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turns the book, and similarly reads the remaining (formerly right-hand, but now also left-hand) columns III and IV. Such an orderly arrangement can hardly be explained on any other supposition than that of being made with a view to intelligent reading. Occasionally also anomalies are met with, the only satisfactory explanation of which seems to point to a similar conclusion. One such anomaly will be found discussed in the detailed description of book No. VI of the Fourth Set. It is on considerations such as these, that I have provisionally determined, and shown in the illustrative Plates, the top and bottom of the texts of most of the nine sets of block-prints, as well as the direction of the script of some of them, such as those of the Fourth and Seventh Sets. I do not claim for these determinations more than a provisional character. Very possibly a more minute and thorough examination of the block-prints, than the limited time at present at my command admits, may hereafter lead to more definite results. The case, above discussed, of book No. II of the Seventh Set, is instructive on another point, namely, whether these block-print books are to be read from the left to the right, beginning with the first page, or from the right to the left, beginning with the last page or at the back of the book, to speak from the European point of view. From the diagram it will be seen that the reader first reads the pages (i. e., columns I and II) from the left to the right (and so on, throughout the book), and then, turning the book right round, from the right to the left (i.e., columns III and IV, and so on, throughout the book). It would, therefore, appear that there is really no right or left, beginning or end of the book, in the sense of the modern European practice. This conclusion seems to be confirmed by the books Nos. I and II of the Third Set, of which, to judge by the arrangement of the text (see the detailed description) No. I must be read from the left to the right, while No. II must be read from the right to the left. See also book No. V of the Second Set.
Orientation of the
The question on which side of the page the process of printing commenced, whether on the right or left side, the Orientation of the top or bottom of it, is fairly easy to determine Printing. in many cases. When there is a broad, blank margin on one side of the page, while the print runs up to its very edge on the other side; or when a column of print begins with a complete impression of the formula on one side, and ends with a part-impression on the other side, it is fairly certain that the printer commenced his work on the former of the two sides. Books Nos. VI and VII of the Fourth Set afford a good illustration of this conclusion. The point is of
no great importance in itself; but it may in some cases prove auxiliary in determining the orientation of a script or text.
Considering the abundance of the block-prints and the mystery of their scripts, it is not surprising that the suspicion of forgery should suggest itself. It suggested itself to me at an early stage of my acquaintance with the Khotanese books; and I am informed that it has also suggested itself to some of the British Museum authorities and others. But it was not till the summer of 1898 that the suspicion took a more definite shape in a letter, dated the 29th June, 1898, which I received from Mr. Bäcklund, Swedish Missionary in Kashghar, in response to a request by me for information on the subject; for at one time, in the course of my examination of the block-prints my suspicion had been much strengthened by the observation of the extreme want of order in certain books. This result was subsequently neutralised by the observation of the striking consistency of order in other books. It became clear that, as I have already shown, both phenomena are quite compatible with a general genuineness of the block-print books; and in fact, all the evidence that gradually accumulated has tended to confirm that conclusion. Mr. Bäcklund's account is as follows:
"It is my duty to own that till quite recently I have scarcely taken any interest in that old Khotan literature. In April last , however, Islām Akhun brought to me three copies, which, according to what he told me, had been found in the neighbourhood of Aq Safil, buried under sand in a hollow tree, together with other books of the same kind. Some days before, he had sold two or three copies to Mr. Macartney also,♦ but nevertheless he urged me not to say a word to Mr. Macartney about my acquisition. Upon my having a look at the books to discover whether they were print or hand-written, he felt somewhat uneasy and whispered, ““it is astonishing how attentively he is looking at the books."" I offered him less than the half of what he asked, and he not only handed over to me the books without haggling, but also gave me into the bargain some old coins he had with him. When he had gone out, one of our servants, entering my room said, ""Sahib, I want to tell you that these books are not so old as they are pretended to be. As I know how they are prepared, I wish to inform you of it. When I lived in Khotan, I wished very much to enter into the business, but was always shut out and could even get no information about the books. At last I consulted my mother
♦ These are probably included among the eight books which were sent to me with a letter dated the 13th April, 1898. They were acquired from Islam Akhūn, but were stated by him to have been found in Kiang Tuz on the road to Cherchen. J. 1. 12
about it; and she advised me to try and find it out of a boy with whom I was on very intimate terms, and who was the son of the headman of this business. So, one day I asked him, how they got these books, and he plainly told me that his father had the blocks prepared by a "" etc. cotton-printer, Now it is evident that the servant might have said all this from jealousy only, but I now determined to examine the books with more critical eyes than before. Then the following facts became clear to me immediately:
(1) The rich supply of books, which may be purchased at any price we are pleased to put on them, although every European traveller who has been in Khotan has taken a great interest in them, not mentioning the Russian Consul and Mr. Macartney who have bought what they have come across.
(2) The apparent freshness of them, as for instance
(a) the sharp corners of the copper plates and nails which are
(b) no rust from the plates sticking to the paper under the plates;
(e) no yellow spots or marks of handling by readers, as usually
(f) the paper, though very ill-treated (burnt and smoky), still strong almost as if it were new;
(g) the paper exactly of the same kind, as prepared in Khotan
in the present day.
Now if these books are forgeries, must not there have been some genuine ones, after which these are made? Certainly, I think so, especially in order to account for the characters. But I do not think they took the pains to copy any text-they may have or they may have not of the original, but very likely put the letters in a preposterous way to make it look like writing. As for the hand-written ones, I have no particular opinion, as I have had no opportunity to examine them. But I do not think that it is at all impossible that they should be forgeries. You see I purchased the volumes I have spoken of-three of the longest that have been sold-for a total of Rs. 7, and certainly I payed too much. If they can get twice as much, very likely they would not hesitate to prepare actual manuscript."
The italics are Mr. Bäcklund's.
In a letter written by Mr. Bäcklund to Mr. Macartney, on the 8th April, 1898, the day after he had purchased the above-mentioned three block-print books, I find the following additional information:-"It has been communicated to me by a person, who is well acquainted with these things [apparently the servant above referred to], that these books are not old, but are continually made now-a-days also; and he pretends to know the printer also. The books are said to be prepared like this: after being printed, the sheets are hung up in the chimney in order to make them look old. They are now burnt in parts and covered with soot. When they have assumed as dark a colour as seems to be suitable, the soot is wiped off and the papers are nailed together into a book and taken out into the desert, where they are buried in the sand. Having remained there for some time they are "discovered" and brought out into the market in order to-make fools of the Europeans. Examine the paper in the books and you will find it quite of the same kind, as is produced in Khotan now-a-days; and the white spots in it here and there point it out not to be of an ancient date."
With regard to the three books, purchased by Mr. Bäcklund as related above, he informed me in a subsequent letter, dated the 10th October, 1898, that " as he considered them useless, he handed them over to an English traveller, Mr. R. P. Cobbold;" and that "soon after having got rid of them, a man offered him some very fresh prints, which he refused to take." The books thus obtained by Mr Cobbold afterwards passed into the possession of the British Museum, and I shall have occasion to refer to them again.
I quote these letters so fully, in order that the case of the forgerytheory may be stated quite fairly. To Islam Akhūn's behaviour and the servant's denunciation too much force should not be attached. They are nothing more but what may be expected under the circumstances. The points enumerated by Mr. Bäcklund are those deserving consideration. And here it should be noted, in the first place, that they only refer to Khotanese block-prints, not to manuscripts, and secondly, that they are based on a very limited number of specimens. Mr. Bäcklund admits-what indeed is obvious-that forgery presupposes the existence of a genuine original which was imitated. The suggestion is that a distorted imitation of this original was made purposely, and that that fact accounts for the mystery of the scripts. This does not seem a plausible hypothesis. No intelligible original, such as the suggestion assumes to have existed, has been produced; if it existed, the finder, surely, would have disposed of it first, and when his genuine stock was exhausted, he might then have had recourse to forgery to replenish his stock in trade. Something of this kind, indeed, as I imagine and as I shall presently
show, has probably actually happened; but not in the way required by the hypothesis referred to. Moreover, as my detailed description of the block-prints shows the varieties of the (ex hypothesi) forged script are so numerous and so intricate as to require the allowance of a much longer time for their elaboration, than has actually passed since forgeries can have commenced, at most about ten years ago. The trade in forged prints could only have arisen with the advent of modern European travellers. The earliest of these is General Prjevalski who visited Khotan in 1885, and at that time these books were unknown and unthought of. The first objection, mentioned by Mr. Bäckland refers to the cheap price of the books. This is a point which may be argued either way, and is usually considered to speak rather in favour of genuineness. Mr. Bäcklund obtained his three books for Rs. 7; but for some block-prints in the British Collection a rather good price has been paid. For the book G. 9 (Eighth Set) Rs. 40 were paid; for the book G. 8 (No. VI in the Seventh Set) Rs. 45; for the two books in M. 5, Rs. 40; for the two books in M. 6, purchased from Badruddin, Rs. 40; for the four books in M. 6, purchased from Mr. Högberg together with a lot of antiques, Rs. 200. On the other hand, for the two sets of nine books in M. 7 and eight books in M. 8, only Rs. 40, each set, were paid; and for the two books in M. 4 (plus sundry antiques) and the two books in M. 9 (also plus sundry antiques) even only Rs. 11-3 and Rs. 20 respectively. The fact is that latterly (early in 1898) when suspicion had once been aroused regarding the genuineness of these books, which tended to interfere with their saleableness, the dealers found it advisable to lower their prices. This is a question of demand and supply, and has little direct bearing on that of genuineness. It is quite possible that a large store of genuine books may have been discovered somewhere in the desert.
The second objection refers to the supposed freshness of the books. I have examined 44 books and my observations do not altogether agree with those of Mr. Bäcklund. There are distinct marks of old rust on the guards and beneath them in the case of some books; in others the corners are by no means "quite square," but irregular and even round; the leaves of some books (outside as well as inside) are in a very damaged condition and rotten, and show the dirty signs of having been handled; some books are printed on a kind of paper which is quite unknown in Khotan.
The probability seems to be that latterly when the store of genuine old books gave out, an attempt was made to produce new ones by imitating some of the old genuine ones. The commencement of this attempt would seem to fall in 1897; and the books offered to Mr.