The Archaeology of Tibetan Books: An Interview

Agnieszka Helman-Wazny’s new book is a fascinating contribution to both book history and Tibetan studies, bringing these fields together through careful attention to the physicality of print and manuscript materials. The Archaeology of Tibetan Books (Brill, 2014) explores a wide range of printed works and manuscripts in Tibetan, focusing especially on the nearly 50 Tibetan manuscripts from the Dunhuang “Library Cave,” early printed editions of Tibetan Kanjurs, and illuminated manuscripts from Western and Central Tibet. Based on deeply interdisciplinary research in libraries, museums, and private collections, along with interviews with Tibetan artisans and personal experience in “experimental manuscriptology,” Helman-Wazny’s book focuses on the material components of Tibetan books, including the fiber composition and molding of the paper, the preparation of leaves before writing/printing, the production of inks and pigments, and the format of the most important types of Tibetan books. We talked about it for the New Books in East Asian Studies podcast, and you can listen to our conversation by heading over here!