A Study of the Manuscripts of the Woolner Collection, Lahore

01.11.2007 - 28.02.2011

Project Lead: Karin Preisendanz

FWF, P20268


  • Thomas Kintaert (01.11.2007-28.2.2011)
  • Himal Trikha (15.6.2009-31.1.2011)
  • Dominik Wujastyk (01.09.2009-28.2.2011)

The project succeeded in making information on part of a major, but largely inaccessible and little studied collection of Sanskrit manuscripts (mss.), the A.C. Woolner Collection of the Punjab University Library, Lahore, Pakistan, accessible to the scholarly world, and conduct codicological and prosopographical research on this part of the Collection. Thanks to the cooperation of the Punjab University and its Library, and Geumgang University, Nonsan, South Korea, the beginning and concluding folios, which contain the essential identificatory and prosopographical information, of more than half of the Collection’s holdings of South Asian philosophical mss. (1,266 mss.) could be digitised for study. A sophisticated relational database for on-line digital cataloguing and differentiated search and browse options was created for the use of the Library itself and the scholars at Punjab University, and for the international scholarly community. The search and browse options allow access to a vast variety of information not only on the mss. themselves as physical objects, but also on the authors of the works contained in them, the works themselves, scribes, dates and places, and further prosopographical information, all extracted from the mss. and further supplied from other sources. In this way, the physical and ideal objects represented by a ms. become contextualized in time, space and society, i.e. in this case: in South Asian intellectual history, and can be identified as part of complex and interlinking networks spanning time and space. Such contexts and networks are still largely elusive in the area of South Asian intellectual history and little explored. The on-line catalogue with in-depth and extensive descriptions of altogether 278 philosophical mss., whose templates following international standards were especially developed in the project, not only highlights the importance of the individual mss. and the collection, but also makes a contribution to this fascinating field of work. Furthermore, a study of the history of the formation of the Collection was undertaken, including its connections to the early history of ms. collections in Punjab as well as to the cultural history of Lahore from about 1880 to 1947, which then was a city of celebrated multi-traditional learning and culture, and home to a flourishing Sanskritic culture. A first profile of the prosopographical and philosophical content of the mss. in the Collection was also formulated. Moreover, in-depth philological work was done on a hitherto unused ms. of the Nāṭyaśāstra (NS), the foundational Sanskrit work on ancient Indian histrionics, in the Collection. The text of the fifth chapter of this work, which deals with the ritual preliminaries of a theatrical performance, was collated with the readings of three further hitherto not utilised mss. from Nepal and the readings of four printed editions, inclusive of their variant readings. The resulting comparative text provides a significantly improved philological basis for a monograph on the fifth chapter that is currently being prepared for publication, and for any future research on different aspects of the chapter. Further, a musicological ms. among the digitized material proved of great interest: its first folio contains five stanzas that are clearly taken from the Dattilam, the only work besides the NS that deals with the melodic and rhythmic elements of the ancient music termed gandharva. Three of these stanzas are not known to have been cited in other musicological works and therefore represent valuable comparative textual material.