Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Sanskrit Diamond Sutra in Infrared

The Vajracchedikā or Diamond Sutra is one of the most popular Buddhist texts in East Asia. The famous printed copy of a Chinese translation is currently on display at the British Library. But Aurel Stein also found manuscripts of Diamond Sutra in other languages, including Tibetan, Khotanese and Uighur. And the oldest extensive copy of the text in the original Sanskrit was found by Stein in Dandan Uilik, a Buddhist temple site near the ancient city of Khotan.

In a recent study of this manuscript, Paul Harrison has greatly improved on previous readings, offering a much better version of the text. He has also discovered more text by tracing the impression of ‘ghost folios’, lost pages whose impression on the existing pages survives in the faint outline of letters in mirror image.

These readings were helped by the photography of new infrared images of the folios of the Sanskrit Diamond Sutra manuscript, which was done in the IDP digitisation studio at the British Library. The manuscript is spread over several shelfmarks, comprising IOL San 382–387, 419–422, 424–427. All of these can be seen on the IDP website, with the colour photographs of each folio accompanied by the infrared images.

Detail from the colour and infrared images of IOL San 425.

Paul Harrison’s article is in the new volumes of the British Library Sanskrit Fragments series, edited by Seishi Karashima and Klaus Wille:

Paul Harrison, “The British Library Vajracchedikā Manuscript: IOL San 383–387, 419–427,” in The British Library Sanskrit Fragments Vol.III.2, pp.823-866. Tokyo: The International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, 2015.

The volumes can be downloaded from these links:
Volume III.1 (PDF 43MB)
Volume III.2 (PDF 62.6MB)

Friday, May 22, 2015

IDP Job Vacancy: Digitisation Conservator

Full time (36 hours a week)
Fixed Term Contract for 2 years
St Pancras, London


The British Library leads and collaborates in growing the world’s knowledge base. The Collection Care department, which comprises of some 40 people, is responsible for the care of one of the largest, richest and most diverse research collections in the world. Funding for this two-year post is secured from by external funds.

This is an opportunity for an experienced conservator to work in a small, busy team. You will be carrying out conservation and preparation treatments on fragmentary paper manuscripts in Tangut that are being digitised as part of this project, operating with minimal supervision. You must have the skills and knowledge to plan, manage and track your work to ensure that deadlines are met. You will also have the opportunity to work on Chinese scrolls from Dunhuang, under the supervision of an experienced conservator.

Conservation is needed to ensure adequate throughput for the digitisation of the Tangut material according to the project schedule. This is mainly previously unconserved and unnumbered material, currently completely unavailable and unknown to scholars. It came into the Museum/Library from Aurel Stein’s 3rd Central Asian expedition of 1913-16 and has remained in his original paper packets. There is an urgent need to make this material accessible for the first time.

You need to have either a degree in conservation or equivalent knowledge and skills sets, and practical hands-on experience in conservation of paper materials for digitisation and/or large-scale conservation projects; a broad knowledge of available conservation treatments within the field of paper conservation together with the ability to diagnose conservation problems and to develop and evaluate options for solutions. You should also have a high level of manual dexterity and the ability to treat fragile and delicate materials, together with knowledge of materials chemistry and the properties, behaviours and interaction of a wide range of organic and inorganic materials. A good knowledge of preventive conservation issues is also required.


For further details and to apply for this post see the British Library Careers website.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Publication: Life along the Silk Road

Susan Whitfield

Second Edition

Paperback, 312 pp., colour, B&W images and line drawings
ISBN: 9780520280595
March 2015
$29.95, £19.95
Order online: University of California Press
For a 30% discount (US and Canada shipping only) use source code 15M4426 at checkout.