Scribal and Authorial Openings in Theravāda Manuscripts: Evidence from the Nevill Collection

Kate Crosby


Complete manuscripts of Theravāda Buddhist texts almost always open with an auspicious formula in homage to the Buddha. In manuscripts from Sri Lanka, the two most common opening formulae are the expressions of homage to the Buddha so widespread in other contexts. These are usually the opening formulae of the scribe or copyist, and separate from the authorial opening of the text contained in the manuscript. The latter often has its own auspicious or formulaic opening, which is more elaborate than the scribal opening. Although scribal formulae can usually be distinguished from the beginning of the text proper, i.e. the text as created by the author or redactor, the distinction between the two is not always recognised in printed editions of Pali texts and may be unclear or blurred in the manuscripts themselves. Below I examine the evidence of Sri Lankan manuscripts, especially those of the Nevill collection of the British Library, to see what they add to our current understanding of scribal and authorial openings.

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