The Palm-Leaf Manuscript Profiling Initiative (PLMPI)
Palm-leaf manuscripts belong to the world’s most important and numerous handwritten artefacts, millions of which can be found in South and South-east Asia. However, the material characteristics these manuscripts possess have virtually remained unexplored till now. Today, their production has been reduced to a trickle here and there, mostly in rural libraries or for the tourist industry.
The ‘Palm-Leaf Manuscript Profiling Initiative’ aims to carry out an innovative and comprehensive study of these artefacts by employing various scientific methods to examine them, including DNA and proteomic analyses, spectrography, microscopy, and others. The results thus generated will open up new avenues of research in the fields of philology, codicology, and palaeography, hence advancing our understanding of both material and textual cultures across Asia.
Initially, this pioneering project will have two main phases. The first phase will take place in Hamburg, where palm-leaf manuscripts belonging to CSMC, the University Library of Hamburg, and a few private collections will be analysed. Methods that prove to be successful will then be taken into the field for the second phase, with the first mission of CSMC’s brand new Container Lab to South India being planned for 2023.
The Container Lab, which is a state-of-the-art transportable set of labs, will be posted in Pondicherry for ten months and will be used to investigate the manuscript collections of the Institut Français de Pondichéry (IFP) and the École Française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), both of which belong to the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ list since 2005. IFP is CSMC’s partner in this initiative, providing both logistic and academic support before and during the mission.
Spokesperson: Giovanni Ciotti