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impression, and in most cases it gave no distinct impression at all. Traces of the enclosing lines, made by the ridge, may be seen on Plates V, VII, XI and XIII. It is obvious that these enclosing lines afford a ready means for identifying a block. Sufficient of their traces remain to render it nearly certain that there was a separate block for each of the eight recensions of the text.
The blocks used for recensions Ia and Ib had the same dimensions. They were long, narrow slabs of woods, measuring 6 by 18 inches. There were no blocks of twice that width bearing two columns of type. This is proved by the fact, that when two impressions are seen side by side, their edges frequently touch or even overlap one another, showing that the impressions were taken separately one after the other, and not very carefully. Moreover occasionally when the impressions were taken wider apart, two parallel enclosing lines may be seen between the inner margins of the two prints. On the other hand, it is not probable that both recensions Ia and Ib can have been printed off the same block. For the blank spaces (for lines 6, 7, 15, 16) in Ib are quite clean: smudges would have been unavoidable from the old inked surface, even if the omitted lines had afterwards been left uninked. Moreover, though the surface of the blank spaces is clean, the enclosing lines can occasionally be seen continuing on both sides, and thus showing that the entire surface of the block had been inked. It follows that for recension Ib a separate block must have been used, in which the surfaces of the two blank spaces had been counter-sunk in order to prevent their being inked. Further it is not probable that the recension Ib can have been printed by using in combination three smaller blocks of type, containing the formulas A, C and E respectively. For (1) the width of the blank interval is always exactly the same (of an inch), (2) the enclosing lines right and left run perfectly straight, (3) there is never any trace of any top and bottom enclosing lines of the three blocks between the lines of type. These three facts (especially in combination) seem quite incompatible with the use of three blocks to print one text.
There were three blocks, one for each of the recensions Ic, Id and Ie. They must have measured about 13 × 118, 23 × 118, and 13 × 118 respectively, as may be calculated from the slight traces of the enclosing lines discernible in a few places (see Plates VII, XI, XIII). The blocks for Ic and Ie must have been of the same or very nearly the same size. The recension Id, (i.e., formula C) is printed six times on a page of the pōthi (see Plate VI), being arranged in two columns of three impressions each. That the page was not printed off two blocks, each containing a whole column of type, or off one block containing a double column of type, is evident from the fact that the six impressions do not keep in
straight line, but approach or overlap one another, both horizontally and vertically. The same remarks apply to recensions Ic (A) and Ie (E), each of which is printed eight times on a page of the Pōthi (see Plates VI and VII).
The two recensions If and Ig must have been printed from blocks of the same size as those for the recensions Ic and Id. The two pairs of recensions (If and Ic, Ig and Id) cannot have been printed from identical blocks; for the same reasons which (as explained above) show that the two texts Ia and Ib cannot have been printed off an identical block. The case is not quite so clear with regard to the recension Ih (formula E); for I have noticed occasionally smudges on the blank space corresponding to the omitted line 20. They look like very indistinct traces of the letters of that line, suggesting that its type existed on the block but had not been inked. In the blocks for If and Ig, the type of the omitted lines does not seem to have existed, the whole space corresponding to those lines being counter-sunk,, excepting the ridge along the edges, traces of which ridge are still occasionally discernible (see Plate XI).
For the formulas B and D (that is, the lines 6 and 7, 15 and 16) there do not seem to have existed any separate blocks. So far as the evidence, at present available, goes, those two formulas were never printed separately, but only existed on the block for recension Ia.
The Pōthi is undoubtedly a genuine ancient relic. It possesses every mark of antiquity in point of general appearance and condition. It is unique in its form of an Indian pōthi. Its paper, which is hard, rigid, brittle and discolored, and its print which is faded, suggest considerable antiquity. In point of material and texture its paper is very similar to, if not identical with, the paper of the variety IIIb, on which many of the books are written, but it differs distinctly in colour, being more of a dirty greyish-brown, than of the dirty yellowish-brown of the books. With reference to this Pōthi Sir A. C. Talbot, in his demi-official letter, No. 5972, dated the 23rd October 1897, writes that "it might be of interest to note that the book enclosed between the rough wooden covers bears a strong resemblance to the religious manuscripts still used in the Hemis and other large monasteries of Ladakh; and that among the metal objects sent 9 is what seems to be an old iron arrow-head, very like those with which the arrows in the treasure-rooms at Hemis are tipped. Possibly the excavation was made from the site of some former Buddhist monastery of which, according to Remusat, many must have existed in, and around, the Takla Makan." The evident antiquity of the Pōthi is
9 This arrow-head as well as the Pōthi were in the consignment M. 4.
a point of great importance; for it is a guarantee of the genuineness of the text. Whatever degree of suspicion may attach to some of the books, they can only be forgeries in a modified sense. Their paper and the actual print may be modern, but their impressions must have been taken from ancient blocks. For, as I have shown, the blocks from which the books and the pōthi are printed, show identical sizes and facsimile types. It is almost demonstrable, therefore, that a set of ancient blocks of type must have been found, from which the books, if any are really modern fabrications, have been printed. The three blocks (for recensions Ic, Id, Ie, or the formulas A, C, E) from which the Pōthi was printed, must certainly have been found. It may be suggested that, with the help of these three blocks, the blocks for the other recensions might have been fabricated. But this would not account for the existence of the formulas B and D (lines 6, 7 and 15, 16) in recension Ia. It is very improbable that a forger, though he might have omitted portions of an existing text, would have gone beyond his pattern and invented new lines of type. The probabilities, therefore, decidedly are for the genuineness of the block of recension Ia. The preparation of facsimile blocks, from existing patterns, is not at all beyond the capabilities of a clever imitator; and the genuineness of the blocks for the recensions Ib, If, Ig and Ih, which are only differentiated from those for Ia, Ic, Id and Ie by the omission of certain lines of type, might, therefore, be questioned; but the occurrence of the recensions Ig and Ih on one page of book No. VIII of the Fifth Set (see Plate XI) renders the hypothesis extremely improbable. Such a solitary and casual insertion of an alien text in a book entirely devoted to a different text would hardly have occurred to a forger. Moreover the state of preservation of that book seems to stamp it as genuinely antique. On this point, however, further evidence is required. If once the writing is deciphered, and its purport understood, that knowledge may very possibly decide the question of genuineness. If it should be found that by the omission of a portion of it, the text is rendered unintelligible, that result might seem to prove that the blocks for the mutilated texts Ib, If, Ig, Ih are the work of an ignorant forger; for, at the present day, neither the writing nor the language of these block-prints is understood in Khotan. On the other hand, it must be remembered that there is good reason to suppose that some of the books were not intended for intelligent reading, but merely for mechanical use.
As regards the determination of the question of what is the beginning and the end of the text, there is some indication given by the arrangement of the text in Book No. I. This book shows two columns on each page (see Woodcut No. 11), each column consisting
of two impressions of the full text (or recension Ia). These impressions are invariably 10 placed so as to turn the same side towards the upper and lower edges of the book. It follows that that side of the impression (as shown in Plate V) must be its top or the beginning of the text; and that the feet, or ends, of the two impressions meet in the middle of each column and of the page. For it is natural to assume, that the reader was intended to commence reading at the top of the page, and not in its middle. Of course, on the supposition of a forgery, this conclusion would loose much of its force, as an ignorant forger might by chance have misplaced the impressions; but the peculiar placement of the imprints is so regular as to render such an hypothesis very improbable. Moreover there are other indications, such as the texture of the paper (see the General Remarks on paper), which make against Book No. I being a forgery.
No. I. Book. (Plate V.)
Belongs to M. 6. Acquired from the Rev. Mr. Högberg. Size, 12x9". Number of forms, 18; but first form is incomplete, the first blank leaf is missing: print accordingly commences on second page (properly fourth page). Moreover second and penultimate forms are double, consisting each of two folded sheets, one placed within the other, and, therefore, having each four leaves or eight pages. Accordingly number of leaves, 39. Paper, variety IIIa; fairly clean. Riveted
with three copper pegs.
Contains recension Ia, printed in two columns on each page; each column consisting of two impressions, placed foot to foot, the upper one being complete (20 lines), the lower, more or less incomplete (as a rule 15 or 16 lines) owing to want of space. (See Woodcut No. 11). The foot-to-foot arrangement of the text is almost invariable. There are only four exceptional pages, on which it stands head to foot. The two varieties of arrangement may be represented thus:
Ordinary, on 62 pages. Exceptional, on pp. 2, 46, 65, 75.
(2) ghi ghi
The second variety is obviously due to mere carelessness on the part of the printer. The first variety, which occurs 62 times, is clearly.
10 There are only a very few, apparently accidental, exceptions, which are noted in the detailed description.
intentional. Its object evidently is to make it possible to read the book in the way previously explained in the General Remarks. The regularity of the arrangement seems to indicate that this book was really intended to be properly read. If it had been merely intended for mechanical use by turning the leaves, there would have been no necessity for observing any such strict regularity. It may be further noted that discounting the four exceptional and erroneous pages, one end of the text (indicated by ghi in the above diagrams) is always placed in the middle of the page, while the other end is invariably found at the top of the page, in whichever way the book is held. This circumstance seems to prove clearly, which line of the text must be considered its beginning.
The text is repeated four times on every page. There are only two exceptions, viz., pages 48 and 63. On page 48 there are only two impressions, while page 63 has only one. The remainder of the space is occupied with legends in an apparently different alphabet, but which may also be only a written or "current" form of the printed one. They are shown on Plate V, and are evidently not printed from a block, but written by hand.
No. II. Pōthi.
Belongs to M. 4. Brought from Khotan, together with No. VI and other objects; the whole purchased for Rs. 11-3-2. Size, 8×4 inches. Number of forms 45. Leaves of a curious, bottle-shaped form, see Plates VI-VIII; reminding one of the manuscript book found under the skull (see Introduction, pp. xxi). Bound, in the Indian fashion, between two rectangular (not bottle-shaped) blocks of wood, measuring 8 x 4 x1 inches, and rough and uneven on the outer, but planed on the inner surfaces; and exceedingly dry and light of weight. Riveted like an Indian copper-plate grant, on the left-hand, narrow side of the oblong, by means of one copper peg, which passes through the "neck" of the bottle-shaped leaves. Paper, of a dirty greyish-brown color, and hard, stiff, and brittle and in many leaves badly fractured; also with many fatty stains and occasional burns. The whole appearance very suggestive of genuine antiquity.
Contains recensions Ic, Id and Ie, printed separately on different pages, and arranged in two columns, so that there are six impressions of recension Id (formula C), and eight impressions each of recensions Ic and Ie (formulas A and E) on a page. Recension Id (C) occurs most frequently; viz., on forms 1, 2, 6, 7, 9-12, 13 (pp. 2, 3, 4), 14-18, 20-24, 25 (pp. 1-3),
11 The middle of the pages of the pōthi slightly projects beyond the edges of the blocks.