Fragile palm leaves digitisation initiative (EAP1150)

Aims and objectives

With funding from EAP and in partnership with the Fragile Palm Leaves Foundation (FPL), Buddhist Digital Resource Center (BDRC) will digitise and catalog 300 Pali and vernacular manuscripts in Burmese script held by FPL. BDRC has nearly two decades of digital preservation experience and manages an open-access digital library of over 14 million pages of Buddhist texts. This will be the first major project to make a large number of Burmese manuscripts available online. Without digitisation, the manuscripts will remain inaccessible and at risk of destruction. Support from EAP will complement funding from the Khyentse Foundation.

Vernacular, Pali, and bilingual nissaya (glossarial) manuscripts copied in Burma are the primary sources for the scholarly study of Burmese and Theravāda Buddhism, Pali philology, history, and literature, as well as regional codicology, premodern textual/scribal practices, and manuscript culture. The FPL collection includes manuscripts and texts crucial to these fields that are unknown and unstudied by both local (Burmese) scholars and scholars internationally. Many scholars are unaware of Burma’s vast manuscript tradition. Access to FPL’s manuscripts would revolutionise scholarly studies in the many fields that rely on such texts.

Outcomes

The goals of the EAP project were achieved. 300 fragile Pali palm-leaf manuscripts in Burmese script, containing approximately 1,000 discrete Buddhist texts were digitised and catalogued. Digital copies have been deposited with the Buddhist Digital Resource Center, which has internal data backup protocols and also shares copies of its data with the Internet Archive and Harvard University. The majority of the materials digitised date from the 18th or 19th century. The texts cover a variety of topics, including law, poetry, stories of the Buddha, grammar and religious rituals. These texts are valuable to scholarship as Vernacular, Pali, and bilingual nissaya (glossarial) manuscripts copied in Burma. They are the primary sources for the scholarly study of Burmese and Theravada Buddhism, Pali philology, history, literature, as well as regional codicology, premodern textual/scribal practices and manuscript culture. The digitised texts have not previously been easily accessible and will now be available for study to anyone with an internet connection.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

View archives from this project (301)

Related projects