Manuscript copies of printed books

Steve Farmer saf at SAFARMER.COM
Thu Mar 22 21:17:05 UTC 2012

I don't know about the case in India, but in Europe long after the printing revolution poor scholars regularly copied  by hand huge printed volumes for their own use, apparently due to the exorbitant price of scholarly books. (Some things never change.)

I once worked with a handwritten copy preserved in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence of two massive printed volumes of the Opera omnia of the 15th century Latin philosopher Marsilius Ficinus. The student  had copied out a 16th-century printed text -- remarkably enough a common one -- that was well over 1000 pages long!

When editing a different Latin text from the late 15th century (the Conclusiones of Ioannes Picus Mirandulanus) I found after spending months of work meticulously transcribing and collating all known manuscripts of the work that all of them, without exception, were handwritten copies, and not the originals, of the rare editio princeps or *earlier* handwritten copies of the printed text.

Steve Farmer

On Mar 22, 2012, at 1:29 PM, Manu Francis wrote:

> Dear list,
> I am currently working on a study of the manuscripts of the
> Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai (a classical Tamil devotional text, datable maybe
> to the 7th century) in a joint project of the University of Hamburg
> and EFEO.
> So far we have been able to collect copies of 44 palm-leaf manuscripts.
> Interestingly, two of these manuscripts (and maybe a third one), are
> each a copy of a different a printed edition of the middle of the 19th
> century.
> Do you know of other cases of manuscripts (palm-leaf or paper) being
> copies of printed books?
> Is there any bibliographical reference about this practice?
> One could think that the printed book was out of stock or not
> available for sale, or even that a manuscript copy was cheaper than
> buying the printed book.
> I wonder however if other reasons (ritualistic use of the text,
> conservatism towards the old form of books) might explain this
> practice.
> Thanks for any information.
> With best wishes.
> -- 
> Emmanuel Francis
> Researcher, Centre for the Study of Manuscript Culture, Universität Hamburg
> Associate member, Centre d'étude de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud
> (EHESS-CNRS), Paris

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