Some extremely exciting news from Harvard: There’s a new, vast and extremely broad collection of translations of Indian classic literature coming next week. As covered by the New York Times:
Now, Harvard University Press, the publisher of the Loebs, wants to do the same for the far more vast and dizzyingly diverse classical literature of India, in what some are calling one of the most complex scholarly publishing projects ever undertaken.
The Murty Classical Library of India, whose first five dual-language volumes will be released next week, will include not only Sanskrit texts but also works in Bangla, Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Persian, Prakrit, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and other languages. Projected to reach some 500 books over the next century, the series is to encompass poetry and prose, history and philosophy, Buddhist and Muslim texts as well as Hindu ones, and familiar works alongside those that have been all but unavailable to nonspecialists.
The Murty will offer “something the world had never seen before, and something that India had never seen before: a series of reliable, accessible, accurate and beautiful books that really open up India’s precolonial past,” said Sheldon Pollock, a professor of South Asian studies at Columbia University and the library’s general editor.
The Times story points out that one of the big challenges is the sheer size of Indian classic literature, which dwarfs the Greek or Roman canons.
You may be wondering, or remembering, a similar project we highlighted before: The Clay Sanskrit Library. Sadly, it has ended:
The Murty Library fills a scholarly void. The last comparable project, theClay Sanskrit Library, a series inaugurated by New York University Press in 2005, closed up shop prematurely after four years and 56 volumes when its benefactor, the financier John Clay, ended his support. (Mr. Clay died in 2013.)
After the Clay Library’s demise, Mr. Pollock, who had taken over as its general editor, reconceived the project to extend far beyond Sanskrit. He shopped around in India for a new benefactor, to no avail. He then brought the idea to Sharmila Sen, executive editor at large at Harvard University Press, who connected him with Rohan Murty, the son of the Indian technology billionaire N. R. Narayana Murthy. (The two men spell their surnames differently.)
The initial volumes will include literature from Muslim and Buddhist traditions, as well.
Posted by Steve