From Birch Bark to Digital Editions

At the Seventh Biennial International Conference on Buddhist Texts (“Critical Edition, Transliteration and Translation”) at the Somaiya Vidyavihar in Mumbai, I presented the paper “Buddhist Manuscripts from Gandhāra: From Birch Bark to Digital Editions.” After an overview of the Gandhāran manuscript tradition, I propose a new digital research environment for the study and publication of Gandhāran manuscripts (and other ancient documents) that is based on a close linking of visual evidence (images of manuscripts or inscriptions) and textual interpretation. A core feature of the proposed system is the storage of several alternative interpretations of a single manuscript or inscription in parallel, which I illustrated using the Śatruleka reliquary inscription (as interpreted in Bailey 1982, Salomon 1984 and Mukherjee 1984) and the Kopśakasa reliquary (as interpreted in Fussman 1984, Falk 2010 and Baums 2012). In addition to documenting the published record of research, such parallel storage of multiple interpretations also allows concurrent active users of the system to record their ideas with individual credit and without danger of overwriting each other’s interpretations. An extended version of my paper will appear in the proceedings of the conference.