Studies in Manuscript Cultures (SMC)

Ed. by Michael Friedrich, Harunaga Isaacson and Jörg B. Quenzer

Writing is one of the most important cultural techniques, and writing has been handwriting throughout the greater part of human history, in some places even until very recently. Manuscripts are usually studied primarily for their contents, that is, for the texts, images and notation they carry, but they are also unique artefacts, the study of which can reveal how they were produced and used. The social and cultural history of manuscripts allows for ‘grounding’ the history of human knowledge and knowledge practices in material evidence in ways largely unexplored by traditional scholarship.
With very few exceptions, the history of the handwritten book is usually taken to be the prehistory of the (printed Western) book, thus not only denying manuscripts their distinct status as carrier medium, but also neglecting the rich heritage of Asian and African manuscript cultures from which, according to conservative estimates, more than ten million specimens survive until today.
The series Studies in Manuscript Cultures (SMC) is designed to publish monographs and collective volumes contributing to the emerging field of manuscript studies (or manuscriptology) including disciplines such as philology, palaeography, codicology, art history, and material analysis. SMC encourages comparative study and contributes to a historical and systematic survey of manuscript cultures.

Verlag: de Gruyter, Berlin


14 - Indic Manuscript Cultures through the Ages
Material, Textual, and Historical Investigations

edited by Vincenzo Vergiani, Daniele Cuneo, Camillo Alessio Formigatti

This collection of essays explores the history of the book in pre-modern South Asia looking at the production, circulation, fruition and preservation of manuscripts in different areas and across time. Edited by the team of the Cambridge-based Sanskrit Manuscripts Project and including contributions of the researchers who collaborated with it, it covers a wide range of topics related to South Asian manuscript culture: from the material dimension (palaeography, layout, decoration) and the complicated interactions of manuscripts with printing in late medieval Tibet and in modern Tamil Nadu, to reading, writing, editing and educational practices, from manuscripts as sources for the study of religious, literary and intellectual traditions, to the creation of collections in medieval India and Cambodia (one major centre of the so-called Sanskrit cosmopolis), and the formation of the Cambridge collections in the colonial period. The contributions reflect the variety of idioms, literary genres, religious movements, and social actors (intellectuals, scribes, patrons) of ancient South Asia, as well as the variety of approaches, interests and specialisms of the authors, and their impassionate engagement with manuscripts.


13 - Jewish Manuscript Cultures: New Perspectives
edited by Irina Wandrey

Hebrew manuscripts are considered to be invaluable documents and artefacts of Jewish culture and history. Research on Hebrew manuscript culture is progressing rapidly and therefore its topics, methods and questions need to be enunciated and reflected upon.
The case studies assembled in this volume explore various fields of research on Hebrew manuscripts. They show paradigmatically the current developments concerning codicology and palaeography, book forms like the scroll and codex, scribes and their writing material, patrons, collectors and censors, manuscript and book collections, illuminations and fragments, and, last but not least, new methods of material analysis applied to manuscripts.
The principal focus of this volume is the material and intellectual history of Hebrew book cultures from antiquity to the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, its intention being to heighten and sharpen the reader's understanding of Jewish social and cultural history in general.


12 - The Arts and Crafts of Literacy: Islamic Manuscript Cultures in Sub-Saharan Africa
edited by Andrea Brigaglia and Mauro Nobili

During the last two decades, the (re-)discovery of thousands of manuscripts in different regions of sub-Saharan Africa has questioned the long-standing approach of Africa as a continent only characterized by orality and legitimately assigned to the continent the status of a civilization of written literacy. However, most of the existing studies mainly aim at serving literary and historical purposes, and focus only on the textual dimension of the manuscripts. This book advances on the contrary a holistic approach to the study of these manuscripts and gather contributions on the different dimensions of the manuscript, i.e. the materials, the technologies, the practices and the communities involved in the production, commercialization, circulation, preservation and consumption. The originality of this book is found in its methodological approach as well as its comparative geographic focus, presenting studies on a continental scale, including regions formerly neglected by existing scholarship, provides a unique opportunity to expand our still scanty knowledge of the different manuscript cultures that the African continent has developed and that often can still be considered as living traditions.


NEW February 2018

11 - Manuscripts and Archives
edited by Alessandro Bausi, Christian Brockmann, Michael Friedrich, Sabine Kienitz


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Archives are considered to be collections of administrative, legal, commercial and other records or the actual place where they are located. They have become ubiquitous in the modern world, but emerged not much later than the invention of writing.

Following Foucault, who first used the word archive in a metaphorical sense as "the general system of the formation and transformation of statements" in his "Archaeology of Knowledge" (1969), postmodern theorists have tried to exploit the potential of this concept and initiated the "archival turn". In recent years, however, archives have attracted the attention of anthropologists and historians of different denominations regarding them as historical objects and "grounding" them again in real institutions.

The papers in this volume explore the complex topic of the archive in a historical, systematic and comparative context and view it in the broader context of manuscript cultures by addressing questions like how, by whom and for which purpose were archival records produced, and if they differ from literary manuscripts regarding materials, formats, and producers (scribes).


9 - One-Volume Libraries: Composite and Multiple-Text Manuscripts
edited by Michael Friedrich and Cosima Schwarke

Manuscripts are traditionally studied for their contents: A “One-Volume Library”, i.e. a multiple-text manuscript, has primarily been examined as a series of individual texts, but that limited our understanding why it was written and what role it might have had in practices and uses. Recent trends in codicology have paved the way for a more comprehensive approach: Manuscripts are unique artefacts which reveal how they were produced and used as physical objects. While multiple-text manuscripts codicologically are to be considered as production units, i.e. they were originally planned and realized in order to carry more than one text, composites consist of formerly independent codicological units and were put together at a later stage with intentions that might be completely different from those of its original parts. Both sub-types of manuscripts are still called “miscellanies”, a term relating to the texts only. The codicological difference is important for reconstructing why and how these manuscripts which in many cases resemble (or contain) a small library were produced and used.
Contributions on the manuscript cultures of China, India, Africa, the Islamic world and European traditions lead not only to the conclusion that “one-volume libraries” have been produced in many manuscript cultures, but allow also for the identification of certain types of uses.


8 - Of Gods and Books: Ritual and Knowledge Transmission in the Manuscript Cultures of Premodern India
by Florinda De Simini

India has been the homeland of diverse manuscript traditions that do not cease to impress scholars for their imposing size and complexity. Nevertheless, many topics concerning the study of Indian manuscript cultures still remain to receive systematic examination. “Of Gods and Books” pays attention to one of these topics – the use of manuscripts as ritualistic tools. The topic of the ritualistic use of manuscripts as objects of worship and ritual donation, a transversal one in Indian texts, is analysed through the lens of history and seen in its connections with the ideology of power and the vital quest for monarchical patronage in early medieval India. Literary sources deal quite extensively with rituals principally focused on manuscripts, whose worship, donation and preservation are duly prescribed. Around these activities, a specific category of ritual gift is created, which finds attestations in pre-tantric, as well as in smārta and tantric, literature, and whose practice is also variously reflected in epigraphical documents. De Simini offers a first systematic study of the textual evidence on the topic of the worship and donation of knowledge. She gives account of possible implications for the relationships between religion and power. The book is indispensable for a deeper understanding of the cultural aspects of manuscript transmission in medieval India, and beyond.


7 - Tracing Manuscripts in Time and Space through Paratexts
edited by Giovanni Ciotti and Hang Lin

As records of the link between a manuscript and the text(s) it contains, paratexts document many aspects of a manuscript’s life: production, transmission, usage, and reception. Comprehensive studies of paratexts are still rare in the field of manuscript studies, and the universal categories of time and space are used to create a common frame for research and comparisons. Contributions in this volume span over three continents and one millennium.
Paratexts are virtually found in all manuscripts, linking these artefacts to the text they contain. In this respect, paratexts are essential for the understanding of manuscript cultures, as they concern various aspects of a manuscript’s production, transmission, usage, and reception. Comprehensive studies of paratexts are still rare in the field of manuscript studies, and the universal categories of time and space are here used to create a common frame that enables intercultural research and methodological comparisons. Furthermore, it is still the case that for many manuscript cultures (or sub-areas of certain manuscript cultures) works on paratexts are yet to be written. This volume is an attempt to partially fill this gap. It is with these considerations that we invite readers to – in Gérard Genette’s words – cross the “threshold” of this volume, which introduces them to several manuscript cultures spanning over three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe) and one millennium (from the 10th to the 20th centuries).


6 - Translating Chinese Tradition and Teaching Tangut Culture:
Manuscripts and Printed Books from Khara-Khoto

by Imre Galambos

This book is about Tangut translations of Chinese literary texts. Although most of the extant Tangut material comprises Buddhist texts, there are also many non-religious texts, which are mostly translations from Chinese. The central concern is how the Tanguts appropriated Chinese written culture through translation and what their reasons for this were. Of the seven chapters, the first three provide background information on the discovery of Tangut material, the emergence of the field of Tangut studies, and the history of the Tangut state. The following four chapters are devoted to different aspects of Tangut written culture and its connection with the Chinese tradition. The themes discussed here are the use of Chinese primers in Tangut education; the co-existence of manuscript and print; the question how faithful Tangut translators remained to the original texts or whether they at times adapted those to the needs of Tangut readership; the degree of translation consistency and the preservation of the intertextual elements of the original works. The book also intends to draw attention to the significant body of Chinese literature that exists in Tangut translation, especially since the originals of some of these texts are now lost.


5 - Variance in Arabic Manuscripts -
Arabic Didactic Poems from the Eleventh to the Seventeenth Centuries:
Analysis of Textual Variance and Its Control in the Manuscripts

by Florian Sobieroj

In Arabic and Islamic studies, the subject of variance in general and that of textual variation in particular has not been investigated exhaustively so far.
In the present book the variation in texts of the “closed transmission” will be studied, focusing on a small corpus of didactic and model poems, with a view to establishing what degree of text stability and change was allowed by the medium manuscript. Categories of variance (relating to work-titles, text, number of verses and their sequence, page-layout, context) and the means of controlling them in the manuscripts of the poems are identified and detailed descriptions of the copies are given.
The monograph also includes a presentation of some major traits of the cultural background to the study of Arabic didactic poetry and of its dissemination in which memorization has played a crucial role.
The intended readers, editors and other users of manuscripts, are helped to acquaint themselves with the methods employed in the manuscripts to control variation and they are given an overview of the large spectrum of Arabic didactic poetry and of its place in the traditional culture of learning in Islamicate societies.


4 - The Writing System of Scribe Zhou -
Evidence from Late Pre-imperial Chinese Manuscripts and Inscriptions (5th-3rd Centuries BCE)

by Haeree Park

This book investigates the nature of regional variation in the early Chinese writing system through bamboo manuscripts and inscriptions dating from the late pre-imperial China (5th-3rd centuries BCE). Diachronic and synchronic comparisons of graphic details show that none of the well-recognized regional varieties developed independently from one another. Furthermore, differences in graphic components can be accounted for as alternations of graphs that are compatible in their semantic or phonetic values. The phonological systems underlying various regional orthographies unanimously point to a single coherent sound system with some mixture of dialect pronunciations. This strongly suggests that all the late pre-imperial regional scripts derived from a kind of orthographic meta-system based on one spoken standard language. This orthography and its phonological systems should reasonably be dated to ca. 9th century BCE, just about the time when the earliest known Chinese lexicography "Book of Scribe Zhou" (ca. 830 BCE) was written. The conclusions of this book have further implications on reading and understanding manuscript texts in general as well as on using them as data for linguistic studies.


3 - Manuscript, Print and Memory: Relics of the Cankam in Tamilnadu
by Eva Maria Wilden

The ancient Tamil poetic corpus of the Cankam ("The Academy") is a national treasure for Tamilians and a battle-ground for linguists and historians of politics, culture and literature. Going back to oral predecessors probably dating back to the beginning of the first millennium, it has had an extremely rich and variegated history. Collected into anthologies and endowed with literary theories and voluminous commentaries, it became the centre-piece of the Tamil literary canon, associated with the royal court of the Pandya dynasty in Madurai. Its decline began in the late middle ages, and by the late 17th century it had fallen into near oblivion, before being rediscovered at the beginning of the print era. The present study traces the complex historical process of its transmission over some 2000 years, using and documenting a wide range of sources, in particular surviving manuscripts, the early prints, the commentaries of the literary and grammatical traditions and a vast range of later literature that creates a web of inter-textual references and quotations.


2 - Manuscripts and Travellers:
The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-Century Buddhist Pilgrim

by Sam van Schaik, Imre Galambos

This study is based on a manuscript which was carried by a Chinese monk through the monasteries of the Hexi corridor, as part of his pilgrimage from Wutaishan to India. The manuscript has been created as a composite object from three separate documents, with Chinese and Tibetan texts on them. Included is a series of Tibetan letters of introduction addressed to the heads of monasteries along the route, functioning as a passport when passing through the region. The manuscript dates to the late 960s, coinciding with the large pilgrimage movement during the reign of Emperor Taizu of the Northern Song recorded in transmitted sources. Therefore, it is very likely that this is a unique contemporarytestimony of the movement, of which our pilgrim was also part. Complementing extant historical sources, the manuscript provides evidence for the high degree of ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity in Western China during this period.



1 - Manuscript Cultures: Mapping the Field
Ed. by Jörg B. Quenzer, Dmitry Bondarev, Jan-Ulrich Sobisch

Script and writing were among the most important inventions in human history, and until the invention of printing, the handwritten book was the primary medium of literary and cultural transmission. Although the study of manuscripts is already quite advanced for many regions of the world, no unified discipline of ‘manuscript studies’ has yet evolved which is capable of treating handwritten books from East Asia, India and the Islamic world equally alongside the European manuscript tradition. This book, which aims to begin the interdisciplinary dialogue needed to arrive at a truly systematic and comparative approach to manuscript cultures worldwide, brings together papers by leading researchers concerned with material, philological and cultural aspects of different manuscript traditions.