[INDOLOGY] scribal self-recitation while copying

Tyler Williams tylerwwilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jul 24 12:28:17 UTC 2013

Dear all,

There is, of course, quite a bit of variation in scribal practices over
time and region; at various places and times there is documented evidence
of, or oblique references, to scribes working singly, collectively, with
reciters, and without reciters, and with the establishment of Islamicate
courts in northern India, ateliers on the model of the kar-khana.  There
were significant differences in practice between, say, monks working in a
temple or monastic institution, itinerant Kashmiri scribes that travelled
singly or in groups around northern India, copying texts for a fee, and
court 'scribes' (who were actually much more), who have received a good bit
of attention from O'Hanlon and Minkowski. The question of mass-produced
manuscripts is an interesting one that has received a little bit of
attention in the Jain context; some helpful sources on these and other
questions include:

Cort, John E. 1995. “The Jain Knowledge Warehouses: Traditional Libraries
in India.” *Journal of the American Oriental Society* 115 (1): 10.

Data, Kali Kumar. 1971. “The Ritual of Manuscripts.” *Our Heritage:
Bulletin of the Department of Post-Graduate Training and Research, Sanskrit
College, Calcutta *19 (1).

Losty, Jeremiah P. 1982. *The art of the book in India*. London: British

Data's article sites a number of texts that give normative prescriptions
for how a text used for ritual performance was to be copied.  Losty
discusses a period and genre of mass-produced stereotyped Jain manuscripts.

Most references are, unfortunately, terse and scattered.  For South Asia,
more work has been done on scribal practices among the Persianate elites;
for Europe the body of research is quite significant.


Tyler Williams

Columbia University

On Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 7:20 AM, Ashok Aklujkar <ashok.aklujkar at gmail.com>wrote:

> 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.
> a.a.
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