Re‐Editing Gāndhārī

When we first began studying Gāndhārī, the decipherment and edition of newly‐discovered Gāndhārī manuscripts was – as it continues to be – very much the focus of the field. But lurking just beyond the horizon was the idea of one day creating a ‘new Konow’ or a ‘new Boyer,’ informed by the new manuscript discoveries and shedding light on them in return. As we compiled our source corpus for the Dictionary of Gāndhārī and described it in our Catalog, we kept this greater goal of a comprehensive and consistent presentation of all Gāndhārī texts always in sight.

Konow’s corpus of Kharoṣṭhī inscriptions, published in 1929, contained a total of 96 items then known. For each of them, he described the circumstances of its discovery and the interpretations that it had received in earlier scholarship, before arriving at his own conclusions regarding each inscription’s meaning. Konow also provided visual documentation of all inscriptions to help readers form their own opinion, and a glossary to make his corpus easily accessible. The task of Boyer, Rapson and Senart’s 1920–29 edition of the Central Asian Kharoṣṭhī documents was at the same time easier and more difficult than Konow’s: for the most part there was no previous history of scholarship on these documents to evaluate, but by the same token they had to face the interpretive difficulties of their material from scratch.

Now that our collection of Dictionary source texts has reached completion, we find that we are providing – and could hardly have avoided to provide – many of the same services as Konow, but for a corpus including not only the 1,108 inscriptions now known, but a total of 2,743 items. We document the history of study of Gāndhārī texts in our Bibliography, and from the available editions we selected the overall best ones as base texts for the Dictionary. Since the quality of published Gāndhārī editions is very uneven, however, and knowledge of the language has greatly increased in recent years, we critically evaluate each and every reading in these base texts and make corrections where needed. In all such cases, the readings of the base edition (and others) are recorded in notes and our choice justified. A forthcoming software upgrade will help us extend our documentation of variant interpretations to all historical editions, giving users of the Dictionary full access to ghost words and other dispreferred readings, and at the same time providing them with the complete evidence on which the solutions adopted in the Dictionary are based. Last not least, over the last fifteen years we collected comprehensive photographic documentation for our source texts, which we will make available side by side with our source texts to further support the interpretations adopted.

In effect then, the Dictionary of Gāndhārī does what every critical dictionary has to do: it provides a complete re‐edition of its source corpus. This is a second‐order edition in the sense that we only cover material previously published and document existing interpretations. At the same time, however, it is an original edition since for all texts it is based on our own judgement and incorporates our own improvements. It does not pretend to be a final edition of every single text, but rather aims to provide – as Konow and Boyer did – a reliable framework for future research.