How to preserve these works? The great problem that confronts all lovers of Bengali literature is how to make this important find easily accessible to the public. Unless this is done, no research by individual writers can be put to a scientific test by the scrutiny of the literary critics. It is true that some of these old works have been printed at Baṭtalā, and the late Rāmnārāyaṇa Vidyāratna of Berhampur, with the munificent donation of a lakh of Rupees from the late Mahārājā Bīr Chandra Mānikya of Tipperah, published a number of Sanskrit and Bengali works of the Vaiṣṇavas. The Sãhitya Parisats of Calcutta and Rangpur have also published some old poems with notes. But I am of the opinion that the time for editing old books which the Parisats and other literary bodies have taken upon themselves to accomplish, has not yet arrived. A very large number of these books still lie unpublished. When these are collated and carefully studied, it will then be safe and proper to edit individual works. All premature attempts to edit a book when sufficient materials bearing upon it have not been examined, is sure to lead to wrong conclusions. So I once suggested that instead of wasting time and money on editing individual books which necessarily retard the progress of the publication of the whole, the MSS. already secured by the Sãhitya Parisat of Calcutta might be at first rapidly published; so that in two or three years we might actually possess a considerable number of published old books; and when this result was achieved, experts might be employed to edit or annotate important individual works. But my suggestion was not accepted. The number of old Bengali works already printed at Baṭtala and elsewhere is considerable; but by far the greater number of books, some of which are valuable and important are still, as I have said, lying in the shape of MSS. exposed to the risk of being ultimately lost.
The importance of publishing these MSS. was greatly felt by Mr. Rabīndranāth Tagore, who about four years ago, in consultation with his nephew, Mr. Gaganendranāth Tagore, proposed that a lakh of Rupees should be raised by subscription from a few enlightened zemindars of this province, provided the compiler of the present work could undertake the sole charge of printing and publishing them. The Vice-Chancellor approached.
Owing to ill-health, I declined to undertake this huge task, and Mr. Rabindranāth Tagore sought the opinion of Sir Asutosh Mookerjee as to whether the University of Calcutta could undertake to do so. The Vice-Chancellor, whose zeal in the cause of the vernacular language is well-known, at once realised the importance of the matter, but for the present he thought it better to have ‘Typical Selections from the Old Bengali Literature’ compiled on a somewhat large scale, than try to bring out the whole mass of old writing, which would