rescuing mss.

Robert J. Zydenbos zydenbos at BLR.VSNL.NET.IN
Sat Nov 29 20:02:09 UTC 1997

On Fri, 28 Nov 1997, DR.S.KALYANARAMAN wrote:

>> otherwise. Unfortunately, there seems little an Indologist can do
>> besides try to rescue for overseas academic libraries what still
>> can be rescued.
> What is left to rescue for the overseas academic
> libraries from India?
> A cursory glance at the Catalagorum of Prof. K. Raja of Univ. of
> Madras or the mss. list in Univ. of Pennsylvania, will indicate
> that many mss. have already been rescued.

Not only mss.: I have in the course of my work come across
instances of books published in India which I can locate in
overseas libraries but not here.

But about mss.: the exciting, but also disturbing thing is that
there apparently is always more than was assumed previously. These
days we are having a workshop on manuscriptology (unfortunately
ugly word) here in Mysore, organised by the Indira Gandhi National
Centre for the Arts and the University of Mysore, and the chief
librarian of the IGNCA gave a lecture about the impressive work the
Centre is doing to microfilm mss. across the country: the volume
and nature of the work, and also the difficulties involved (e.g.,
libraries that are suspicious and close-fisted about their
collections). He gave the example of a library that was destroyed
shortly after a crew from the Centre had microfilmed the ms.
collection, as an example of a successful rescuing of a good deal
of material and the urgency of the work. There are numerous ms.
libraries across the country with collections that have never been
catalogued, and a few speakers at the workshop have told glowing
stories of unique mss. which they stumbled across and the value of
their contents. (Some such unique mss. were found in overseas
libraries and have now also been microfilmed by the Centre.)

One serious difficulty the IGNCA has is that of human resources:
the paucity of able people who know how to read mss. (which is a
main reason why this workshop was organised: they hope to attract
students to this discipline). The Centre's ambition apparently is
to make much of the collected material available on the internet;
but here the problem is like in the Nepali-German project (as has
been reported on this list) that the owners of the mss. do not want
to miss royalties / fees / etc., and so the Centre will only give
out copies of their copies if one has permission from the owner of
the originals, where applicable. Catalogues will be available on
the net, though.

The work is of course highly laudable, and we should hope that they
manage to cover all of India (some states have hardly been touched
by them yet); the shortage of able manpower is very sad; and,
finally, we should pray that nothing will happen to their central
library, like happened to that one that was lost -- because that
could be something like the historical loss of the library at
Alexandria. They should decide to have a copy of everything
somewhere far away, like the Nepali mss. in Germany, for safety.
Even if some scholars are having problems in gaining access to
those Nepali materials in Germany (for which the Germans, who
invested greatly in that project, apparently are not to blame)
(please note, Bijoy Misra: rescuing without "piracy"!), at least
they are there, which is a comforting thought.


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