The digital infrastructure of the project, named “Documenta Nepalica”, consists of two interrelated parts: “Catalogue” and “Editions”. The former aims at bringing together information about published and unpublished historical documents from Nepal, while the latter is the platform for digital (XML) editions of documents selected from the catalogue. Once an edition exists, links will guide the user from the search list and the catalogue entry to the respective XML edition.
The catalogue database was originally designed to record handwritten documents that were microfilmed by the NGMPP but have so far not been processed further---historical documents in particular having explicitly been excluded from cataloguing activities of the NGMPP and its successor, the NGMCP.
Document holdings from other archives and from private collections can be integrated without any difficulty. Additions so far include the following collections (as of 02/2021):
- documents from Tsum (courtesy of Nadine Plachta)
- inscriptions recorded by the Nepal Heritage Documentation Project
- documents from the Walter Rindfleisch collection
- documents from the family of Laksmidas Pradhan
- inscriptions from Sankhu (courtesy of Balgopal Shrestha)
When the database was launched in May 2016, the catalogue already comprised about 19,000 entries; by the end of 2020 the number had grown to about 60,000. The number continues to increase, the aim being to cover all relevant NGMPP documents (more than 100,000 entries) as well as the subsequently integrated collections by the end of the project in 2028. The metadata contained in the catalogue can be enriched by bibliographic information relating to previous editions, translations, and studies of individual documents. Catalogue records of documents that have been edited are linked to their respective editions.
At the time the documents were microfilmed by the NGMPP, a handwritten catalogue card was created for each document. Two types of cards, each with its own set of entry fields, were used. Despite the fact these cards were filled out with varying quality, for practical and documentary reasons every piece of information is captured. Data input is done by the staff team in Patan (currently Rabi Acharya, Pabitra Bajracharya, and Yogesh Budhathoki). It then undergoes input control in Heidelberg. In order to minimize input errors, templates are used, e.g., for the input of dates (months, weekdays etc.). Only some major lapses in English are silently corrected. Still, typing errors and inconsistencies resulting from the heterogeneous material remain.
The two different types of catalogue cards are digitally merged; naturally, this entails leaving certain input fields empty in many catalogue cards.
To enhance search facilities an additional field, “Technical terms”, was added into which standardizations of such terms can be introduced. Furthermore, a short title is created for each record, typically containing information on the document type (in Nepali when mentioned on the original catalogue card), the sender, addressee, subject, and the year of issue (era as in the original). Each document is given a unique identification number based on the NGMPP number; documents of the other collections are also assigned such identification numbers.
Documents are selected for editing by project staff on the basis of their individual research; they are transcribed and edited with as little intrusion as possible. The data are available as XML-files encoded by applying standards of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). They can be viewed on the editing platform; see “All editions”. For each edition, the user interface displays facsimile, texts, and translations side by side. Moreover, each edition is accompanied by the short title of the document, the name(s) of the editor(s), an abstract of the content, a translation, notes, and a commentary. In some cases, an extended abstract replaces the translation. Various options are available for displaying the editions (diplomatic; with word separation; annotated edition; XML tree, Devanagari script or transliteration in Latin script, zoom-in function).
Thematically related documents are compiled into bundles that are a basis for further research.
Documents on Brahman scholars (topic Pandits), scribes (topic Scribal elites), and politicians (topic Documents on Bhīmasena Thāpā), for example, offer an understanding of the development of elite cultures.
The formation of public order and state administration can be traced in documents on economic life (topic Economic Life), on slavery and forced labor (topic Slavery), on the administration of social and ethnic groups (topic Ruling Social Groups), and also on the use of elephants (topic Elephants).
Other documents concern the history of law and legal practice (topic Legal Practices), land rights (topic Land Transfer), or widow burning (topic Satī).
Insights into diplomacy and foreign policy are provided by letters from envoys (topic Reports from across the Borders) and by documents on trade between Nepal and Tibet (topic Nepal-Tibet Trade).
Specific places and regions for which document series have already been edited include the border region to Tibet (Tsum, Kutang and Nubri) (topic Himalayan Borderlands) or the city of Sankhu (topic Sankhu).
Furthermore, documents focus on the religious life of Nepal, e.g., on important temples and deities (topics Paśupatinātha, Bungadyo, Royal Goddesses), on ascetics (topic Ascetics), religious specialists (topics Priests and Priestly service, Music and Musicians) or festivals (topic Dasai).
All research topics can be found here.
Editions Published with DOI
The research unit publishes documents at frequent intervals in cooperation with the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg on the platform Heidelberg Historic Literature Digitized (DWork); see “Editions published with DOI”.
The editions contain a diplomatic transcription with minimal editorial intervention. Details of editorial principles and a documentation of the TEI annotations used can be viewed here.
Zur Entwicklung von Elitekulturen sind beispielsweise Dokumente zu brahmanischen Gelehrten (Forschungsthema Pandits), zu Schreibern (Forschungsthema Schreibereliten) oder Politikern (Forschungsthema Bhīmasena Thāpā) aufschlussreich.
Complex search functions enable the browsing of both datasets “catalogue” and “editions”, jointly or separately, and with respect to content criteria. In addition to a simple search, advanced search functions are available in which search parameters can be combined with each other.
The catalogue entries and the search results can be bookmarked and added to “my list,” exportable as a text file.