[INDOLOGY] scribal self-recitation while copying

Ashok Aklujkar ashok.aklujkar at gmail.com
Wed Jul 24 05:20:28 UTC 2013

On 2013-07-23, at 7:56 PM, Allen Thrasher wrote:

...  I wonder if there is any evidence that scribal workshops would ever produce many copies of a work at one time, with a single reader and a number of scribes. ... Presumably there would be a market for standard classics (e.g. the Gita) that in some circumstances would justify producing them in advance of specific individual orders.  ... But everything I recall reading seems to assume that copies were produced singly.  It need not even be a question of one person recruiting scribes so to speak off the street; it could also be a workshop of a scribe and his sons (younger brothers, nephews, etc.), a family operation.<

As I recall, king Kurmaarapaala of northern Gujarat is said to have arranged one thousand scribes to produce one thousand copies of Hema-candra's grammar, ;Sabdaanu;saasana, soon after it was completed. There is documentary evidence for this, but I cannot put my hands on it at present. Perhaps Georg Buehler's Life of Hema-candra specifies the source. 

In the late 1920s, when travelling teams went to collect manuscripts in the Madras Presidency, those collected manuscripts which were to be returned to their owners were copied (i.e., transcribed into Nagari on paper) at Madras with one pandit reading and another pandit writing the heard text. Then they usually reversed roles and the faithfulness of the transcription was ascertained (or a more experienced pandit was requested to check the accuracy of the transcription) before the manuscript was returned. You still see evidence of this in several transcripts in the GOML and at Adyar Library and Research Centre with the names of pandits specified and the date of completion of the process written at the end.Confirming signatures also appear. 

It is quite likely that at places of pilgrimage the Kaayastha families kept a few extra copies of popular texts on hand to sell to pilgrims. 


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