Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project

Michael Witzel witzel at FAS.HARVARD.EDU
Mon Dec 1 04:06:29 UTC 1997

The Thanksgiving vacation allows for a somewhat detailed answer and
clarification, and some history:
Since there have been few answers, I venture one here.

The recent question by D. Wujastyk has been answered about a year ago by a
current member of the NGMPP, Anne Macdonald, who has corrected my initial
reaction then (FO5A006 at It should be in the
Indology archives.

>> I ask for reactions from members of INDOLOGY who have more intimate
connections with this project than I do myself?  What *is* the position?
Is it truly, as it currently appears, a matter of sheer nationality?  <<

It is unfortunate that, again, the question of the Nepal-DMG agreement and
the use of NGMPP microfilms are confounded with nationality -- and this
inside the EU!

For example, the project has employed,throughout its history, besides
Nepalese and Germans, some British, Canadian, French, Indian, Italian
nationals and maybe others.

More importantly, based on my five years as director of the NGMPP at the
National Archives of Nepal (1972-77) and from what I have heard afterwards
I can categorically state that we have always tried to help all who asked
for assistance, irrespective of nationality.  <Incidentally, I come from
Swiebodzin, which is in Poland>. And we have hosted them at home or in the
Nepal Research Center (run under the aegis of the DMG), again irrespective
of nationality.

The problem of the films, if it exists, is one of the *original agreement*
of a quarter century ago. And that was difficult enough to negotiate.

The agreement clearly speaks about the use of the films by the "the German
Oriental Society" (DMG) not "members of the DMG". I may dig out the exact
wording from my basement if the file has not been destroyed in recent
flooding. ("rescuing and preservation" also here, where even the floods
are bigger and better!)

But from my years at the NGMPP and at the National Archives I know that
the *interpretation* of the agreement *at Kathmandu* depends a little on
the winds prevailing there at the moment in question. (Therefore my
initial more "liberal" reaction about a year ago). Mostly, the good
relationship between the two parties will allow to speed up things. If
some local political mischief intervenes, NOT. --- POLITICS, as

The only, and ALSO the *safest* and easiest way is to apply to the
National Archives, pay the cost for the film & the "MS tax" (it used to be
some 0.75 cents US$ per folio; I don't know the present rate).

If you send a copy of your application to the Director of the project
(NGMPP, POB 180, Kathmandu), the NGMPP has ALWAYS been happy
and, I am sure, still will be willing to help you out and facilitate a
quick turn around. (Not 2 or  more months as with many European

However, the *offical* procedure has to go through the Archives. (Chief
Research Scholar, National Archives, Ram Shah Path, Kathmandu, Nepal).

All of that was stated clearly a year ago or so, by Anne Macdonald
(FO5A006 at

Therefore, H.O.  Feistel is right when he says:
> that this is explicitly stated in
> the Nepal-Germany agreement.

But the reason, as stated by R.Torella, is not correct:

> The reason is that the Nepalese Archives want
> to reserve for themselves only the right to get money for providing
> microfilm copies (to non-German scholars).

They also want the "copyright". And Germans also have to pay at Kathmandu.
I paid for a number of MSS when I was in station, as director of the
NGMPP at the very Archives, and also after that, when visiting during the

Simply, the NATIONAL ARCHIVES retain the right to allow use of the
microfilms, the "copyright" if you will. And they take a small tax.

Michael Witzel                                  witzel at
phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295 (voice & messages), 496 8570, fax 617 - 496 8571

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