94428 - Orientalist Laboratory (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History and Oriental Studies (cod. 8845)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the laboratory, students are able to collect and organize complex information relating to Asian textual sources in a coherent way, can apply methods of critical analysis, of reconstruction and preservation of the texts. Students are able to identify a problem relevant to the research on Asian textual sources transmitted in writing, and they can identify and properly use the convenient sources of information, including digital ones, to tackle it.

Course contents

The aim of the laboratory is to provide students with the basic knowledge and the necessary methodological tools for the study of Indian texts transmitted in manuscripts.

The major topics addressed during the course are:

  • Introduction to Indian codicology.
  • Study, deciphering and reading the Grantha script (with exercises).
  • Exercises of transcription and collation of a text transmitted by two or more manuscripts written in the Devanāgarī and Grantha scripts.
  • The scribal colophons: introduction to the analysis and interpretation of the data most commonly found therein.

IMPORTANT NOTICE. A basic knowledge of the Sanskrit language is required for participating in the laboratory.


Introduction to Indian codicology. Students are required to carefully read the following chapters:

  • Losty, Jeremiah P., The Art of the Book in India. London: The British Library, 1982, pp. 1-18 (Introduction).
  • Murthy, Shivaganesha R.S., Introduction to Manuscriptology. Delhi: Sharada Publishing House, 1996, pp. 24-66 (Chapter II), pp. 103-120 (Chapter V).
  • Salomon, Richard, Indian Epigraphy. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 7-17 (General introduction).

As an introduction to the subject, students are strongly invited to take a Moodle course (e-learning) on the History of Indic Scripts, available in the "Virtual Learning Environment" area. The course is intended as an introductory overview on the origins and developments of the Indian writing systems, i.e. how the great variety of scripts that are used today in India came gradually into being during the centuries.

The Grantha script. The following reference works can be used for the decipherment of the Grantha script:

  • Grünendahl, Reinhold, South Indian Scripts in Sanskrit Manuscripts and Prints. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2001, pp. xii-xxii, 1-42, 55.
  • Rajan, Vinodh, Grantha Script Lessons. Online course (http://www.virtualvinodh.com/wp/grantha/) licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 India License.
  • Venugopalan, K., A Primer in Grantha Characters. St. Peter (MN): James H. Nye, 1983.

All the abovementioned works are available at the "G.R. Franci" library, with the exception of K. Venugopalan's booklet, which is available in the website of the Digital South Asia Library [https://dsal.uchicago.edu/digbooks/digpager.html?BOOKID=PK419.V468_1983&object=1] as well as in the "Teaching Material" area.

IMPORTANT NOTICE. Students who cannot attend at least 75% of the classes are required to contact the teacher before the laboratory begins, in order to settle on an alternative activity.

Teaching methods

Taught classes, training in reading and transcribing texts from manuscripts, text collation exercises, group discussion among students.

Assessment methods

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

The exam is oral and is primarily based on the evaluation of the work made by students during classes. The assessment of attending students will taken into account:

  • their active and committed participation in the classes;
  • their ability in reading, transcribing and collating texts from manuscripts.

Non-attending students. Students who cannot attend at least 75% of the classes are required to contact the teacher before the laboratory begins, in order to settle on an alternative activity. Their activity will be evaluated in an oral exam.

Teaching tools

This course participates in the Integrative Digital Teaching plan of the Innovative Teaching Project of the University of Bologna.

Digital resources, in the form manuscript HR digital images, movies, online databases, slideshows.

Several digital resources are made available to students for learning handwritten grantha script. The main digital resource is a deck containing about 150 flashcards built with Anki, a free and Open Source software available for all major operating systems; the deck is divided into subdecks ordered by increasing difficulty.

Students are warmly invited to take a Moodle course (e-learning) on the History of Indic Scripts (see above).

Office hours

See the website of Giovanni Ciotti