the koti

Thrasher, Allen athr at LOC.GOV
Tue Nov 23 02:02:43 UTC 2010

I was queried off the list whether my memory of Ifrah's book containing a cumulation of the various number-words was accurate.  I checked the 2000 English ed. and found I understated what is included in the second chapter Matthew mentions (chapter title in English trans., "Part II: Dictionary of the Numeral Symbols of Indian Civilisation," pp. 440-510: 70 pages of small print).  Under each of the numbers there is a list of words meaning that number, and conversely under each word the number it means.  There are also a lagre number of topical articles, plus, as Matthew says, lists of powers of ten, individual articles for each word referring a power of ten, etc. etc.  Ideally the book should be in every Indological reference library, IMHO.  All this is only in the 2nd ed.; the treatment in the 1st is far smaller.

Please note that the LOC cataloging, and therefore presumably that of other libraries that have copied LOC's record, is confusing about the 2nd English ed., partly because of ambiguities in the title page and spine information itself.  "Universal history of numbers" is cataloged as if it were vol. 1 of a two volume work whereas "The universal history of computing : from the abacus to the quantum computer," the English trans. of vol. 2, is cataloged as if it were an independent work.  The French of the 2nd ed. (1994) is unambiguous and has an overall title that covers both numbers and computing: "Histoire universelle des chiffres : l’intelligence des hommes racontée par les nombres et le calcul."

There are a number of dictionaries in Indian languages about bhutasankhyas, some dealing solely with that subject and others including them in lists of numerical lists. If there is interest I will try to put together and post a bibliography of them, after checking some titles new to me that may or may not be on the subject.


Allen W. Thrasher, Ph.D.
Asian Division, Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20540-4810
The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Library of Congress.

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