Thursday, November 13, 2014

The complicated history of some editions of Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga

[This is a lightly-revised version of some posts to the INDOLOGY forum sent in November 2014] 


The Visuddhimagga was edited and then published twice in Roman script in the first half of the 20th century.  By Caroline A. F. Rhys Davids for the PTS, published 1920 & 1921, and by Henry Clarke Warren for HOS, posthumously published in 1950.  Neither edition refers to the other.  
Some discussion of these editions is offered by Steve Collins in, "Remarks on the Visuddhimagga, and on its treatment of the Memory of Former Dwelling(s) (pubbenivāsānussatiñāṇa)," Journal of Indian Philosophy (2009), 37:499–532.

Warren met Caroline's husband, the distinguished scholar Thomas Rhys Davids,  in Oxford in 1884, as stated in Lanman's Memorial notes, and was greatly influenced by him.  Warren's work was done long  before that of Caroline Rhys Davids, since Warren died in 1899.  But why wouldn't Dharmananda Kosambi have mentioned Caroline RD's edition in his 1927 preface to Warren's?  It's understandable that Warren's brother Edward wouldn't have known about Caroline RD's edition, when he wrote his pathetic Foreword in 1927, since he was not an indologist.  Why did Warren's edition take 23 years to be printed, even after Kosambi had finished his editing of the MS?  1950 looks like five years after the war, which is understandable.  But that doesn't explain the twelve years of inaction before the war (and after the editing).  Since Warren had paid for the HOS to exist, one would have thought some priority might have been given to publishing his work.

And why didn't Caroline RD mention Warren's work?  Warren had used one of her husband's manuscripts of the VM, so she would surely have had some awareness of Warren's work.  And Thomas Rhys Davids was alive until the end of 1922, and was aware of his wife's work on the VM, since she gave him some pages for checking, some time before the end of 1920 (mentioned in her foreword).  Caroline RD also knew that Warren had published a subject analysis of the VM in the JPTS in 1892, although she appears not to know his article "Buddhaghosa's VM" of the same year, or his "Report of Progress" on his work on the VM, published in 1894.   She mentions Warren in her afterword on p. 767, but only as the author of Buddh. in Tr. (1896), which incidentally contains a 50 passages translated from the VM. 

I would have expected the translator Ñanamoli to say something about all this in his translation, but he doesn't.  He just says he's using both editions.  Perhaps there are book reviews from the later 1920s or 1950s that explain matters, I haven't looked yet.

Has anyone systematically compared the two editions for variants?  Caroline RD's edition is a reproduction of four earlier printed editions, two from Rangoon, two from Ceylon; Warren worked from MSS, two Burmese and two from Ceylon.  All of Warren's MSS came from sources in the UK, so it must have been known in England, and certainly to Thomas RD, that Warren was working on this text.


As mentioned, Dharmanand Damodar Kosambi (not to be confused with his son Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi) worked on Warren's edition of the Visuddhimagga.  Dharmanand's work was finished in 1911, but the book took until 1950 to appear.

Meanwhile, Dharmanand went back to India, and in 1940 he published in Bombay an edition of the Visuddhimagga in his own name, work that he had begun in 1909. It was based on the same manuscripts as Warren's work, plus reference to two printed editions from SE Asia, perhaps the same as those used by Caroline Rhys Davids.  Dharmanand said, in his Preface,

The sources used for the present edition are primarily the same as those employed for the Harvard edition, consisting of four excellent manuscripts: two Burmese, two Singhalese.  In addition, I have used one printed edition in Burmese and one in Siamese Characters ; while generally not so good as the first of the Burmese manuscripts, these contain an occasional superior reading. To reduce the bulk of this volume, I have omitted all variants ; the best alternative readings, however, will be given with my own commentary-in the volume to follow.
Dharmanand's Visuddhimagga edition has been transcribed and published as a web document.

So there are three editions of the Visuddhimagga published between 1920 and 1950, with entangled editorial histories:
  1. Caroline Rhys Davids, 1920, based on 4 printed editions
  2. Dharmanand Kosambi, 1940, based on 4 MSS and 2 editions
  3. Henry Clark Warren, 1950, based on 4 MSS
    Warren died in 1899, leaving his edition almost complete.  Kosambi was invited by Lanman to bring it to a publishable state, which he and Lanman did together, completing that between 1910 and 1911. Nothing then happened for fifteen years.  Then Lanman and Kosambi settled some dispute, and Kosambi saw the work through the press in 1926-1927.  But the work remained unpublished until 1950 [Preface].
Warren's actual editorial work on the text preceded that of both the others.  But it was only published after their editions.

For his 1940 edition, begun in 1909, Kosambi used the same MSS as Warren had used 40 years earlier.  Two of these MSS were personally procured by Warren from England, by correspondence with Thomas Rhys Davids and with Dr Richard Morris [as Lanman says], and a third was personally lent by Henry Rigg.  Did Kosambi really, separately, gain access to the very same privately-owned MSS?  Or were they still in Cambridge MA when he worked  there after Warren's death?  Or did Kosambi use Warren's unpublished text in constituting his own edition.  It is hard to imagine that he would not do so, since the work was done and lay there before him.

I should mention that for all these editors it was a matter of importance that their editions were produced in this or that script.  Caroline Rhys Davids' edition was mainly undertaken in order to produce a Roman-alphabet version of the pre-existing Burmese- and Ceylonese-script editions.  She showed little engagement with actual text-critical tasks.  Warren was engaged with both text-criticism and with the idea of transliteration.  Warren's edition prints MS readings.  Kosambi also cared about script, producing his edition in Devanagari, thus intending specifically to reach a readership in India.  Kosambi also engaged in text-critical tasks to the extent that he applied Paninian grammatical thinking to the construal of the text, especially in matters of sandhi.  But Kosambi omitted to print any variants from the manuscripts, which means that his edition cannot be used as a critical edition, since he denies the reader the opportunity to think critically about his editorial choices and their alternatives.  

The secondary literature contains references to an edition of the Visuddhimagga by Dharmanand Kosambi (and not Warren) published by OUP in London in 1950.  I think this is probably just an error.

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