Leaves of palm

The labor that goes into the preparation of a critically edited Sanskrit text is staggering (and exceeded only by the work that went into composing it!). Masato Fujii of Kyoto University has been coming to Kerala for three decades, spending much of his time hunting down private manuscript collections and photographing them. Many of the works are unpublished and unknown to all but a small circle of practitioners and specialists. A proper critical edition might be based on dozens of manuscripts of the same work, each leaf photographed, transcribed, and laboriously compared.  I joined Professor Fujii and his colleague Mieko Kajihara for several days of manuscript photography so I could learn the ropes.  

Masato Fujii (with Mieko Kajihara in back) photographing manuscripts near Irinjalakuda, Kerala. 


A small portion of a Kerala manuscript collection: stacks of palm-leaves, incised with text on both sides and stacked like cards, are clamped between wooden covers and tied with string threaded through holes in the middle. Each "book" has been numbered in yellow by modern researchers...