Sonderforschungsbereich 950

Manuscript Cultures in Asia, Africa and Europe

manuscript of the month

MS Sierra-Texupan, p. 59

Three Cultural Traditions, Two Writing Systems and One Shopping List: The Sierra-Texupan Codex

Once the dust settled after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the year 1521, a new government system was established in Mesoamerica, the region spanning present-day Mexico and Central America. That was the New Spain Viceroyalty. Culturally speaking, this change of administration was especially complicated for the Spaniards because the Aztecs had dominated over a population of seven million in more than three hundred cities in the southeastern part of the region, comprised of the Otomi, Totonac, Mixtec and other peoples. Each and every one of these peoples had languages and dialects of their own. Now Europeans, speaking Spanish, Italian and French, had to communicate with indigenous peoples through Nahuatl, the lingua franca under the Aztecs, while trying to introduce a writing system employing the Latin alphabet to local populations. How did scribes in the region deal with the challenge in communication?


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CSMC temporarily closed, all events cancelled until the end of April

Due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the CSMC will close its doors and shift to home office. We will update about any upcoming events as soon as further information becomes available. All public events until the end of April have been cancelled or postponed.

Grand Opening of the Cluster of Excellence ‘Understanding Written Artefacts’ (UWA) on 27 March cancelled

Due to the Corona virus and at the instruction of the President of Universität Hamburg, we unfortunately must cancel the Grand Opening of the EXC ‘Understanding Written Artefacts’, 27 March 2020. We apologise for any inconveniences.

Job vacancies at the Cluster of Excellence

Universität Hamburg invites applications for new research associate positions for the Cluster of Excellence “Understanding Written Artefacts”.
Further information and calls for applications

The Power of Writing – The Manuscript Culture of the Toba-Batak from North Sumatra
19 March – 17 May 2020
MARKK Museum am Rothenbaum

Opening: 18 March 2020, 6 pm

An exhibition focussing on the writing culture of the Toba-Batak has been jointly curated by the Museum am Rothenbaum – Kunst und Kulturen der Welt (MARKK) and the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC). Remarkable is the wide range of manuscripts and other written artefacts the Batak have produced. The exhibits include manuscripts made of tree bark, bone and bamboo as well as handwritten objects primarily serving a magical and/or medicinal purpose. During his stays on the island of Sumatra, Johannes Winkler, a German doctor and missionary, befriended a datu (priest) in the early 20th century and collected most of the artefacts on display.

New Petra Kappert Fellow

Dr. Iris Iran Farkhondeh obtained her PhD in Indology from the University Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 in 2017. She has spent six months as a Gonda Fellow in Leiden to work on her critical edition of an 11th century Sanskrit satire about courtesans, namely the Samayamātṛkā written by the Kashmirian author Kṣemendra. She had translated this satire into French as part of her dissertation on The representation of female characters in the Sanskrit literature of Kashmir, 8th-12th centuries.
Her new research project is focused on the diachronic study of Sanskrit manuscripts written in Kashmir in the Śāradā script. The first step of her project consists in the description of dated Śāradā manuscripts in a database that she plans to share online. Her database could become collaborative in a later stage. Her study of the Kashmirian manuscript culture will contribute to date undated manuscripts. The workshop on Śāradā manuscripts that she is organising will take place in Hamburg on the 6th and 7th of March 2020. She will stay at the CSMC until the end of April 2020.

Two new volumes of the series Studies in Manuscript Cultures (SMC)

In December 2019 two new volumes were published in CSMC’s series Studies in Manuscript Cultures: Dividing Texts by Bidur Bhattarai and The Emergence of Multiple-Text Manuscripts, edited by Alessandro Bausi, Michael Friedrich and Marilena Maniaci.
The vast amount of manuscripts produced in the Indian sub-continent is astounding, revealing a massive enterprise spanning out over a huge geographical space and an immense period of time. Focusing on the visual organisation of texts in Nepalese and Northern Indian manuscripts largely from 800 to 1300 CE, Bhattarai examines in Dividing Texts: Conventions of Visual Text-Organisation in Nepalese and North Indian Manuscripts (SMC 10) the scribal practices, ways of manuscript production, and some aspects of their implementation in ritual contexts across the varying regions of India and Nepal.
The universal practice of selecting and excerpting, summarizing and canonizing, arranging and organizing texts and visual signs, either in carefully dedicated types of manuscripts or not, is common to all manuscript cultures. Determined by intellectual or practical needs, this process is never neutral in itself. The resulting proximity and juxtaposition of previously distant contents challenge previous knowledge and trigger further developments. With a vast selection of highly representative case studies – from China, India, Islamic Asia and Spain to Ethiopian cultures, from Ancient Christian to Coptic and Medieval European domains – the  volume The Emergence of Multiple-Text Manuscripts (SMC 17) deals with manuscripts planned or growing and resulting in time to comprise ‘more than one’.
Both volumes are open access publications.

New Petra Kappert Fellow

Dr. David Durand-Guédy is an independent researcher, based in Tehran. He specialises in the history of medieval Iran, especially the pre-Mongol period. He will be working on two enshā’ manuscripts (“compilation of letters”) produced in 13th-century Iran. Together with Jürgen Paul he will co-organise a workshop dedicated to written artefacts produced for the writer’s own use (By one’s own hand – for one’s own use. Anthologies and Multiple Text Manuscripts, to be held 20-21 February 2020). He will stay at the CSMC until March 2020.


02 April 2020 10am | Informal Talk POSTPONED
Dr Iris Iran Farkhondeh
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 2002

28 April 2020 4pm | Lecture Series
Maps and Colours
Dr Diana Lange (Hamburg), Dr Benjamin van der Linde (Hamburg)
Understanding hand-coloured maps-or why maps and colours should not be studied separately
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001

05 May 2020 4pm | Lecture Series
Maps and Colours
Dr Peter Zietlow (Hamburg)
Identifying colourants - Non- and minimal-invasive analysis of pigments and dyes
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001

12 May 2020 4pm | Lecture Series
Maps and Colours
Juliette Dumasy-Rabineau (Orléans)
Colours on French local maps from 14th to 16th century
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001

14 - 16 May 2020 | Conference
"Tied and Bound": How to Keep Things Together
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26

14 May 2020 7pm | Lecture
Roberta Zollo (Hamburg)
Approaches to Batak writing culture - presentation of research on Batak Manuscripts
Museum am Rothenbaum. Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK),Rothenbaumchaussee 64, 20148 Hamburg

19 May 2020 4pm | Lecture Series
Maps and Colours
Professor Dr Carla Lois (Aires)
Latin American Independencies and Challenges for the “Yellow Spanish America”. The political use of colours in world maps in the 19th century.
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001

26 May 2020 4pm | Lecture Series
Maps and Colours
Dr Nadja Danilenko (Hamburg)
Color-coding the Islamic world. How the maps in the Book of Routes and Realms (10th c.) transformed during its transmission
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001

09 June 2020 4pm | Lecture Series
Maps and Colours
Jun.-Prof. Dr Hanna Wimmer ( Hamburg)
'Till we found a sea of green': Colour in medieval maps
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001

11 June 2020, 6 pm | Lecture
Keynote Lecture and opening of the workshop On Letters II
CSMC, Warburgstraße 26, room 0001