The Wellcome Library's Ni śvāsatattvasaṃhitā man uscript,

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 23 21:47:05 UTC 2012

*Executive summary

*The correct library reference for this manuscript is

   - "*Wellcome MS Indic δ 41*"
   - "Wellcome MS Indic delta 41"


In 1985, I published the first public description of this manuscript (Wujastyk
1985 <>, pp.151-52,
serial no.622).  I attach a PDF of these pages to this email.  The
manuscript was stated to be "*shelved at **δ 41*."

This is a location on the shelves of the Wellcome Library stack, where the
staff know to find the manuscript.  The Indic manuscripts in the Wellcome
Library are shelved following the "abcd" size-related shelving scheme of
the British Library, that is to say, small manuscripts are at "a," bigger
ones at "b" and so on.  "δ" means quite large manuscripts.  The Greek, not
Latin, letters were used for the Wellcome Indic manuscripts to distinguish
them clearly from numerous earlier confused and overlapping identification
schemes.shelved at δ 41

One of these earlier schemes was derived from a partial list created in
1954 by the eminent Prof. V. Raghavan of Madras.  He visited the library
for about three months that year, and went rapidly through many bundles of
Sanskrit, Prakrit and Hindi manuscripts.  He scribbled alpha-numerical
identifiers on the bundles and individual manuscripts, often using a blue
crayon.  He later delivered to the library a rough, typed list of about
3000 titles (about half the collection) that listed titles in order of
these alpha-numerical identifiers.  His list was crude and inconsistent,
but nevertheless a major contribution and very useful as being the only
guide to the collection between 1954 and 1977 (when I started curatorial
work on the Wellcome manuscripts).  Unfortunately, after Raghavan's visit,
a library curator who did not know Sanskrit tried to rearrange the
collection physically according to subject matter.  This and other physical
interventions caused many further confusions and losses of identity, so
that by 1977 the Raghavan list in many cases no longer corresponded to the
physically identifiable manuscripts on the shelves and in various boxes and

Unfortunately, several "Raghavan numbers" got into the public domain,
because scholars including Agehananda Bharati visited the library and read
the Raghavan list.  David Pingree also published numerous "Raghavan
numbers" in his *Census of the Exact Sciences* and his *Astral Literature.
*At least in Pingree's case, he actually saw and described the manuscripts
(or photos) that he referred to, so they are guaranteed to exist, even if
finding them physically may be hard.

To sum up, the Wellcome "Greek" shelf numbers are the current, public,
accurate identifiers for items in the Wellcome Library's Indic
collections.  If you cite a Greek shelfmark, the staff can look it up in a
list, they can physically find the manuscript on the shelf, they can query
a database to see if it has been microfilmed or digitized, etc. etc.
That's its real identifier.

The Raghavan numbers are strongly deprecated.  They have never been
formally published by the library, and in many cases they are not reliable
in any case.

Raghavan gave the number I.33 to the *Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā* manuscript that
is now called "Wellcome MS Indic delta 41".  I am sorry to see that this
obsolete and unpublished Raghavan number keeps popping up in publications,
most recently in Jacobsen's *Yoga Powers* (Brill, 2012, p.298).  It's
really only by good luck that "I.33" actually once corresponded to
something on the shelf that I was able to locate.  That designation is not
used in any published library documentation nor is it used for the physical
shelving of the manuscripts in the library stacks.  If a reader requests MS
"I.33," or any Raghavan number, it is a matter of pure chance whether the
library will be able to match it to a physical object.  If the reader does
ever get the manuscript, it is quite possible that the staff have had to
consult me privately to find out what was being asked for, since there has
been no Sanskritist on the staff since I left in 2002.


Dr Dominik Wujastyk
Department of South Asia, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies<>
University of Vienna,
Spitalgasse 2-4, Courtyard 2, Entrance 2.1
1090 Vienna, Austria
Adjunct Professor,
Division of Health and Humanities,
St. John's Research Institute, <> Bangalore, India.
Project <> | home
PGP <>

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: NTS.pdf
Type: application/pdf
Size: 53596 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list