Christ Church JRF Dr Pranav Prakash holds British Library workshop showcasing rare South Asian manuscripts

The workshop was intended for students and researchers, who specialise in the study of classical literary traditions in South Asia.

Dr Pranav Prakash, a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, organised a workshop on the history of the book in South Asia at the British Library in London on 8 February 2023.

Dr Pranav PrakashOur everyday experiences of Hindi and Sanskrit literature are primarily conditioned by printed books, most of which are shaped as codices and contain texts in the Devanāgarī script. In contrast to our readerly experiences today, premodern and early modern societies produced, circulated and appreciated literary works in a variety of media and performative contexts. This workshop enabled participants to deepen their understanding of the materiality of book objects, the subjectivity of scribal communities and the provenance of archival collections.

Marina Chellini, the lead curator of Hindi and North Indian languages at the British Library, offered invaluable support and guidance in organising the workshop. The workshop was supported by the Max Müller Memorial Fund of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford.

Reflecting on his experience of the workshop, Nihal Singh, a Master’s student at Balliol College, related that the workshop “presented a rare opportunity to learn about an extraordinary range of early modern South Asian manuscripts” and that “seeing these book-objects in a single location powerfully underscored the thought-provoking questions Dr. Prakash raised on materiality, provenance, adornment, and scribal agency.” Nihal hopes to return to the library to consult early modern South Asian manuscripts for his MPhil thesis.