Curator's note: not recorded in the List of Curios. A detailed description of this set can be found in 'Buddhist Tales of Kashmir in Tibetan Woodcuts, Narthang series of the woodcuts of Ksemendra's Avadana-Kalpalata, Edited by Dr. Mrs. Sharda Rani, Sata-pitaka Series, Indo-Asian Literatures Volume 132, New Delhi, 1977. Reference courtesy of Mr Tashi Tsering, Director Amnye Machen Institute, Dharamsala.
Bell noted in his book, Tibet: Past and Present that following a visit to the Panchen Lama's metal workshops during his visit to Shigatse in 1906, that on, 'Another day I went over the monastery with its printing establishment at Na-tang, seven miles out of Shigatse, along the road to Sakya. Thirty-three monks are employed in the printing establishment, which is said to be the largest in Tibet. The letters are carved on heavy rectangular blocks of wood, which are arranged on high racks in the rooms assigned to them, and numbered alphabetically. The printing is done rapidly. Three monks work together, one taking the impression, another handing the paper, and the third looking after the blocks'.
Alexandra David Neel, the early 20th century French explorer, who travelled across Tibet disguised as a Tibetan recalls in her book, "Mystery and Magic in Tibet", 'I went on to Narthang to visit the largest of the printing establishments in Tibet. The number of engraved wooden plates used for the printing of the various religious books was prodigious. Set up on shelves, in rows, they filled a huge building. The printers, splattered with ink up to their elbows, sat upon the floor as they worked, while in other rooms monks cut the paper according to the size required for each kind of book. There was no haste; chatting and drinking of buttered tea went on freely. What a contrast to the fevered agitation in our newspaper printing-rooms'.
Written by Emma Martin