« السابقةمتابعة »
is applied in Nos. II, III and IV. In these books the impressions stand upright on pages 4, 6, 8, etc., but reversed on pages 5, 7, 9, etc. In reading any of these three books, one would begin by reading consecutively all the even-numbered pages (4, 6, 8, etc.), throughout the book. Next, one would turn the book right round, as indicated by the arrows, and thus bring the imprints, which hitherto had stood reversed, into an upright position; and now, commencing at what was the end of the book, one would read consecutively all the odd-numbered pages (etc., 9, 7, 5) up to the original beginning of the book. The same system, again, in a third modified form, may best be seen in book No. II of the Seventh Set. Here the impressions do not stand upright and reversed on alternate pages, but in alternate columns, as shown in the diagram on page 55. Thus they stand upright in columns 1 and 3, but reversed in columns 2 and 4. In reading one would commence with all the left-hand columns consecutively throughout the book; then one would proceed to turn the book right round, and now read all the impressions (of the former right-hand columns) from the back to the beginning of the book. In this way the reading of the entire book would be completed. To this principle of arrangement there are only a few exceptions, in which all the impressions are placed upright (or in the same direction) throughout the book, so that the book can be read right through, from page to page, without turning it right round. This is the case in books No. IV of the Second Set, Nos. IV, V and VI of the Fourth Set, No. II of the Fifth Set, No. II of the Sixth Set, and No. IV of the Seventh Set.
There is, however, a certain number of books, in which the orderly arrangement of imprints, above explained, is Want of System. not observed. In some of these books, indeed, no system of printing whatever can be discerned. The impressions appear to be placed promiscuously; the only apparent object being to crowd as many impressions into a page as it may, by any device, be made to hold. This may be seen from figs. V and VI of the subjoined woodcut No. 12. Two conspicuous examples of this kind of book are No. VI of the First Set, and No. III of the Sixth Set. With such an arrangement, obviously, no intelligent and orderly reading of the book is possible. Beside these there are some other books in which the absence of all orderly arrangement is not quite so conspicuous. In these the imprints are orderly placed on each page taken by itself; that is, on some pages they are all placed upright, on others, all are placed reversed; but these differing pages do not follow one another in any system. In any pair of pages one may meet with any of the four possible arrangements: upright-upright, upright-reversed, reversed
reversed, and reversed-upright. All these four arrangements occur with
almost equal frequency. A good example of this kind is book No. V of the Seventh Set. In such books, too, any orderly reading is out of the question.
Object and Use of the Block-print
If it were certain what the object of these books was-whether they were, or were not, intended for reading,-the presence or absence of systematic arrangement of the imprints might afford a good test to determine the genuineness, or otherwise, of the books. So long as their purport remains undeciphered, their object must be a matter of speculation; but the fact that they contain nothing. but interminable repetitions of the same text seems clearly to indicate that in these books we are dealing with set formulas-creeds, prayers, or incantations, or whatever one may call them,-possibly or probably Buddhistic, the virtue of which was supposed to be in proportion to the frequency of their repetitions. The mode of this repetition, however, need not necessarily have been an intelligent one: it might have been quite mechanical, like that of the prayer-wheel or the prayer-flag. Turning the leaves of a book would serve the purpose of the devotee quite as well as turning a wheel, or letting the flags be moved by the breeze. If this were the object of the books, it is evident that the order or want of order in the arrangement of the formulas would be altogether immaterial, provided the page is well covered with them. In any case, whether the leaves were intended to be read, or merely to be turned,
it is plain that there was no need of numbering them, seeing that, the contents being merely a repetition of a set formula, one might use the leaves in any order. As a matter of fact, none of these books have their leaves or pages numbered. The want of pagination is to be regretted, as the numbers might have served Want of Pagination. as a clue to distinguishing top and bottom of the page, and thus of determining the beginning and end of the formula imprinted on it. The large number of the block-prints and the multiplicity of the scripts contained in them open up another problem as to their object. It would seem that there existed somewhere in the Takla Makan a kind of library, or store of books, the locality of which seems to have been discovered by native treasure seekers, being perhaps an ancient monastery. Moreover the existence, among the block-prints, of collective books (such as comprised in the Sixth Set), which contain impressions of texts in several scripts, seems to show that in that place there must have been a collection of all the different kinds of blocks; and that the place, in fact, was a sort of printing establishment, for the production and distribution of books of (religious) formulas among communities or in localities, using different scripts, and perhaps speaking different languages or dialects.
Prima facie, there are not less than nine different scripts employed
Number and Identity
of Scripts and
in the block-prints. Accordingly I have distributed them into nine sets. It is not improbable that hereafter it may be shown that some of the scripts are allied to, if not identical with, one another; I mean in this that one may way be the kaligraphic counterpart of a current script. This may be the case, perhaps, with the two scripts shown on Plate V, for they agree in their number of lines. I believe also to have noticed, here and there, the same symbol, in slightly modified forms, in different scripts. In order to arrive at any definite and satisfactory conclusion on this head, a more detailed and minute examination is necessary, for which the time allowed me at present does not suffice, but for which I hope to have leisure after my retirement from India. With my present information, it appears to me likely that the scripts of the First and Second Sets, those of the Third and Fifth Sets, and those of the Fourth and Seventh Sets are pairs the members of which have some more intimate connection with each other. Further, it seems to me possible that the juxtaposition of several formulas in the collective books of the Sixth Set and elsewhere may lead to the recognition of some kind of identity obtaining among them with reference to their purport. As to the language, or perhaps the number of languages, hid in these scripts
Age and Conservation of the Block-prints.
and formulas, of course, it is impossible to venture to express any opinion, before some advance has been made in their decipherment. Some of the block-prints are furnished with guards which show in their ornaments a curious resemblance to a certain coin of one of the Urtuqis of Maridin. They may be seen on Plate IV, figs. 1-9; the coin also on Plate I, fig. 20. The coin is ascribed to 1232 A. D., see the Section on Coins, p. 31. If the resemblance is not desceptive, it will fix the upper date of the block-prints in question. They could not be older than the middle of the 13th century A.D. There is reason to believe, however, that some of the block-prints must be several centuries older. That there is nothing in the physical conditions of Eastern Turkistan to render such a long period of conservation impossible, I have already remarked in the Introduction, p. xxviii.
Orientation of the Texts and Scripts.
The question of what is top and bottom, right and left, of the text, or of the formulas composing the text, is a puzzling one. The determination of it would help to determine the further question of how the script of the texts is to be read, whether from the left to the right in the European fashion, or from the right to the left as in Semitic writing, or from top to bottom as in Chinese. I have not, as yet, come across any absolutely decisive evidence. In some books regularly recurring partial impressions of formulas are met with,-cases in which only a portion (one-half or one-third) of the formula, divided either horizontally or vertically or both ways, is met with. Want of sufficient space on the page is always seen to be the reason for such partial impressions. In such cases it may very plausibly be argued that, when the printer had not sufficient space to print the whole formula, he would preferably print the initial portion of it on the available space. On this assumption we should have an indication of what is the beginning or the end of a formula. Thus let a b c d in the marginal diagram represent such a complete formula, in which the lines of writing run parallel with a b (as e.g. on Plate XII). If a bge, that is, the formula horizontally divided, be the only portion printed, this may indicate that it is the initial portion of the formula. Similarly if af hd, or the formula vertically divided, were only printed, this would show that portion to be the initial one. If further, both portions a bge and a f h d were found regularly printed in certain delimited places, we should know for certain that the portion A contains the beginning of the formula, and that its reading must commence in the corner a, and proceed from a to b. It would still
remain uncertain whether the script run from the left (a) to the right (b) in European fashion, or from the top (a) to the bottom (b) in Chinese fashion. In other words, a might be either the upper left-hand or the upper right-hand corner of the formula. Similarly the beginning of a formula might happen to be found to lie in the portion B, in which case the script would run from the right to the left, in Semitic fashion. The two alternative possibilities, here explained, are those actually observed by me in the case of the formulas of the Fourth and Seventh and the formula of the Fifth Set respectively. The former seem to run from the left to the right, the latter from the right to the left. The weak point in this argument is not so much the fact that occasionally the opposite portions (e gcd and fbch) of the formula are found printed; for this might be due to a careless misprint; and the detailed description of the various sets will show that misprints are by no means uncommon. A far more serious difficulty is the uncertainty as to whether the books were intended for reading at all. If they were not intended for reading, but for some kind of mechanical use, the circumstance of what particular portion of the formula was printed in order to represent the whole of it is obviously of no moment. But on the other hand, the regularity in printing a certain definite portion points to method and design, such as one would not expect in the case of printing for mere mechanical use. In the latter case one would expect the portions AB, AD, BC, CD to occur promiscuously. It seems, no doubt, certain that the disorderly books, above mentioned, such as No. VI of the First Set, cannot have been intended for intelligent reading, but, on the other hand, it is by no means certain that some other books may not have been prepared with that object. Book No. II of the Seventh Set is a case in point. The marginal diagram shows the arrangement of its imprints.
The formula is indicated by abcdef; it is repeated 7 times on the two pages 4 and 5; the fourth impresion is divided between page def fap 4 and page 5, about one-half of the formula standing on either of
def ap} 5 those two pages. The reader is
a b c o q p
a b c o q p
supposed to read down the lefthand columns which stand upright. Having read down column I on page 4, to the middle of the 4th impression, he continues with the other half of that impression in column II on page 5. He then