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The Syntax of South, Southeast and Central Asian Colophons:
A First Step Towards a Comparative and Historical Study of Manuscripts in the Poṭhi Format

Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Hamburg
11 - 13 October 2018

Arguably, in the broad field of manuscriptology, the study of colophons is of paramount importance. Accordingly, there are many academic events and publications devoted to aspects of this particular topic, but hardly ever have specialists on South and Southeast Asian and, at least partly, also Central Asian manuscripts gathered to discuss these materials in a comparative way. It is true that a high variety of languages, scripts, and cultures characterizes and differentiates the geographical areas mentioned above. However, it is possible to define a common ground on the basis of clear historical connections, for instance, the wide-spread use of a particular manuscript format, namely, the oblong poṭhi format, which in Tibet, South India and mainland Southeast Asia has even been more or less exclusively used until modern times. Noteworthy is also the pivotal role of Buddhism in the spread of Indian-type manuscript cultures beyond the confines of the South Asian subcontinent.

The expression ‘syntax of colophons’ in the title of this workshop refers to the questions of which basic elements can be distinguished in colophons (e.g. dates, names of scribes, places of copying, scribal maxims and other formulaic expressions in the case of scribal colophons) and in which order they are arranged. We also include formulas which signify that the text or one of its sections is completed (in this case, one may use labels such as ‘sub-colophon’ or ‘chapter colophon’). Worthwhile are also attempts to distinguish and characterize heterogeneous colophons in the end of manuscripts or xylographs, in particular colophons of different actors involved in text production and transmission, and examinations of their arrangement, interplay and degrees of authenticity. One further interesting aspect of the study of colophons is linguistic differences that occur between the language of the copied text and that of its colophon(s) – the latter are often less standardised than the former,for instance because of influence of vernaculars and varying levels of education of scribes or other authors of colophons. We also welcome side glances on relevant textual materials found in inscriptions, which can be compared with what we find in colophons.

We invite presentations that can offer an overview on the formulation and composition of colophons, highlighting their most typical features in a way that allows comparisons with manuscripts produced in the various sub-domains of the Indic cultural sphere.


NETamil (University of Hamburg)
Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (University of Hamburg)
École Pratique des Hautes Études (Paris)

Dr Giovanni Ciotti
Dr Martin Delhey
Prof Dr Nalini Balbir


Download the preliminary programme and abstracts


The workshop will be held at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, Warburgstraße 26, Hamburg, Germany. How to find us


Participation is free of charge and vistors are welcome. Please register below.
You may find the Hamburg Tourismus site useful for finding a suitable accommodation.
For more information please contact us.

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On which days will you attend the sessions?
Thursday, 11 October 2018
Friday, 12 October 2018
Saturday, 13 October 2018

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