introduction of printing in India/scribal habits

kellner at kellner at
Tue Sep 26 00:16:23 UTC 1995

While reading on textual criticism of the New Testament and textual
criticism in Tibetan Studies (i.e. research on the transmission of the
Kanjur), I suddenly found myself asking when printing, i.e. mechanically
producing multiple copies of a text from one single original, was first
introduced on the Indian sub-continent. By "printing", I refer not only to
the printing presses of the industrial age, but also to pre-industrial ways
of reproducing texts (e.g. equivalents to Tibetan woodblock-printing). 

Another, bolder question refers to the specific environment of professional
scribes in ancient India. 
It struck me how much details we know about the scribal transmission of the
Greek New Testament (e.g. that manuscripts were often dictated to a number
of scribes, that scribes included quite personal remarks such as "my fingers
are aching" in the colophones, or that some Irish scribes added some quite
rude remarks in the margins of the manuscripts - in Irish, presumably
because their non-Irish supervisors couldn't understand what they were
scribbling in the first place), but in what vacuum of knowledge at least I
am drifting around when it comes to Indian manuscripts - who copied under
what circumstances what type of manuscript, how to date a manuscript, what
was the relationship between authors and scribes (did authors write their
texts down themselves), is it safe to assume a long ongoing process of oral
transmission before the actual writing down of a text, and if so, on what
basis  does one make such assumptions....I realize that these are rather
simple questions for a palaeographist, but during my brief sojourn in the
Indological universe, I have never had the pleasure of meeting a "true"
palaeographist, and neither have I come across any in-depth literature which
would have provided answers to these questions. References, please....

Birgit Kellner
Institute for Indian Philosophy
University of Hiroshima


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