What is a Jain manuscript?

Cloth

Cloth was commonly used for large paintings like those of the Jain world. It was also used for book covers and manuscript covers. This 19th-century painting shows Jambū-dvīpa, the central island-continent, and the surrounding ocean of Lavaṇa-samudra

Large painting on cloth
Image by British Library © The British Library Board

Cloth was normally not used for continuous ordinary texts, but rather for large-size paintings like those representing the Jain world. It was also used for book covers and manuscript covers.

Ink colours

The various colours of ink used in Jain manuscripts were those used in Indian manuscripts in general. The inks were all from natural sources.

The normal colour used for writing a text was black.

Red ink was used for ornamentation in the widest sense of the word or simply in order to emphasise some element of the writing, such as the number or a particular sentence.

These elements were also often written in black emphasised with red powder.

Some ornamented manuscripts use silver and gold inks, for example copies of the Kalpa-sūtra.

Yellow or white pigments were used as erasers.

Methods of writing

A metallic tool was used to incise palm leaves. Then ink was painted on to the incisions so that the letters stand out.

A kind of pen is used to write on paper manuscripts.

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