Harvard University Press
The first five volumes of the Murty Classical Library of India
The volumes are:
Therigatha: Poems of the First Buddhist Women
Translated from Pali by Charles Hallisey
India (600s BCE)
Sur’s Ocean: Poems from the Early Tradition
Edited by Kenneth E. Bryant, translated from old Hindi by John Stratton Hawley
The Story of Manu
Translated from Telugu by Velcheru Narayana Rao and David Shulman
The History of Akbar, Volume 1
Edited and translated by Wheeler M. Thackston
Edited and translated from Punjabi by Christopher Shackle
Jennifer Schuessler reports for the New York Times:
When the Loeb Classical Library was founded in 1911, it was hailed as a much-needed effort to make the glories of the Greek and Roman classics available to general readers.
Virginia Woolf praised the series, which featured reader-friendly English translations and the original text on facing pages, as “a gift of freedom.” Over time, the pocket-size books, now totaling 522 volumes and counting, became both scholarly mainstays and design-geek fetish objects, their elegant green (Greek) and red (Latin) covers spotted everywhere from the pages of Martha Stewart Living to Mr. Burns’s study on “The Simpsons.”
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.
That literary heritage can seem daunting in size. While the canon of surviving Greek and Roman classics is fairly small, the literature of India’s multiple classical languages includes thousands upon thousands of texts, many of which, as the writer William Dalrymple recently noted, exist only in manuscripts that are decaying before they can be translated or even cataloged.
The Murty Library, Mr. Pollock said, aims to take in the broadest swath of them. “We are a big tent,” he said. “As long as it’s good and interesting and important, it’s going to be in the Murty Classical Library.”
The editions, which come wrapped in elegant rose-colored covers, are intended, like the Loebs, “to be around for 100 years,” Mr. Pollock said. But to some scholars, the project also comes as a timely if implicit rebuke to the Hindu nationalists of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, with its promotion of a unitary Indian identity based on selected Sanskrit religious classics.