Center for the Study of Ancient Manuscripts

Dhammachai Tipiṭaka Project (DTP) has launched for creating a database of palm-leaf manuscripts with an aim to publishing a critical edition of the Pāli Canon. DTP makes use of available palm-leaf manuscripts in several scripts through selective and systematic process. The intended outputs will be in forms of a printed edition and an electronic version, both of which will provide readers with the text database and its linked images of the palm-leaf manuscripts. DTP intends to pioneer this work as the creation of database of the Pāli Canon from representative palm-leaf manuscripts which has never been made available for scholars. This work is relatively new, but highly useful for the entire field of Pāli and Buddhist Studies.

Center for the Study of Ancient Manuscripts (CSAM) focuses on the process of creating the text database and studying manuscripts, currently has four teams in four countries working on each tradition of four scripts: Sinhalese (Kandy, Sri Lanka), Burmese (Yangon, Myanmar), Khom (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) and Tham (Pathum Thani, Thailand). Each team reads and transliterates manuscript text through an online system for entering manuscript texts so-called ODEM (Online Data Entry System of Manuscripts).

ODEM is the online system for entering manuscript text via the internet. Every manuscript image will be assigned to two “readers”—the project staff working on transliteration—for the sake of comparison in the later process. With the manuscript images, ODEM also provides the readers the preliminary text taken from Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana Tipitaka (Be) to save time and help facilitate readers’ work. The readers need to read, check, alter and edit the base text so that it matches with the given text in the manuscript. After reading and altering the text, readers will compare their text with another reader and submit the text back to “final checkers”. The final checkers will approve the work from readers and submit it to the editorial unit.

The policy of reading and transliterating is to assure that all readers transliterate the text as close to the selected palm-leaf manuscript as possible; record all information as appeared on the manuscripts and follow the data management protocol. The readers would read and alter a preliminary text on a basis of “syllable by syllable.”

Creating and developing the database of the Pāli canon from the selected palm-leaf manuscripts are challenging and complicated. The creator and developer have encountered many difficulties in every single process. Focusing on reading and transliterating the manuscripts, the crucial concept is to read and transliterate as close to the original text as possible and with the concern on the context and the scribe’s handwriting style.