Monday, August 13, 2007

More on early editions of the Mahābhāṣya

The 1876 Catalogue of Sanskrit and Pali Books in the British Museum, by Haas, p.100, contains the entries on the right for Mahābhāṣya editions:

Thus, there was the beginning of an edition by Ballantyne in 1855-1856, which is very early. Although this is only a small part of the whole text, the Navāhnika is a seminally important part of the work.  It is interesting to see that even in this very early edition, the commentary of Kaiyaṭa and the subcommentary of Nāgeśa are included. Ballantyne usually worked in close collaboration with paṇḍits, whom he was generous in acknowledging. I will be interesting to know with whom he produced this edition.

Then there's an edition fifteen years later, in Varanasi in 1870. This looks like a real "paṇḍit's" edition, also with the important commentary of Kaiyaṭa but with only notes from the editors and from Nāgeśa and by the paṇḍits themselves. Its production, just over a century after Nāgeśa Bhaṭṭa's death, and in his home town, is likely to embody at least to some extent a direct lineage of the interpretation of the text from the great Varanasi grammarians of earlier times, including Vaidyanātha Payaguṇḍa, Nāgeśa and Bhaṭṭoji Dikṣita.

And then the 1876 Haas catalogue gives the entry on the left, which refers to the lithograph discussed in my post of October 16, 2007, about the lithographer William Griggs and the shockingly expensive lithograph he produced. Haas has identified or corrected the date of the manuscript (saṃ 1751 = AD 1808/9). I have not seen the edition yet, but I would hazard that the manuscript is part of the old IOLR collection in the BL. This lithograph was published in London in 1874, in a limited edition of 50 copies. There's this copy in the British Library, and I would expect to find copies in Oxford and Cambridge at least.

So now we know that the impulse behind this old lithographic edition came from Theodore Goldstücker
(1821-1872), who was at that time a professor at University College London, having been invited to move from Germany to England by H. H. Wilson in 1850. Goldstücker was a "Forty-Eighter" in the sense of being a refugee from the German Revolution of 1848-1849. This lithograph edition of the Mahābhāṣya was published posthumously.

It would seem, though, that even at the time of its publication, the London edition has already been partially superseded by the Varanasi edition of four years earlier. However, the London edition provided the whole of Nāgeśa's subcommentary, where the Varanasi edition only gave extracted notes, so it certainly pushed the boundary of knowledge forward.

Goldstücker had earlier written a book about Pāṇinian grammar that was important and impressively penetrating for its time. The title of the 1861 edition of the book in the BL online catalogue is Panini, his place in Sanscrit Literature ... A separate impression of the preface to the Fac-Simile of MS. No. 17 in the Library of Her Majesty’s Home Government for India, etc. (BL classmark The text had first appeared as a preface to his edition of the Mānava-kalpa-sūtra, and was only published as a separate book in 1861. It was reprinted in Allahabad in 1914, Benares 1965, and may still be reprinted occasionally in India.

The excellent entry on Goldstücker in the DNB written by Nick Allen (
doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/10925) throws valuable light on the interaction between Goldstücker's personality and his scholarship. He had a private income, and never drew a full salary from any university. Goldstücker functioned on the pattern of an eighteenth-century enlightenment gentleman scholar, in Steve Shapin's sense (A Social History of Truth), free from the prejudicial taint of employment and thus able to pursue truth impartially. He was very clever, very talented, and very hard-working. But his ambitions for scholarly achievement were so high that he judged much of his own writing to be unready for actual publication. Although kind and friendly on a personal level, he engaged in severe, even savage, criticism of other published Western scholars, but published little of his own work. Several of his books, including the Mahābhāṣya edition, were in fact facsimile or typeset reproductions of Indian scholastic manuscripts. In his introduction to one such edition, of the Jaiminīyanyāyamālāvistara by Mādhava, Goldstücker lays out his intention to publish a European equivalent of the famous Bibliotheca Indica series, with a special mission of publishing the manuscripts of the Colebrooke collection in the British Museum and, if possible, manuscripts from the Sarasvati Mahal library in Thanjavur that would be brought from Thanjavur to London by His Serene Highness Prince Frederic of Schleswig-Holstein, who was a Sanskritist.

As Allen notes, "For so learned a scholar Goldstücker's output was disappointing, and exercised only limited influence." Several of his main research projects ballooned in size and detail out of all proportion, becoming entirely unwieldy and impossible to complete or to publish. Thus he left a trail of unfinished works behind him. Two volumes of his minor articles and lectures were published posthumously in London in 1879. His papers were deposited in the British Museum, with a stipulation that they would not be published until after 1920, but by that time the Great War and subsequent scholarly progress and shifts in perspective meant that his works would no longer be viewed as worth the labour of editing and publication. As Allen further noted, "Critics have also said that, for all his zeal and fastidiousness, he lacked sound judgement, and was insufficiently critical of native Indian scholarly tradition." Golstücker held enormous admiration for the tradition of Sanskrit scholarship in India, and believed that Indian culture and society would gain immeasurably through the recovery of its ancient intellectual achievements, and that this was most appropriately achieved through a synthesis of Indian and European scholarly effort. Yet his own efforts to achieve his goals and to advance Sanskrit scholarship were, finally, Quixotic: grandiose, severe, and ultimately vain when compared with his undoubted talents.

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