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0607 Ancient Khotan : vol.1
Ancient Khotan : vol.1 / Page 607 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000182
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the Russian demand for ' old books ', while Islam Akhûn attended chiefly to the requirements of British officers and other collectors. Ibrahim Mulla, from whom the Russian Armenian I met on my first arrival at Khotan had purchased his forged birch-bark manuscript, was credited with some knowledge of Russian, a circumstance which explains the curious resemblance previously noticed between the characters used in some of the block-prints' and the Greek

(rate Russian) alphabet 11.   Ibrahim Mulla gave proof of his ` slimness ', as well as his
complicity, by promptly disappearing from Khotan on the first news of Islam Akhûn's arrest, and could not be confronted with him.

The first ' old book ' produced in this fashion was successfully sold by Islam Akhan in 1895 to Munshi Ahmad Din, who was in charge of the Assistant Resident's office at Kashgar during the temporary absence of Mr. Macartney 12. These ' books ' were written by hand ; and an attempt had been made, as also in some others of the earliest products of the factory, to imitate the cursive Brahmi characters found in fragments of genuine manuscripts which Ibrahim was said to have secured from Dandan-Uiliq 1s. Though the forgers never succeeded in producing a text showing consecutively the characters of any known script, yet their earliest fabrications were executed with an amount of care and ingenuity which might well deceive for a time even expert scholars in Europe. This may be seen by referring to the facsimiles which are given in part ii of Dr. Hoernle's Report of Brahmi letter-groups from ` codices ' belonging to the early output, now deposited, with so many other products of Islam Akhûn's factory, in the ` forgery' section of the Manuscript Department of the British Museum 14. The specimen pages reproduced from the ` Codices Högberg ' in M. D. Klementz's Report on the Imperial Russian Academy's expedition to Turfan 15, and the facsimile of an ' ancient Khotan manuscript' which appears in the German edition of Dr. Sven Hedin's Through Asia, are conveniently accessible illustrations of the factory's output in a somewhat later and less careful phase of its working.

Seeing that remunerative prices could be obtained for such articles at Kashgar and, through Badruddin's somewhat careless mediation, also from Ladak and Kashmir, the efforts of the forgers were stimulated. As Islam Akhûn quickly perceived that his ` books ' were readily paid for, though none of the Europeans who bought them could read their characters or distinguish them from ancient scripts, it became unnecessary to trouble about imitating the characters of genuine fragments. Thus, apparently each individual factory ` hand' was given free scope for inventing his ` unknown characters '. This explains the striking diversity of these queer scripts, of which the analysis of the texts contained in the ` British collection ' at one time revealed at least a dozen—not exactly to the assurance of the Orientalist scholars who were to help in their decipherment.

The rate of production by the laborious process of handwriting was, however, too slow, and accordingly the factory took to the more convenient method of producing books by means of

" See, e.g., Hoernle, Report on C.-A. ant., Pls. V—VII, IX; also a ' Note on some block-prints from Khotan,' in Proc.A.S.B., 1898, pp. 13o sq., where facsimiles of these curious block types are given.

" See Hoernle, ' Three further collections,' &c., in J.A.S.B., 1897, pp. 237 sq.

'3 See for such early specimens from the sets of written leaves sold to M. Ahmad Din, Hoernle, ' Three further collections,' &c., J.A.S B., 1897, Pls. XI—XV, XVII ; also Pls. XVIII—XIX and Report, ii. Pl. I, from sets sold subsequently to Mr. Macartney. For the 1lIS. leaves reproduced

in Pls. XI—XIII, ibid., the characters of the genuine Chinese documents from Dandan-Uiliq may be supposed to have served as models.

" See Report on C.A. ant., ii. pp. 4 sq., where the reproduction of the identical Brahmi letter-group in the formula of one of the ' block-prints ', but with the characters reversed owing to the forger's mistake in preparing the block, has also been lucidly explained.

'S See Nachrichten fiber die von der Kais. Akademie der Wissenchaflen zu St. Petersburg im Jahre, 1898, ausgerflslele Expedition nach Turfan, i. Pl. 8.

First sales of MSS. in 'unknown' characters.

Increased output of factory.

Production of ' block-printed ' books.