Arts and Culture
The presentation discusses key changes in codicological features of Burmese palm leaf manuscripts, such as the folio size, the number of lines per folio, writing method, the type of script and the overall variety of scripts in use, binding, decorations, bundle covers, as well as circulation-related aspects that influenced codicological practices, e.g. transmission patterns of individual texts.
The analysis deals with Buddhist scriptural, instructional, and liturgical texts copied for Buddhist monastics and monasteries from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. These manuscripts were the most common types transmitted in Burma and survive in numbers sufficient for statistical evaluation.
The presentation will argue that codicological dynamics of such manuscripts were mostly shaped by three factors, namely, the adaptation to the growing sizes of monastic libraries throughout the period in question, commercialization of manuscript production, and gradual displacement of palm leaf manuscripts from their position as the key medium of transmission of Buddhist texts to being more of display items that continue to be produced and donated but are actually used to a lesser and lesser degree (this latter pattern is apparent from the early 1900s). The study suggests that standardization of codicological features in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries resulted from commercialization of production. Increasing use of multiple-text manuscripts and their growing variability, together with the use of more condensed layouts were a response to both rapid growth of texts in circulation and shrinking demand for manuscript reference copies after the book printing took off.