General Index to the Sacred Books of the East, by Moriz Winternitz, , at sacred-texts.com
p. vi p. vii
The period covered by the inception, the publication, and the completion of the Sacred Books of the East exactly coincides with the thirty-four years that I have spent in Oxford. When I matriculated, Professor Max Müller, the editor of the series, was about to begin work on the first volume, which appeared while I was still an undergraduate. I lost no time in making his acquaintance, for it was the influence of one of his works that had stimulated me to begin under Professor Benfey the study of Sanskrit at the University of Göttingen, when I left school nearly two years before. During my undergraduate days and later I owed much to Professor Max Müller's advice and encouragement in regard to my studies, which have ever since followed, as far as Sanskrit is concerned, much the same lines as his. I consequently always took a lively interest in the Sacred Books edited by him as they successively appeared during the course of a quarter of a century, no fewer than thirty-six volumes having a more or less direct bearing on my own work, and fourteen of the translators being personally known to me. Professor Max Muller lived to see all but one of the forty-nine volumes published under his supervision. Now the fiftieth and concluding volume is at last finished when I myself have already arrived at advanced middle age. Owing to my early relations with the editor and my interest in the series ever since, I am glad to have this opportunity of accompanying with a few words by way of preface the volume that brings the series to an end.
The Sacred Books of the East include all the most important works of the seven non-Christian religions that have exercised a profound influence on the civilization of the continent of Asia. Of the Indian religions the Vedic-Brāhmanic system here claims twenty-one volumes, Buddhism ten, and Jainism two. Eight volumes comprise translations of the
sacred books of the Persians. Two volumes represent Islām, and six the two main indigenous systems of China, Confucianism and Taoism. This great undertaking, planned and edited by Professor Max Müller, has been carried out by the collaboration of twenty scholars, all leading authorities in the special departments of Oriental learning to which the works translated by them belong. By thus rendering these religious systems accessible as a whole to the Western world in authoritative translations, Professor Max Müller for the first time placed the historical and comparative study of religions on a solid foundation. But with that large view of the aims and needs of scholarship which distinguished him, he saw that the investigation of the vast material here collected could not become thoroughly effective without the auxiliary aid of a separate index volume presenting that material thoroughly digested and exhaustively classified. This work he entrusted to Dr. Winternitz, who at that time was resident in Oxford and had been assisting him in bringing out his second edition of the Rigveda with the commentary of Sāyaṇa. The result, after various unavoidable delays, is the present volume, in which the end in view has been most successfully accomplished by the compiler, now Professor of Indian Philology and of Ethnology in the German University of Prague.
The experience of many years has made me a convinced believer in the great value of full and comprehensive indexes as aids to the scholar, not only because they save his time, but because they tend to render his results more comprehensive. This is especially true at the present time, when the field of research has become so greatly extended in all directions. The view which prevailed among Oriental scholars in my student days was very different. About thirty years ago an eminent Sanskrit scholar began the publication of the editio princeps of an important and intricate work, which when completed appeared without an index. The editor declined to yield to the suggestion that he should supply one, declaring that those who wished to consult the book on any point ought to be compelled to read it through. I feel convinced that as a consequence of this attitude, research has been retarded in the
branch of learning to which the work in question belongs. Even in recent years I have hardly ever seen an index to Oriental works that has not seemed to me too meagre and consequently inadequate as an instrument of research. Very different is the character of the present substantial volume of 684 pages, which Professor Winternitz has compiled with so much thoroughness and industry. I feel no hesitation in stating that it is the most comprehensive work of the kind that has yet been published. For it is not merely a complete index like vol. xxv of the recently published Imperial Gazetteer of India. It also furnishes, in articles of any length, a scientific classification of the subject under various heads. Thus, in the article on Agni, the Indian god of fire, the material relating to that deity is arranged under no fewer than twenty-four subdivisions. Such fullness of treatment saves the book from the inevitable dryness from which it would otherwise suffer. Indeed, its perusal will, I believe, prove interesting not only to the expert, but even to the general reader. The volume, in fact, constitutes a handbook for the study of Oriental religions as far as represented by the Sacred Books of the East. By saving the student of these volumes an immense amount of time, it will greatly lighten his labours. The methodical arrangement and the co-ordination of the vast and varied material that they contain are also calculated to stimulate both the historical investigation of each, and the comparative study of all of the religious systems dealt with in the series. Hence if I were asked to select any one of the fifty volumes of the Sacred Books of the East as specially useful, I should certainly choose the last. The Delegates are to be congratulated on rounding off with so valuable an addition a series that reflects so much lustre on the University Press, and has contributed not a little towards establishing its now unrivalled position as a centre of Oriental publication.
A. A. MACDONELL.