[INDOLOGY] Sanskrit literature in numbers

Hartmut Buescher buescherhartmut at gmail.com
Thu Apr 20 14:45:48 EDT 2017


Some remarks in addition to Camillo’s reflections seem necessary,
since there are further reasons “to be baffled by the fact that it seems
very difficult to get reliable quantitative data to start with”.
After all, his assertion (given with reference to “estimates of the number
of South Asian manuscripts”) that “numbers again are simply telling us
—in an unreliable way—how many books have survived, not how many works
were composed” is unfortunately not quite adequate;
and if rectified by saying at least “in an extremely unreliable way”, as is
unavoidable
to do for someone familiar with collections of Sanskrit manuscripts, there
is still this
lingering implicit assumption that a manuscript may be equated with a
work/book
that needs to be radically discarded.

Not only do we all as Sanskrit scholars know that the production of a
critical edition
of a single work usually is based on a number of available manuscripts that
in fact,
depending on the work to be edited, may greatly vary from just a few to
dozens (& more),
but taking just a look at the *New Catalogus Catalogorum* immediately
reveals an
enormous variation regarding the proportion that exists between a given
work and
the amount of manuscripts transmitting it.
As to the notion of a “manuscript” hereby, in lucky cases the given MS is
complete.
Frequently, however, if not most frequently (another uncertain proportion),
it is fragmentary.

Yet, of course, also fragmentary MSS (be it even one consisting in a single
folio or less)
must be principally regarded as being able to provide valid manuscript
evidence,
supportive readings and, as the case may be, crucial textual variants,
insights into the given textual transmission, etc.

On the other hand, huge texts, the more so when provided with a commentary,
cannot be comprised by single manuscripts, even when complete.
Presently engaged in describing a so-called *Paṇḍit Collection*
(acquired by the Royal Library/Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen, in
1924),
I recall, just to give an example, that each of the 12 books (*skandha*)
of the *Bhāgavatapurāṇa* with Śrīdhara’s commentary *Bhāvārthadīpikā*
conveniently amounted to a separate manuscript.

Yet again, a given MS may likewise, easily in the case of *stotra*s,
various kinds of
ritual texts (and other textual genres), contain many more than just a
single work.
Neither should it be felt as particularly surprising when discovering that
what at some time had been assembled (and put into an envelope), say, by an
owner
of a Sanskrit collection as if consisting in a single MS turns out, on
closer inspection,
to actually consist in numerous fragments of altogether heterogeneous
character
(in terms of textual sources, scribes, material quality, etc.).

Furthermore, to address the problem of quantification from yet another
perspective,
not all the MSS contained in a given collection (like the mentioned *Paṇḍit
Collection*)
may a priori be counted as philologically – implying philology to be a
methodologically
strict science untouched by either traditional naiveness or pretentious
instances of
post-modern clownery – valid documents with justified claims of pertinently
representing
a given work: the numerous cases of orthographically somewhat uneducated
scribes apart,
a not all too great, but an uncertain (if tiny) percentage of MSS simply
represents
the work – throwing tangible light on the sociological aspects of textual
transmission –
consisting in the more or less clumsy writing exercises by pupils
(typically found
in the areas of both *śruti* and *smṛti*).

In other words, given also the published version of the hopefully ongoing
project of
the *New Catalogus Catalogorum* has (even with the future conclusion of the
letter *h*)
to be characterized as being, though already advanced, still only a
preliminary assessment
of what has survived, it seems quite important, when assessing the amount of
pre-modern works in Sanskrit, to be aware of the fact that the relevant
notion
of “manuscript” itself is considerably complex (on the empirical level of
what is
actually found in Sanskrit collections), thus turning the correlation
between MSS
and proper works into an highly problematic issue, if taken as a basis for
quantitative
estimates of the literary cultures expressed in the medium of that language.

Best wishes,

Hartmut

--------------------------------
Hartmut Buescher, PhD,
Research Librarian
The Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen
(Det Kongelige Bibiliotek)
[http://www.kb.dk/en/index.html]






On Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 12:16 PM, Camillo Formigatti via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Dagmar,
>
>
>
> As to Latin and Greek literature, I believe that choosing a good
> periodization is difficult, if you want to do it for comparative purposes.
> Would you consider Byzantine Greek literature or not? If yes, then why not
> consider Latin literature from late antiquity, medieval times and
> Renaissance too?  Would it be on linguistic grounds? I think that then you
> would be forced to compare the periodization let’s say of South Asian or
> Central Asian history and the history of each language with that of Latin
> and Greek. Assuming we are talking also of scientific and technical
> literature, you would also face the issue of assessing the impact of the
> late diffusion of printing technology in South Asia and on the other hand
> how this phenomenon might have affected a possible increase in the
> composition of works in cultures were printing technology was employed
> early on, such as China and Japan, due to economic reasons. After all,
> printers and publishing houses wanted to sell more and more books, and in
> order to do it they had to publish something.
>
>
>
> In one of my articles I briefly touched upon the numbers of Latin, Greek,
> and vernacular languages manuscripts from the 6th to the 15th century as
> compared to various estimates of the number of South Asian manuscripts, but
> again, these numbers again are simply telling us—in an unreliable way—how
> many books have survived, not how many works were composed.
>
>
>
> I apologize for the long and unstructured reply, but lately I’ve been
> fascinated by questions like the one you asked, only to be baffled by the
> fact that it seems very difficult to get reliable quantitative data to
> start with.
>
>
>
> Best wishes,
>
>
>
> Camillo
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
>
>
> Dr Camillo A. Formigatti
>
> John Clay Sanskrit Librarian
>
>
>
> Bodleian Libraries
>
> The Weston Library
>
> Broad Street
>
> Oxford
>
> OX1 3BG
>
>
>
> Email: camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk
>
> Tel. (office): 01865 (2)77208
> www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
>
>
>
> *From:* Dagmar Wujastyk [mailto:d.wujastyk at gmail.com]
> *Sent:* 19 April 2017 17:32
> *To:* Camillo Formigatti <camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk>
> *Cc:* indology <INDOLOGY at list.indology.info>
> *Subject:* Re: [INDOLOGY] Sanskrit literature in numbers
>
>
>
> Dear Camillo,
>
>
>
> I must admit I am a bit uncertain where to draw the line. Trying to
> quantify Latin literature, I think I would want total numbers that could
> then be split up in classical and then everything later? I am not sure what
> the cut off date would be.
>
>
>
> Best, Dagmar
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On 19 April 2017 at 10:19, Camillo Formigatti <
> camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk> wrote:
>
> Dear Dagmar,
>
>
>
> This is a very interesting question indeed. May I add two other questions
> to it? Would you like to know the numbers of extant works only or the
> number of works in general, even if lost? Also, when you write Latin
> language, for instance, do you mean only classical Latin (whatever this
> might mean) or every work that has been written in Latin until today (and
> I’m not thinking of today’s Latin used in the Vatican, I was rather
> thinking of authors like the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli (1855 –1912),
> who wrote poems in Latin too)?
>
>
>
> Best wishes,
>
>
>
> Camillo
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
>
>
> Dr Camillo A. Formigatti
>
> John Clay Sanskrit Librarian
>
>
>
> Bodleian Libraries
>
> The Weston Library
>
> Broad Street
>
> Oxford
>
> OX1 3BG
>
>
>
> Email: camillo.formigatti at bodleian.ox.ac.uk
>
> Tel. (office): 01865 <01%20865> (2)77208
> www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk
>
>
>
> *From:* Dagmar Wujastyk [mailto:d.wujastyk at gmail.com]
> *Sent:* 19 April 2017 16:53
> *To:* indology <INDOLOGY at list.indology.info>
> *Subject:* [INDOLOGY] Sanskrit literature in numbers
>
>
>
> Dear colleagues,
>
>
>
> Might anyone be able to point me to a publication/data on the relative
> quantities of Sanskrit works and other pre-modern works in languages such
> as Latin, Chinese, Tamil, Arabic or Persian?
>
>
>
> We all know that there is a very large body of Sanskrit literature, but
> how does the number of Sanskrit works compare to works written in other
> languages? My sense has always been that Sanskrit literature is
> particularly large, but perhaps this is not substantiated by data?
>
>
>
> Best wishes,
>
> Dagmar Wujastyk
>
>
>
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