The Vikramacarita is one of the most famous story-books in Sanskrit. Its hero, king Vikrama, is without doubt one of the most noted of the quasi-historical heroes of medieval India. The theme of the work is the story of how a marvellous throne belonging to Vikrama was discovered by a much later king named Bhojem to whom were related the thirty-two stories contained in the book, each story being told by one of the thirty-two divine statues which supported the throne. All the stories deal with the wonderful character and deeds of Vikrama – a model for kings to follow. The theme most constantly harped upon is his amazing generosity and unselfishness, which knew no bounds, not stopping even at the sacrifice of his own life.
The work goes by a great variety of names in the manuscript, such as Vikaramarkacarita, Vikaramadityacarita, Simhasanadvatrim-sika, Simhasanakatha, Simhasanadvatrimasatkatha, Simhasanopakhyana etc., the name Vikramacarita being the simplest and shortest that occurs.
In spite the great popularity of this story-book it has been comparatively neglected by European scholars. It was for the first time translated into English by Edgerton and published in two parts (Part-1: Translation and Part-2: Text in Roman script) in the Harvard Oriental Series in 1926. This is a reprint of that edition.
It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge the generous aid given by many persons to the author in the course of his labors on these volumes.
In the first place, it was necessary to borrow. a considerable number of manuscripts, located in many parts of Europe and India. With scarcely an exception, the owners or custodians of these manuscripts have shown themselves most ready to accommodate the author and facilitate his work. The manuscripts in the possession of the Royal Library of Berlin were collated in that Library, and the manuscript of the University of Tubingen at Tubingen. Professor Garbe of Tubingen afforded me a friendly service in securing to me all the facilities of the library of his university. The Royal Library of Copenhagen and the Library of the University of Leipzig lent their manuscripts to the Royal Library of Berlin, and it was in the last-named library that I collated them.
All the other manuscripts which I used were lent to me in America, either directly or thru the Library of the Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore. I am indebted to the Library of the University of Vienna for the loan of two manuscripts, in securing which Professor von Schroeder gave me kindly aid. I am also very grateful to Professor Winternitz of Prague, who informed me of the existence of these manusscripts in Vienna. - The Department of Education of the Government of India forwarded me several manuscripts, and made generous tho unavailing efforts to secure a number of others. The Government of Madras had copies made of several manuscripts located in its jurisdiction. The Government of Bombay sent to me a consignment of fourteen manuscripts, all of which were lost in the wreck of the steamship Titanic, in April, 1912. This terrible disaster deprived me of materials which would unquestionably have proved a great enrichment of the sources at my disposal for the edition; yet I cannot but recognize that my personal loss is small in comparison with the permanent loss of this large collection of manuscripts, which belonged to one of the most enlightened and generous of the local governments of India. I can only express my deep sorrow at having been the innocent occasion of such a loss, which was, of course, wholly beyond the power of any mortal to foresee or prevent. Yad bhavyam tad bhavisyati.
The India Office Library of London entrusted to my care all of the manuscripts of the Vikramacarita in its possession. Its librarian, Dr. Frederick W. Thomas, did much more for me than is ordinarily expected of a custodian of books and manuscripts. It was thru his intercession that I obtained the loan of all the manuscripts which came from India. With genuine and wholly disinterested courtesy, he has spared neither time nor trouble in assisting me in my work. My thanks are due to him in as large a measure as to anyone. I hereby acknowledge his audaryam paropakaram ca (to use an oft- recurring phrase of this work). with gratitude and pleasure. Professor Johannes Hertel has shown a very kindly interest in the development of my work. He has furnisht me with some valuable hints as to method, based on his own large experience in work of this sort, and has given me several bits of useful information, which I have incorporated in my book.
The Library of the Johns Hopkins University has helpt me by receiving for my use a large number of loaned manuscripts. Its librarian, Dr. M. L. Raney, has assisted me in every possible way, and has given no small amount of his time and attention to my affairs. I have been materially assisted in "reading back copy" for the Sanskrit text contained in the book by two associates in the Sanskrit department of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. William Norman Brown and Dr. Henry S. Gehman.
The editor of this series, Professor Charles R. Lanman, has made me his debtor in many ways, - not only by affording me the coveted op- portunity to publish my work in the Harvard Oriental Series (thus insuring at the start a wide hearing at least), but also by sacrificing large amounts of his time, in spite of many other demands upon it, to the task of increasing the usefulness of the publication. That his suggestions have been most valuable and fruitful needs not to be told to the world of Sanskrit scholars; for they know his sound and accurate scholarship so well that any words of mine would seem out of place. I shall always remain in the highest degree grateful for his self-sacrificing interest in the success of my undertaking.
Good Hindu scholars like to begin their works with the phrase " Homage to my honored teacher" - crigurave namah. This sentiment must, I think, be felt with deep sincerity by anyone who has had the privilege of working under and with Professor Maurice Bloom- field. That privilege was mine for seven years; and it was during the latter part of those years that I did the most of the work on this present publication. Aside from Professor Bloomfield's indirect influence on this book thru his influence upon me, - he has also given me generous help towards the interpretation of a number of difficult passages in the text. For this, and still more for the lasting effect of his stimulating and inspiring guidance, I am deeply grateful.
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