The Other Way Round: From Print to Manuscript


The Tirumurukkāṟṟuppaṭai, possibly dated to the 7th century, is one of the earliest Tamil texts to have been published in the first half of 19th c. in Tamil Nadu. It is a poem in 317 lines praising the god Murukaṉ and it has been popular in at least three different circles as one among the Pattuppāṭṭu of the so-called Caṅkam corpus, as part of the canon of devotional Tamil Śaiva texts (the Tirumuṟai), and as a devotional text of its own, independent of Śaivism. Among the more than fifty extant manuscripts from the Tirumurukkāṟṟuppaṭai that I have been so far able to examine, I had the surprise to find that four are in fact palm-leaf copies of earlier printed editions. This fact raises several questions that I will try to address in this paper. Why would one have ordered a manuscript copy of a printed book? Is it related to economical, religious or ritual preoccupations? Was ōlai (palm-leaf) cheaper than paper? Was the printed book no more available? What was the use of such a manuscript? Are there other such manuscripts in India?

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