Dr Ali S. Asani
Associate Professor of Indo-Muslim culture
The following are some of the guidelines used to catalogue the collection of Ismaili literature in Indic languages found in the Harvard university library. The collection donated to the Library's Middle Eastern Department, consists of manuscripts, printed texts as well as lithographs in several scripts including Khojki, Gujarati and Devanagari. In 1986, the University received a grant from the National Endowment
for the Humanities, a United States Federal Agency, to fund a project to catalog this unique collection. The completed project will result in a publication by the Harvard University Library entitled "The Harvard collection of Ismaili Literature in Indic Languages: A finding aid and Descriptive catalog", by Dr Ali S. Asani (forthcoming mid 1990).
The unusual religious, cultural and linguistic background of the material in the collection presents a particularly complex set of problems concerning cataloguing. There are few , if any established models or guidelines for organising and classifying multi-lingual material of this nature which also employs several different scripts. Standard cataloguing procedures are unable to describe this material adequately. Consequently, a special format for cataloguing was developed, especially for Khojki manuscripts. The format was not only freely adapted from existing models but was also specially devised to meet the needs of scholars most likely to use the collection.
What follows is a description of the various items that need to be recorded during the cataloguing of Khojki manuscripts. Slightly different criteria are used for cataloguing printed texts and lithographs.
Cataloguing information about manuscripts falls into three distinctive sections.
The first line of the heading should include a signum or call number as well as place and date, if available. If information about place and date is not specifically mentioned in the manuscript but has been deduced from internal or external evidence, then it should be placed in parentheses or square brackets. The year should be in the Christian calender; however, the Islamic Hijri or Hindu Samvat calender should also be indicated, if used in the manuscript. The criteria used to create the signum for the manuscript should be devised to meet individual or institutional needs. For example, the signum used to designate Khojki and other Ismaili literature at Harvard is compatible with institutional systems of cataloguing.
The second line of the heading provides a title for the entire work, if applicable.
2.1 Physical description
The following should be included as minimum.
(a) Material on which the manuscript is written.
(b) Total number of folios.
(c) Pages containing significant marks.
(d) Folio dimensions in centimetres with dimensions of writing space.
(e) Number of lines per folio.
(f) Remarks concerning the physical arrangement of pages.
(g) Type of binding.
2.2 Scribes and script
Particularly important for Khojki manuscripts, this section documents peculiarities and variants in the script. Information about the scribes and date of transcription of certain text also falls here.
2.3 Other information
Records other relevant information such as;
(a) Condition of manuscript.
(b) Folio citation of tafsilo, if relevant.
(c) information relating to provenance: place of origin, prior ownership, etc.
This section endeaviours to record all texts in the sequence in which they occur in the manuscript.
(a) Folio or page citation for the beginning or conclusion of a text is to the left. Notations including indications of rag of ginans texts; use of invocatory formulae; damaged, torn or illegible folios.
(b) Towards the center of the line appears the title of the text in roman transliteration, using an appropriate system. Special attempts need to be made to take care of the many ambiguities arising in transliteration from Khojki. Normally each title is transliterated in exactly the same way as it occurs in the text, with no attempts to correct any type of errors. For short ginans that lack specific titles, use the first verse as title equivalent. Next comes the incipit in transliteration with first verses of short ginans, already used as title-equivalents, serving as incipit as well. The original Khojki transcription is reproduced on the line immediately below the transliteration. Entries of ginanic texts should also include number of verses; languages used; and the Pir to whom authorship is attributed. The final line of each entry may be devoted to bibliographic references for the work. Usually these should be omitted for ginans without title.
For more information concerning cataloguing of Khojki manuscripts, readers are urged to refer to the above mentioned catalog as well as to the sample entry from the catalog that is reproduced here.