Dec 21, 2009

World's Largest Book - Kuthodaw Pagoda

The world's largest book stands upright, set in stone, in the grounds of the Kuthodaw (literally - royal merit) pagoda at the foot of Mandalay Hill in Mandalay, Myanmar (Burma). It has 730 leaves and 1460 pages; each page is three and a half feet wide, five feet tall and five inches thick. Each stone tablet has its own roof and precious gem on top in a small cave-like structure of Sinhalese relic casket type called kyauksa gu (stone inscription cave in Burmese), and they are arranged around a central golden pagoda.

Royal merit

The pagoda itself was built as part of the traditional foundations of the new royal city which also included a pitakat taik or library for religious scriptures, but King Mindon wanted to leave a great work of merit for posterity meant to last five millennia after the Gautama Buddha who lived around 500 BC. When the British invaded southern Burma in the mid nineteenth century, Mindon Min was concerned that Buddhist dhamma (teachings) would also be detrimentally affected in the North where he reigned. As well as organizing the Fifth Buddhist Synod in 1871, he was responsible for the construction in Mandalay of the world's largest book, consisting of 729 large marble tablets with the Tipitaka Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism inscribed on them in gold. One more was added to record how it all came about, making it 730 stone inscriptions in total.

The marble was quarried from Zagyin Hill 32 miles north of Mandalay, and transported by river to the city. Work began on 14 October 1860 in a large shed near Mandalay Palace. The text had been meticulously edited by tiers of senior monks and lay officials consulting the Tipitaka (literally - the three baskets, namely Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka) kept in royal libraries in the form of peisa or palm leaf manuscripts. Scribes carefully copied the text on marble for stonemasons. Each stone has 80 to 100 lines of inscription on each side in round Burmese script, chiselled out and originally filled in with gold ink. It took a scribe three days to copy both the obverse and the reverse sides, and a stonemason could finish up to 16 lines a day. All the stones were completed and open to the public on 4 May 1868.

Assembly and contents

The stones are arranged in neat rows within three enclosures, 42 in the innermost, 168 in the middle and 519 in the outermost enclosure. The caves are numbered starting from the west going clockwise (let ya yit) forming complete rings as follows:

Cave number
1 - 42
Vinaya Pitaka
middle near
43 - 110
middle far
111 - 210
111 Vinaya, Abhidhamma Pitaka 112 - 210
outer nearest
211 -309
outermost perimeter
310 - 465
Abhidhamma 310 - 319, Sutta Pitaka 320 - 417, Samyutta Nikaya 418 - 465
outermost next in
466 - 603
Samyutta 466 - 482, Anguttara Nikaya 483 - 560, Khuddaka Nikaya 561 - 603
outermost near
604 - 729

Thirty years later in 1900, a print copy of the text came out in a set of 38 volumes in Royal Octavo size of about 400 pages each in great primer type of letters. The publisher, Philip H. Ripley of Hanthawaddy Press, claimed that his books were "true copies of the Pitaka inscribed on stones by King Mindon". Ripley was a Burmese born Armenian brought up in the royal court of Mandalay by the king and went to school with the royal princes including Thibaw Min, the last king of Burma. At the age of 17 he fled to Rangoon when palace intrigues and a royal massacre broke out after the death of King Mindon, and he did have the galley proofs checked against the stones.




The world's biggest-ever book has been launched in the US - but it is not for bedtime reading.

The book weighs 60 kilograms (133 pounds) and the pages are two metres wide (seven foot).

Michael Hawley, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the author of the 122-page book about the Asian country of Bhutan.

The limited edition book is on sale for $10,000, with profits going to the charity he founded, Friendly Planet.
The charity builds schools in Cambodia and Bhutan.

Guinness World Records has certified Mr Hawley's work as the biggest book published. Five hundred copies have been produced.

Picture display

The book, Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Kingdom measures 1.5 metres by two metres (five-by-seven feet). It is photographic account of a journey across the kingdom of Bhutan.
Mr Hawley has led a number of students to expeditions to Cambodia and Bhutan and thought he could raise money for education there by putting together some of the pictures he had gathered.
He said he had not set out to make the world's largest book, but he discovered, while playing around with a digital printer, how spectacular large digital images can look, especially Bhutan which is a country full of colour in its everyday life.

"What I really wanted was a 5-by-7-foot chunk of wall that would let me change the picture every day," he said.

"And I thought there was an old-fashioned mechanism that might work. It's called the book."

But he said people should not think of it as a book but as "a gigantic picture gallery where you can change the picture every day".
He said it was not a bedtime book as it could flatten the reader if it fell over.
Despite the hefty price tag, Mr Hawley said he had already received two dozen orders of the book.



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