By Robert Fraser, Mary Hammond
This quantity concentrates on one of many world's oldest, and so much buoyant, e-book cultures: South Asia. It examines the transition from manuscript handy press, orality and function, scripts and nationalism, libraries and copyright, and the new overseas fashion for Europhone writers from the zone.
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Extra info for Books Without Borders, Volume 2: Perspectives from South Asia
The most flagrant example of the arbitrary discrimination between, as well as the conflation of, the capital and the lower case letter in the roman script one can think of is that between the ‘book’ and the ‘Book’ (with ‘god’ and ‘God’ as close runners up). It remains an unsolved mystery to many English-language learners that a particular ‘Book’ should be placed in a category by itself and above all the other ‘books’ on the strength of a distinction merely typographical, and not in the least oral and audible.
I refer to ‘Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of ambivalence and authority under a tree outside Delhi, May 1817’, an essay by Homi Bhabha. In it he discourses upon an elaborately recorded episode in the history of British attempts to propagate Christianity in north India, through the circulation of copies of the Bible in translation. Though he does not identify or explicate it, the title of Bhabha’s essay is of course itself drawn from the Bible (‘And I will ... multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt’ from Exodus 7:3, or more relevantly ‘Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe’ from St John 4:48).
The strange case of the Guru Granth Sahib must be thus unique not only in the history of the ‘Book’, but equally in book history. This sacred volume bears several marks of the human and hybrid ways in which mere artefacts can effectively erase the difference between book and Book. It stands, for example, midway between the oral and the scripted. Written down as soon as its text was finalized, except for a few identifiable interpolations inserted in some of the approximately 100 copies permitted to be made by hand between 1604 and 1675, it is equally a triumph of textuality and orality.