Digital cameras and Sanskrit MSS

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at
Thu Feb 15 05:20:51 EST 1996

Many years ago in a small MSS library in Nadiad, I was refused
permission to photograph a MS.  I asked whether I could nevertheless
copy it out by hand.  That was no problem.  So I sat down and spent a
couple of days writing the thing out.  Everyone was very kind and
friendly, and at tea breaks etc., we got to know each other a bit.  An
old fellow who could speak a little Sanskrit was brought in, so that was
nice too.

At the end of copying, I folded up my stuff, and said how delighted I
was to have the MS, etc.  Everyone was pleased.  I said that there
might, however, have been some errors in my copying.  Everyone agreed,
sadly.  I asked whether I could take some photos of the MS, so that I
could correct any errors I had made.  No problem.  So I shot the MS.

But I took *so* much more away with me than the photos.  I had read the
text, had notes, and had friends.

The main points I wish to draw out from this experience are that in MS
work, personal relationships are very important (and nice).  And
low-tech is often better.  Why not copy out a MS by hand, instead of
toting about all this ridiculous high-tech stuff that just frightens
everyone, causes trouble, and doesn't promote your understanding of the
text or the social milieu in which the text might have been created and

As I get more experience with this business, I get more sympathy with
cranky curators in provincal Indian libraries who don't respond well
when we zoom in with our Hassleblads and six-week visas, claiming to be
scholars of Sanskrit. Surely everything about this fast-food approach
belies our stated intent of deepening our understanding of Sanskrit

Dominik Wujastyk,

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