number of Sanskrit mss. and number of texts

Eugen Ciurtin e.ciurtin at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 27 19:01:11 UTC 2013

In order to supplement just a bit the very helpful discussion about the *
acintya*-like figures of Sanskrit works and MSS, and to specifically
include BHS MSS: in his overview article on “The Buddhist Contribution to
Indian Belles-Lettres” (*AOH* 2010, p. 456), Professor Michael Hahn
estimates the vastness of both Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist canons:

“The former collection contains *some 1700 works of Indian origin *that
were translated between the 2nd and 11th centuries CE. Translated into
English, they would fill approximately 300,000 pages in the octavo format.
The latter collection contains some 5000 works that were translated between
the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 14th centuries CE. Only a few
of them were translated later, e.g., Pāṇini’s grammar. Translated into
English, they would cover more than 400,000 pages. My free guess is that *not
more than 25% of these texts have survived in their original language*. But
even in these cases the translations, in particular those into Tibetan, are
invaluable ancillary sources because they are quite often based on better
manuscripts than those that have survived in the places mentioned above.”

Kind regards,

E. Ciurtin

2013/1/20 Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at>

> As far as I know, nobody has counted how many Indian MSS have been
> catalogued.  However, it should be possible to do some kind of back-of-an-envelope
> calculation for this, as follows.
> There's a publication by Madras University called the *New Catalogus
> Catalogorum *(NCC)*.  *Its current editor is the energetic Professor
> Siniruddha Dash <dash_sans at>.  The NCC is a digest of all
> published MS catalogues.  Well, not all, but most.  At least, up to the
> late 70s, and some later ones.  So, in NCC you can look up an author or
> the title of a Sanskrit or Prakrit work, and you'll get a list of the
> known MSS of that work, culled from the published manuscript catalogues.
> The NCC isn't finished.  Only nineteen volumes have been published,
> bringing it up to the end of ma (म), 37th letter of the alphabet.  There
> are 8 more letters of the alphabet to go, so NCC is about 37/45x100=82%
> done.   Each volume is about 350 pages.  Each page has about 50 MSS
> mentioned (this is *very* rough! - per-page counts vary wildly).  So each
> volume mentions 17,500 catalogued MSS, and there are 19 vols, so that comes
> out at 332,500 MSS mentioned so far.  And that's 82%.  So the total would
> be 405,487.  Say half a million.
> There are *lots* of rough edges to this figure.  It's very, very crude.
> But it does give one at least something to hold on to.  Half a million
> catalogued manuscripts out of a minimum total of 7,000,000.  That's 7%.
> But if the Koba people have put their MSS into a database - which they're
> doing at quite a rate, that could quite soon add 250,000 MSS to the total
> catalogued.  And there are other projects like that (though none so big, or
> well-funded).   So the total catalogued could be higher.  Say it's double.
> A million.  That's 14% of the seven-million figure.  But the seven-million
> figure is probably very conservative.  So we're still hovering in the
> 5%-15% range, I'd say.
> Improvements to the above argument and result are welcomed!
> Best,
> Dominik Wujastyk

Dr E. Ciurtin
Secretary of the Romanian Association for the History of Religions

Publications Officer of the European Association for the Study of Religions

Lecturer & Secretary of the Scientific Council
Institute for the History of Religions, Romanian Academy
Calea 13 Septembrie no. 13 sect. 5, Bucharest 050711
Phone: 00 40 733 951 953

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