General Index to the Sacred Books of the East, by Moriz Winternitz, , at sacred-texts.com
p. x p. xi
Habent sua fata libelli—not only after they have been published, but sometimes even before they are printed. It was in the spring of 1894 that the late Professor Max Müller first suggested to me that I should compile a General Index of the names and subject-matter for the complete series of the Sacred Books of the East. Such an Index, he thought, would be a great help to all students of the Sacred Books of the East, and of the greatest value for the study of the history of religions. The matter was frequently discussed between us, and we both agreed that if the Index was to be of any use it would have to be, not a bare list of names and important words, with strings of references which no one would have the patience to read through, but an analytical Index with extracts and even verbal quotations, from which the student, with the least possible trouble, might see to which volume and page he had to refer for any information he might want. It was many weeks before the plan took any definite shape: in June, 1894, I laid my proposal of preparing the Index before the Delegates of the University Press, who were from the beginning favourably inclined to it. But as I had to work out a specimen from which the scale and the plan of the Index could be seen more definitely, it was not until March, 1895, that the Delegates could give their final sanction to the work.
Though some of the volumes of the series were still unpublished in 1895—vol. xliv appeared in 1900, and vol. xlviii not until 1904—it was then thought possible to finish the Index volume within two years. When I set to work, and began reading through volume after volume, making notes and extracts for the Index, I certainly hoped that Professor Max Müller would live to see it finished. But, alas, Fate had destined otherwise. Only too soon I found that I had entirely miscalculated the time and labour involved in
the compilation of the Index. By the spring of 1898 I had indeed read, and made extracts from, all the volumes that had been published; I had written some 70,000 slips, and these had been sorted and arranged alphabetically. But in 1898 I left Oxford to return to my own country and to a new sphere of work, and the preparation of the Index had to be interrupted for nearly two years. When I took it up again in 1900 I soon found that the huge mass of slips before me represented only the raw material from which the building had to be constructed.
From the beginning it had been clear to me—and this was also Professor Max Miller's view—that this Index volume could not be made like any other Index, but must resemble a Manual of the History of Eastern Religions. For it would have been of little use to collect, under such headings as Ancestor Worship, Animals, Brahman, Buddha, Fire, Funeral Rites, Future Life, God, Gods, Prayer, Sacrifice, Soul, &c., all the passages bearing on these subjects as they occur in the volumes of the Sacred Books of the East. It was necessary to make sub-divisions in such articles, and to arrange the passages under different sub-headings. It was this work of arranging and condensing the raw material that caused so much delay. Many slips had to be rewritten, and the volumes of the Sacred Books had constantly to be referred to, and numerous passages to be verified.
These sub-divisions and sub-headings required most careful consideration. It was not possible to make them according to one uniform scheme; they had to be chosen in each case differently as seemed most suitable for practical purposes. Sometimes it was advisable to make them according to the different religions, sometimes according to the subject-matter. Consistency could not be aimed at—the chief aim was practical usefulness. Sometimes it seemed more practical to arrange the passages under several sub-headings, sometimes it seemed preferable to collect them under one heading, indicating subdivision by dashes (—). But it is hardly necessary to enumerate all the devices by which the compiler has tried to make the Index as handy as possible. The reader will
easily find them out for himself. There was a time when German scholars scouted the idea of writing or using an Index to learned books. It was thought unworthy of a scholar to look to an Index for reference: he had to read the whole book and all the books on any given subject. But nowadays even German scholars have found out that life is short, and not only art, but in an even greater degree, science is getting very long. It has become impossible to get on without some time-saving machinery. To make this Index supply as far as possible a contrivance of such a kind has been the one and constant aim of the compiler.
Verbal quotations have been given—they are marked as such by the use of italics—from passages that seemed especially characteristic and important. That the Index should also include such verbal quotations, was one of the very first suggestions made by Professor Max Muller.
The compiler of an Index to forty-nine volumes of translations from seven different languages, belonging to as many religions, had to grapple with peculiar difficulties. He had not only to make himself acquainted with the terminologies of the different religions represented in the Sacred Books of the East, but also to take into account the different translations of the same terms by different translators, sometimes also different spellings of the same names in different volumes. I have tried, as far as was practicable, to collect all things belonging together under one heading, but I must apologize for any inconsistencies that will be found, especially under the letter A. There, e. g. 'Ahura-Mazda' and 'Aûharmazd' are given as two separate articles, while later on in such cases all the passages would have been collected under one heading. While apologizing for such and other inconsistencies (which could only have been avoided if the whole manuscript of the Index had been rewritten and its publication delayed still longer), I hope to have given so many cross-references that these inconsistencies will not be felt as any serious inconvenience.
When I venture to claim for this volume the title of a sort of Manual of the History of Eastern Religions, I hope I may not be misunderstood. Many books on the History and
[paragraph continues] Science of Religion have been written during the last twenty years. But most of these books are more concerned with theories on the origin and development of religion than with what, in my humble opinion, should be the foundation of all such theories—a scientific classification of religious phenomena. Is it too presumptuous to hope that this Index may prove to be of some help for the fulfilment of this desideratum of the Science of Religion? The Index may prove useful, not only for what it contains, but also for what it does not contain. The student of religion will look in vain in this Index for such terms as Animism, Fetishism, Tabu, Totemism, and the like. May not this be a useful warning that these terms refer only to the theories and not to the facts of religion? On the other hand, the student will be assured that everything he finds in this Index is a religious fact. Moreover, many things will be found in the Index that, from our point of view, do not refer to religion at all, but to all kinds of matters of importance for the Antiquarian—the student of ancient law, customs, manners, art, and economic life. For there is hardly any phase of human life that is not in some way or other touched upon in the Sacred Books of the East—for the simple reason that in ancient religion almost anything and everything has some religious aspect. This is in itself an important lesson to learn. Besides, it shows how useful the Index, and of course still more the Sacred Books themselves, must be for all students of the ancient civilizations of India, Persia, China, and Arabia. And if the Index should do nothing else but help to promote the study of the Sacred Books of the East, the time and labour devoted to its compilation will not be thrown away.
In conclusion. I have to express my sincere thanks to the Delegates of the University Press for the sacrifices incurred in the publication of this volume, and for the patience they have shown with the many delays that have retarded the completion of the work.