About Benjamin J. Fleming

Benjamin J. Fleming is Cataloger of Indic Manuscripts at the Kislak Center and Visiting Scholar in the Department of Religious Studies (University of Pennsylvania). He holds a BFA, BA, and MA from the University of Regina and a PhD from McMaster University. He won an Endangered Archives Pilot Project grant from the British Library (2014-2015) and is overseeing a manuscript digitization project in Comilla, Bangladesh. Recently he published the edited volume Material Culture in Asian Religions: Text, Image, Object (Routledge 2014).

Catalogs, Colophons, and Curses from the Rāmamālā Library in Bangladesh


Rucistava (RLMS 1523, 1883-1892 A.D) with post-colophon curse.

Last year I began a project to create an inventory and digital sample of manuscripts from the Rāmamālā Library in Comilla, Bangladesh, sponsored by the British Library’s Endangered Archive Programme and co-sponsored by Penn Libraries’ Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS). My team and I created an inventory of close to 9,000 manuscript titles, assessed the condition of the manuscripts, and took a small digital sample (about 1%) that will all find their way into open access websites at the Endangered Archive Programme, the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, OPenn, and Penn in Hand. The initial stage of data collection was completed between January and May, 2014, and currently I have returned to Bangladesh to work with local scholars to complete the catalog record and initiate the final stages of data absorption into the British Library and Penn systems. Continue reading

The Two Patāñjalis: Challenges of Cataloguing Penn’s Sāṃkhya Teaching


Ms. Coll. 390, Item 249 (f. 1v-2r)

Recently I received an email from Prof. Dominik Wujastyk (University of Vienna), regarding Penn’s copy of the Sāṃkhyapravacana (Sāṃkhya Teaching), Ms. Coll. 390, Item 249 (ca. 1700-1850). The Sāṃkhyapravacana is an early Hindu philosophical work that re-envisions and combines the Sāṃkhya and Yoga philosophical systems, attributed to Patāñjali (ca. 4th-5th century CE) as part of his Yogasūtra (a.k.a. Pātañjalayogaśāstra), a work well known to students and scholars of the history and philosophy of yoga. Prof. Wujastyk pointed out, however, that Penn’s catalogue record for this item mistakenly linked it to another work by a different author also named Patāñjali—that is, the Mahābhāṣya or Great Commentary, a commentary on Pāṇini’s Sanskrit grammatical system from the second century BCE. I was intrigued about how what seems like such an obvious error could have arisen and so began an investigation. . . . . Continue reading