, p. 49) is a palm-leaf bundle of 110 folios (355 x 35 to 40 mm; Figs. 1‒2).
Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 336, the bundle, tied — Courtesy of BnF
Among the Tamil Palm Leaf MSS which are preserved in the BnF, a symbolically important role can be attributed to the manuscript “Indien 246” (மணிமேகலை மூலம் [Maṇimēkalai Mūlam]), because it was probably the occasion for the first bi-directional scientific correspondance between an academic representative of the Tamil-speaking Southern part of India, namely the well-known U. Vē. Cāminātaiyar [1855-1942] (உ. வே. சாமிநாதையர்), alias UVS, (உ. வே. சா.) and an academic representative of France, namely Julien Vinson [1843-1926]. It is also an example of the positive appreciation —recorded in print— by a Tamil scholar of the existence of such a ressource as the BnF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France), where treasures are preserved, which would otherwise have perished. UVS would certainly have been delighted to know that all those treasures will progressively become available to all those who value them around the world, just by clicking on a link such as THIS ONE. Continue reading
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 728 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 728 (ex- Indien 82; Cabaton, Catalogue sommaire, 1912, p. 106) is a handwritten paper book/codex (330 x 220 x 18 mm). It is an alphabet and grammar of Malayalam in Latin by Valentinus Manfredus (Valentin Manfred? Valentino Manfredi?), a Carmelite missionary in Malabar (South-West coast of India) (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 728, folio I, recto — Courtesy of BnF
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 432 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 432 (ex- Tamoul 432; Cabaton, Catalogue sommaire, 1912, p. 61; Figs. 1‒2) is a bundle of 22 palm leaves (295 x 20/25 mm) with two faceted cover wooden planks, probably original, that is, not made on purpose at the BnF, like for other bundles.
Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 432, tied bundle — Courtesy of BnF
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 528 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 528 (ex- Tamoul 528; Cabaton, Catalogue sommaire, Paris, 1912, p. 74; Figs. 1‒2) is a bundle of 15 regular palm leaves of same dimensions (370 x 45 mm) protected by two cover wooden planks. It contains five Tamil alphabets or syllabaries (French “syllabaires”) from Sri Lanka.
Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 528, tied bundle — Courtesy of BnF
A blogpost by Cristina Muru
The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 189 is BnF
BnF INDIEN 189 (ex- Tamoul 189) consists in 28 paper leaves bound in one volume (260 x 200 mm). An unfoliated folio comes first, bearing the title-page (Fig. 1) on the recto and a preface (“Préface”) on the verso. 26 folios follow, all paginated except for p. 52. The original pagination appears on the upper left corner of the page on the recto of folio and on the upper right corner on the recto. Finally, there is a back guard leaf.
Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 189, title-page — Courtesy of BnF