Sanskrit manuscriptology: some basic bibliographical pointers

For Indian epigraphy there are fine introductions available [D.C. Sircar’s Indian Epigraphy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass 1965 and later, accompanied by the Indian Epigraphical Glossary; and as a successor: R. Salomon: Indian Epigraphy. New York (u.a.): Oxford University Press 1998, reviewed among others by O. v. Hinüber in JAOS 121,3 (2001),  517-19)], but unfortunately comprehensive surveys like this haven’t been created for manuscriptology so far (anyhow both disciplines have many things in common). A huge Encyclopedia of Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa is planned to be published in context of the DFG research group Manuscript Cultures in Asia and Africa at the AAI in Hamburg, which is going to cover also the South Asian tradition. Until a standard reference work like this is going to appear here some collected basic bibliographical pointers to contributions of a more general approach for starters or other-discipline peekers, including uploads next to some links. Additions (and scans) welcome! If you are still hungry after this, D. Wujastyk compiled a much bigger Preliminary subject bibliography on Indian manuscripts.

General Indian manuscriptology: R.S.S. Murthy: Introduction to manuscriptology [Delhi: Sharada Publishing House 1996]; D. Stender: Uncovering hidden treasures – establishing the discipline of Indian manuscriptology [IIAS Newsletter 45 (2007), 27]. On the Buddhist manuscript culture now Berkwitz/Schober/Brown’s Introduction to Buddhist Manuscripts Cultures [London (u.a.): Routledge 2009, 1-15]. See also A. Payer’s site.

Writing materials in general, manuscript techniques: G. Grönbold: Die Buchkultur Südasiens [Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Das Buch im Orient. Handschriften und kostbare Drucke aus zwei Jahrtausenden. Wiesbaden: Reichert 1982, 221-27]; Palmblattbuch [Lexikon des gesamten Buchwesens. Zweite Auflage. V: M-Photon. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 514]; A.F.R. Hoernle: An epigraphical note on Palm-leaf, Paper and Birch-Bark [offprint from: *Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, part I, 69,2 (1900)]; K.-L. Janert: Bibliographie mit den Berichten über die mündliche und schriftliche Textweitergabe sowie die Schreibmaterialien in Indien. Teil 1 (Berichtszeit bis 1955) [Bonn: VGH Wissenschaftsverlag 1995, another part never appeared]; W. Kirfel: Textüberlieferung und Textkritik in der indischen Philologie [Kleine Schriften. Wiesbaden: Steiner 1976 (Glasenapp-Stiftung; 11), 382-92, mainly on writing materials].

Specific writing materials: Palm leaf [either Talipot (corypha umbraculifera) or Palmyra (borassus flabellifer)]: G Grönbold: Palmblätter [Lexikon des gesamten Buchwesens. Zweite Auflage. V: M-Photon. Stuttgart: Hiersemann, 513-14]; S.A.A. Jahn: Comparative studies on different concepts about the origin of writing on palm leaf [Asiatische  Studien / Etudes asiatiques 60,4 (2006), 921-61]; P.K. Padmakumar / V.B. Sreekumar: Palm leaves as writing material: history and methods of processing in Kerala [Palms 47,3 (2003), 125-29]. Birch bark: J. Filliozat: Manuscripts on Birch Bark (Bhurjapatra) and their preservation [The Indian Archives 1,2 (1947), 102-08]. Paper: J. Trier: Ancient paper of Nepal [Copenhagen: Gyldendal 1972 (Jutland Archaeological Society Publications; 10)].

Palaeography in general: G. Bühler: Indische Palaeographie von circa 350 A. Chr. – circa 1300 P. Chr. [Strassburg: Trübner 1896 (Grundriss der Indo-Arischen Philologie und Altertumskunde; 1,11); chapter VI (83 sq.) and VII (88 sq.) on manuscript writing materials, techniques etc.]; A.H. Dani: Indian Palaeography [Oxford: Clarendon Press 1963]; H. Falk: Schrift im alten Indien. Ein Forschungsbericht mit Anmerkungen [Tübingen: Narr 1993 (ScriptOralia; 56)]; F. Nowotny: Schriftsysteme in Indien [Studium Generale 20,9 (1967), 527-47]; R. Salomon: Writing systems of the Indo-Aryan languages [Cardona/Jain (Eds.): The Indo-Aryan languages. London (u.a.): Routledge 2003, 67-103]; L. Sander: Paläographisches zu den Sanskrithandschriften der Berliner Turfansammlung [Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner 1968 (Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Supplementband; 8), on the Sanskritica of the manifold Turfan Collection in Berlin (see here), predominantly Kuṣāṇa and Gupta script]. On misc. manuscript features: K. Einicke: Korrektur, Differenzierung und Abkürzung in indischen Inschriften und Handschriften [Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2009 (Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes; 68], not yet appeared]; K. Plofker: Spoken text and written symbol – the use of layout and notation in Sanskrit scientific literature [Digital Proceedings of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age 1,1,3 (2009)].

Specific palaeography: Bengalī: R.D. Banerji: The origin of Bengali script [University of Calcutta 1919]; D. Dimitrov: Tables of Old Bengali script [Dimitrov/Roesler/Steiner (Eds.): Indian and Tibetan Studies. Wien: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien 2002 (Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde; 53), 27-78]. Nepalese (often designated not quite correct as “Nevārī”) : S. Lienhard/T.L. Manandhar: Nepalese manuscripts. Part 1: Nevārī and Sanskrit: Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin [Stuttgart: Steiner 1988 (Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland; 33,1)], XVII sq.; Ś. Rājavaṃśī: Pracīna lipi varṇamālā [Kāṭhamāṇḍū 1960]; H. Shakyavansha: Nepāla lipi saṃgraha [Asontole, Kathmandu: Mandas & Sugatadas 1956]. There are several other tables on the net like the one of a Abhisamācārikadharma manuscript made in a research group at Taishō University. A recent study on Nepalese script is Ye Shaoyong’s A palaeographical study of the manuscripts of the Mūlamadhmakakārikā and Buddhapalita’s commentary [ARIRIAB 11 (2007), 153-75]. Śāradā: G. Grierson: On the Sarada alphabet [Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland 1916, 677-708]; W. Slaje: Śāradā – deskriptiv-synchrone Schriftkunde zur Bearbeitung kaschmirischer Sanskrit-Manuscripte [Reinbeck: Wezler 1993 (Indische Schriften; 1)]. South India: R. Grünendahl: South Indian Scripts in Sanskrit manuscripts and prints – Grantha Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Nandinagari [Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 2001]; S. Rath: Varieties of Grantha script – date and place of origin of manuscripts [Proceedings of IIAS Workshop Production, distribution and collection of Sanskrit manuscripts in Ancient South India, Leiden 2007 (forthcoming)]; K. Vanugopalam: A primer in Grantha characters [St. Peter: James H. Nye 1893]. See also the Indoskript software and the Unicode charts for South Asian scripts here.

Date conversion/calendar calculation: H. Falk: Frühe Zeitrechnung in Indien [ders. (Hrsg.): Vom Herrscher zur Dynastie. Zum Wesen kontinuierlicher Zeitrechnung in Antike und Gegenwart. Bremen: Hempen 2002 (Vergleichende Studien zu Antike und Orient; 1), 77-105]; H. Jacobi: The computation of Hindu dates in inscriptions, &c. [Epigraphica Indica 1 (1892), 403-60]; R. Salomon: Indian Epigraphy (see above), chapters 5.4 (Dating of Inscriptions, 168 sq.) and 5.5 (Appendix: Eras used in Indo-Aryan inscriptions, 180 sq.); R. Sewell / Ś.B. Dikshit: The Indian calendar with tables for the conversion of Hindu and Muhammadan into A.D. dates, and vice versa [London: Sonnenschein 1896]; L.D. Swamikanu Pillai: *The Indian ephemeris. 6 vols. [Madras: Government Press 1922; several reprints]. See also Pañcāṅga.

Textual criticism: there is a vast literature on textual criticism and transmission to be found in other disciplines,  one could get the impression esp. in classical philology (there are a lot of introductions there) and New Testament studies – fundamentals and methods are portable. For Sanskrit philology (header: pāṭhaśodhana) there is S.M. Katre’s Introduction to Indian textual criticism [Poona: Deccan College, Post-graduate and Research Institute 1954 (Deccan College Hand-Book Series; 5), also available in Sanskrit); a must-read also is V.S. Sukthankar’s Prolegomena to the critical edition of the Mahābhārata [Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute 1933], next to S.A. Srinivasan’s Vācaspatimiśras Tattvakaumudi – ein Beitrag zur Textkritik bei kontaminierter Überlieferung [Hamburg: de Gruyter 1967 (Alt- und Neuindische Studien; 12)]. Generally see also: G. Colas: The criticism and transmission of texts in Classical India [Diogenes 47,2 [186] (1999), 30-43, French version: Diogène 186 (1999)]; O.v. Hinüber: Remarks on the problem of textual criticism in editing anonymous Sanskrit literature [Proceedings of the First Symposium of Nepali and German Sanskritist 1978. Dang: Tribhuvan University/Kathmandu: Nepal Research Center 1980, 28-40, also in the Kleine Schriften?].

Some other contributions towards textual criticism of the Mahābhārata: S.K. Belvalkar: Some interesting problems in Mahābhārata text-transmission [*1: ABORI 25 (1944/45), 82-87, *2: 239-43; *3: 26 (1945), 107-119 [see here]; 4: JAOS 72,1 (1952), 34-37]; J. Dunham: Manuscripts used in the critical edition of the Mahābhārata [A. Sharma (Ed.): Essays on the Mahābhārata. Leiden (u.a.): Brill 1991, 1-18]; R. Grünendahl: Zur Klassifizierung von Mahābhārata-Handschriften [Grünendahl/Hartmann/Kieffer-Pülz (Eds.): Studien zur Indologie und Buddhismuskunde (Festschrift Bechert). Bonn: Indica et Tibetica Verlag 1993 (Indica et Tibetica; 22), 101-130]; *M.M. Mehta: The Mahābhārata – a study of the critical edition [Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 1976, reviewed by Sutherland in JAOS 106,4 (1986)]; Phillips-Rodriguez/Howe/Windram: Chi-squares and the phenomenon of “change of exemplar” in the Dyūtaparvan [Huet/Kulkarni/Scharf (Eds.): Sanskrit Computational Linguistics. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer 2009, 380-90, offprint].

Metacatalogues: including single titles and authors and thus serves as comprehensive catalogues of literature: T. Aufrecht: Catalogus catalogorum – an alphabetical register of Sanskrit works and authors [3 parts. Leipzig: Brockhaus 1891-1903], followed by the New Catalogus Catalogorum [19 volumes. University of Madras 1968-2007]. An outstanding catalogue list, ordered by cities, is Janert’s An annotated bibliography of the catalogues of Indian manuscripts [Wiesbaden: Steiner 1965 (Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Supplementband; 1), precious even also for the exemplary entries – manuscript catalogues are often awful to record], followed by: S.C. Biswas: Bibliographic survey of Indian manuscript catalogues [Delhi: Eastern Book Linkers 1998]. See also: J.D. Pearson: Oriental manuscripts in Europe and North America [Inter Documentation Company 1971 (Bibliotheca Asiatica; 7), Indic languages on 347-98]; H.I. Poleman: A census of Indic manuscripts in the United States and Canada [New Haven: American Oriental Society 1938, reprint: New York 1967]. For a survey of collections, see A. Yuyama’s Buddhist Sanskrit manuscript collections [Tokyo: International Institute for Buddhist Studies 1992]; D. Wujastyk: Sanskrit manuscript collections outside India, with special reference to Āyurveda [paper for the National Seminar on Medical Manuscripts, Bangalore 2005].


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Glad that you recognised the spuriousness of “Nevārī”. It was a word promoted by Gorkhali Brahmin scribes to obscure the fact that the Nepalese scripts (for which there were already perfectly acceptable words; Skt. *nepālalipi, naipāli-, Nw. newākha etc.) of the looted manuscripts in their possession had nothing to do with their own writing system. The official “Nepali” script of the Gorkha state, by contrast, was Devanagari, common in much of South Asia but distinctly different from the larger part of Nepal’s paleographic heritage.

So much more could be said on this. In short, the intrusion of the word “nevārī” in scholarly writing is an abomination, and nobody who knows anything about Nepal uses it these days.

Incidentally, the blanket use of the word “Newari” to describe over a thousand years of diversity in writing styles is not just wrong (“Newari” is the name of a language, not a generic adjective akin to ‘Nepalese’), but useless; it tells you nothing, other than that a manuscript is (or might be) of Nepalese origin. (The use of Nepalese script is no guarantee that some manuscript was written in Nepal itself.)

Cristina Pecchia

In the field of indological studies, the discipline of the study of manuscripts as cultural artifacts is called, for some reason, “manuscriptology”, using a neologism (maybe on the basis of the German word Handschriftkunde?), instead of “codicology”, which is the existing current designation, most probably invented by Samaran. The technical terminology of codicology has been fixed by Muzerelle in his 1985 major publication; its language is French, which, for historical reasons, is one of the main vehicular languages of the discipline. On the basis of Muzerelle’s work, a codicological vocabulary is being established in other languages.
See: Denis Muzerelle, Vocabulaire codicologique: répertoire méthodique des termes français relatifs aux manuscrits. Paris: Editions CEMI, 1985. Also available in a multilingual version on the Internet:


Thanx for these valuble knowledge hope i will get same in future regarding manuscript
kamlesh shakta
new delhi

Dr. C. Palaiah

This is a very rich source for researchers. Thank you!

Vijayalekshmi Prasanth

Thanks for this information this is very useful.


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