Editions of the Pali Canon
- For criticism see Criticism of Editions of the Pali Canon
List of editions
There seem to be no proper bibliographies available, so this list has been patched together from a mixture of reliable sources, unreliable sources and original research. It is probably roughly correct as far as it goes, but there may well be other editions. The codes in square brackets are invented here for ease of reference.
For the purposes of the classification here, a title counts only if it appears prominently in the actual volumes (usually at the top of the ttile page; a number of editions listed here have photos available (linked) from which front cover titles can be easily verified).
Editions of the Canon with overall titles identifying them as such:
- [SRT]: Syāmaraṭṭhassa Tepiṭakaṃ [Tepiṭaka of the Kingdom of Siam], 45 volumes, Thai script, without tone markers
- [1st edition], Mahāmakuṭarājavidyālaya [Mahamongkut Royal University], Bangkok, 1925–1928. Hinüber describes it as the 1893/4 edition (see below) reset and completed. Examination of the title pages shows that those included in there name an original editor and a revising editor, while those omitted from it and appearing here for the first time in Siam name only one editor.
- [2nd edition]: Grönbold gives a reprint (Nachdruck) of the 1st edition, dated 1955-60, though he gives Tip- rather than Tep- in the title. Hamm says a 3rd edition (Ausgabe; he counts the 1893/4 edition as the 1st edition) started to appear in 1956 and had been completed by the time he was writing. It seems likely that these are alternative descriptions of the same edition, given the almost identical publication dates. Hamm says this edition has basically the same text as the 2nd (1st) edition, but adds many more variant readings. These differences are presumably enough for it to qualify as a new edition.
- [3rd edition], 1980
- the "Royal Thai Edition of the Pali Canon (Bangkok: Mahamakut Rajavidyalaya, 1982)" referred to in  is presumably another reprint or edition of SRT
- 1995 A picture identified by DSF as of this printing can be found at ; sample volumes of the 1st edition have the same numbers of pages as those given by DSF for this printing
- Mahamakut Buddhist University, Bangkok, 2009
- A transcript of an unspecifed Thai edition in 45 volumes is supposed to be available from BUDSIR (BUDdhist Studies Information Retrieval), Mahidol University, Thailand, both in CD-ROM and online, though neither actually seems to be accessible at present. Sampling suggests the page numbers agree with those in the 1st edition (above), but some readings are different. So this is likely to be a transcript of some edition of SRT, but it's not clear which.
- [CSP]: Chaṭṭha Saṅgīti Piṭaka [6th Council Pitaka; this council was held by all five Theravada countries in Rangoon from 1954 to 1956], 40 volumes. The Burmese government does not permit any other edition to be published; German Pali scholar Professor Dr Oskar von Hinüber describes CSP as an excellent edition. Scholars give a variety of contradictory dates of publication:
- Mendelson, says the first volume appeared in 1953 and cites a report for the year 1957/8 as saying complete sets had been distributed
- Grönbold says 1950-62
- Lang says 1954-6
- Hinüber says 1956ff
- Hamm says the 2nd edition appeared in 1958-60
- Clark says there have been at least 3 revisions
- Latin-script edition, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Yangon, 2008. Transcribed from printings mostly dated 1997-2003
- images of a set of volumes at ; may be a patchwork, not a collected printing
- : digital transcript of an unspecified printing (or parts of different ones) by Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri, India; this makes small editorial changes to the printed text
-  (click on Eng to get the page in English instead of Burmese) images (2nd edition?)
- [BTP]: Braḥ Traipiṭakapāḷi
- 110 volumes, Khmer script, with Khmer translation on facing pages, [Cambodian Royal National Library], Phnom Penh, 1931-1969. The Khmers Rouges burnt every set in the country, with only a few surviving elsewhere. After the country was "liberated" by the Vietnamese, a Buddhist centre was set up in Phnom Penh, but it was unable to find a set of the national edition until one was kindly donated by the Catholic Missionary Society.
- reprint: Buddhist Institute, Phnom Penh, 1994
- [DST]: Dayyaraṭṭhassa Saṅgītitepiṭakaṃ [Thai Kingdom Council Tepiṭaka], 45 volumes, Thai script, 1987. Picture; said to have been approved by a Thai council
- [BJT]: Buddhajayanti Tripitaka Granthamālā/Series (Sinhalese/English title pages; the word jayanti does not appear in Pali dictionaries and has several meanings in Sinhalese). Apparently lacking in coordination between editors of different volumes. The standard edition used in Sri Lanka.
- 52 volumes in 58, Sinhalese script with Sinhalese translation on facing pages, published under the patronage of (the government of) Ceylon/Sri Lanka (various wordings in different volumes), [Colombo?], 1957-1989.Picture.
- 2nd printing: Buddhist Cultural Centre, Dehiwala, 2006
- [MCT]: Mahācūḷātepiṭakaṃ, 45 volumes, Thai script, Mahācūḷālaṅkaraṇarājavidyālaya [Mahachulalongkorn Royal University], [Bangkok?], 1960-1990. According to DSF, it is based on CSP. Picture
- [MST]: Mahāsaṅgīti Tipiṭaka Buddhavasse 2500 [Great Council Tipiṭaka in Buddha Year 2500; the council ended at the beginning of 2500 in the calendar used in Burma and Ceylon, though it was still 2499 in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos], 40 volumes, Latin script, Dhamma Society Fund [sponsored by the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand], Bangkok, 2005. Text transcribed from 1st edition of CSP, but more collation; a few differences in volume divisions. Picture. DSF placed a digitization on their website, but this seems to be currently inaccessible.
Series with overall title not identifying as edition of the Canon, but in fact so:
- [NDP]: Nālandā Devanāgarī Pāli Granthamālā/Series (devanagari/English title pages), ed Bhikkhu J. Kashyap, 39 volumes in 41, devanagari script, Pali Publication Board (Government of Bihar), [Nalanda, Bihar, India?], 1957–1961. Based mainly on the 1st edition of CSP. Picture.
Series with overall title not identifying as editions of the Canon, including, but not confined to, the Canon:
- Simon Hewavitarne Bequest Pali Text Series. This includes the Catubhāṇavāra, which no one seems to include in the Canon. It seems this series does not yet include the whole Canon.
- Pali Text Society Text Series: the society was founded in 1881, and issues a series of Pali Texts, both canonical and not. All the canonical books had been issued in this series by 1965. The PTS became an official publisher itself only in the early 1970s, publishing successively from London, Oxford, Lancaster and Bristol. Before that, its books were published on its behalf by other publishers.
Collections with no overall title:
- 39 volumes, Thai script, with tone markers, c. 1893. The first printed edition of the Canon, but incomplete, probably because not all was ready by the king's jubilee, in celebration of which it was published. Picture. Reviews of this edition were published in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, new series, volume XXX, and Journal of the American Oriental Society, volume 16. The Dhamma Society Fund (see below) posted a transcript and set of images of this edition on their website, but these seem to be inaccessible at present. DSF gives title as Chulachomklao Pāḷi Tipiṭaka; however, there seems to be no overall title in the University of Saint Andrews library catalogue entries, such as , or in the picture of the title page of one volume at 
- 38 volumes, Burmese script, Haṃsavatī Press, Rangoon, c. 1900. Apparently the first complete printed edition of the Canon, it was copied from the inscriptions approved by the 5th Council. Sponsored by the British authorities
- [PCP]: Pāli Canon in Pāli (Tipiṭaka) (title given on website), Latin script, Pali Text Society, Bristol, 56 volumes; this is probably a purely bibliographical entity, not a physical one, with no indication in the actual volumes that they are part of it; perhaps as a result of this, there seems to be no accessible historical record of when it officially came into existence (about 1998?) or what changes it underwent since then and when; a selection from the PTS Text Series listed above
- The Bhumibalo series is a currently ongoing project to print and translate into Thai all Pali texts preserved in manuscripts in Thailand.
Insufficient information currently available:
- Mon script, Bangkok, 1940. Transcribed from the 1893/4 edition according to its own statement, but maybe in fact SRT regarded as completion of that.
- Burmese script, Tampadipa Time Press, 1912.
- A devanagari transcript of CSP has been published, in more volumes than the original Burmese printings, and with commentaries and subcommentaries added. The Picture of the front cover is too fuzzy to make the heading at top legible. According to DSF, the canonical volumes are numbered 1-3, 12-14, 23-7, 36-40, 47-8, 56-8, 68-9, 77-81, 87-91, 113-24. There is also said to be a Latin-script version
- There are also said to be editions in Lanna and Chiangtung scripts
- the following Bangladesh editions appear to be both transcribed from the VRI's transcript of the 6th Council text
- Dhammachai Tipiṭaka Series, Dhammachai Institute, Dhammakaya Foundation, Pathum Thani, Thailand: pilot volume appeared in 2013.
- All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress Tripiṭaka Pāḷi Series: at least one volume has appeared.
- Buddhist Congress Tipiṭaka Series: one volume mentioned in PTS 1961 edition of Aṅguttaranikāya, volume I, page xiii; is this the same as the previous?
- Of a Lao edition it seems only 3 volumes have ever been published
 lists the following:
- Pali Text Society Text Series
- Sinhalese Script Edition
- Buddha Jayanti Tripitaka Series
- Simon Hewavitarne Bequest Series
- Sripada Tripitaka Series
- Burmese Script Edition (of the so-called Sixth Council in Rangoon)
- Thai Script Edition
- Thai Royal Edition [by elimination this might be DST]
- Bhumibalo Bhikkhu Foundation Edition
- Mahachula Buddhist University Edition
- Syamaratthassa Tepitakam
- Khmer Script Edition [Microfiche]
- Devanagari Script (based on the Burmese Script Edition)
- Nalanda Devanagari Pali Series
- The Complete Chinese Pattra Buddhist Scripture [Wikipedia cites a Chinese source for this, , and says it was preserved by the "Dai people": the Wikipedia article on them and its talk page reveal a lot of confusion as to what that means]
The layout is unclear, with no typographical distinction between 2 levels of headings, but the context seems to suggest the above arrangement is what is intended. There seems no obvious way of finding any further information on the site unless you can read Japanese. It's not obvious why the last item should be supposed to be anything to do with the Pali Canon.
The most immediately obvious difference between editions of the Canon is the scripts in which they are written. Pali has no script of its own and everyone tends to write it in their own. Thus there are printed editions of the Canon in Bengali, Burmese, Chakma, Devanagari, Khmer, Latin, Mon, Sinhalese and Thai scripts.
However, just as the most important difference between Bibles is not the translations but the contents, with some books (variously called Apocrypha, Deuterocanonical books or Anagignoskomena) included in some Bibles but not others, so the most important difference between different editions of the Pali Canon is whether they include certain books. Only editions in the first list above, i.e. those actually identifying themselves as editions of the Canon, are covered here.
- The Milindapanha is included in CSP and MST but not in the other editions.
- the following books are in CSP, MST and BJT but not the other editions:
There are also some differences in the order in which books appear (see Arrangement of the Pali Canon).
In addition to the above global differences, there are numerous differences in individual books, in
- inclusion or exclusion of some material
- order of material
- division into sections
- titles and numbering of sections
- verse division
- words or spellings
- amounts of repetitions written out (no edition writes everything out)
It is interesting to note that Sri Lanka, Thailand and Cambodia, in addition to taking part in the Sixth Buddhist Council, which approved an edition of the Canon, also have their own editions. They seem to accept that there can be more than one valid version. This might be considered in the light of an incident mentioned in the Canon itself. A monk named Purana was away at the time of the First Council. On his return he was informed of it and replied:
Your reverences, well chanted by the elders are dhamma and discipline, but in that way that I heard it in the Lord's presence, that I received it in his presence, in that same way will I bear it in mind.
A number of scholars have made statements about the texts of various editions. These sometimes contradict each other. Thus
- In the foreword to his 1961 revision of the Pali Text Society's edition of Anguttaranikaya, volume 1, Professor Warder says the Siamese edition is more accurate than the PTS one, but gives fewer variant readings. In 1963 he made the same statement about the Canon as a whole. Presumably this refers to SRT, but it is not clear whether he is referring to the 1st or the 2nd edition.
- A 1962 paper by Frank-Richard Hamm gives a detailed comparative review of NDP, the 2nd editions of CSP and SRT (comparing that also with the 1st edition), and a transcript of part of BTP. He carries out a detailed comparison of one sutta each from the Digha and Majjhima nikayas, but phrases his conclusions with reference to the whole Canon:
- CSP has the best text
- SRT is almost as useful because it has more variant readings
- NDP has even more variants, but also even more misprints
- the Burmese and Thai editions represent only their own national traditions
- SRT and BTP are nearly identical
- Bollée disagrees on CSP, considering it eclectic Bollée also says, in his edition and translation of the Kunalajataka, that BTP usually, though not always, agrees with SRT.
- A recent paper also judges CSP as eclectic, except in its adoption of Burmese spellings, based on a study of part of the Apadana
- In terms of text, according to Professor von Hinüber, the Thai edition is intermediate between the Sinhalese and Burmese editions.
- According to Dr Wynne, in general, the Southeast Asian editions are close to each other, and further from the Sinhalese and Western editions, which are fairly close to each other.
- N.A. Jayawickrama, preparing a new edition of the Vimanavatthu for the Pali Text Society, says that SRT virtually copied this book from the old PTS edition.
The following parallel table of contents of three editions can be verified by direct inspection of the scans linked.
- The Canon itself of course was composed long before the concept of copyright developed, and any copyright that might be deemed retrospectively by legal fiction to have subsisted in it has long since expired.
- However, editing the Canon, that is comparing different sources to decide the "correct" reading and writing footnotes on others, is a skilled operation, and copyright subsists in the result.
- Burma/Myanmar has never signed any international copyright treaties, so Burmese editions are automatically in the public domain everywhere else in the world.
- BJT seems to have been released into the public domain
- For other editions it's necessary to examine the complexities of copyright law in the country of original publication and that of the proposed copying, in relation to the original date of publication and those of the editors' deaths; if the editors' identities are in practice undiscoverable, then only the date of publication is relevant
- There is also a copyright, at least in some jurisdictions, in typographical arrangement. The work of choosing typefaces, determining page layouts etc. is itself skilled work rewarded by copyright. This would block photographic reproduction of editions whose plain text may be in the public domain. This might apply to MST, for example.
- Finally, the digital jiggery-pokery involved in electronic transcripts is also skilled work in which copyright can subsist. In general, copying electronic files violates copyright. Note, however, that it's only copying the file that does so. If you simply use the file to display text on your computer and then do a text-only copy, you aren't violating the copyright in the digitization.
Notes and references
- René Lingat, Bibliographie bouddhique, Paris, 1930, page 8
- Journal of the Siam Society, volume 71, page 75
- Hinüber, loc cit, mentions this, and Skilling (Mahāsūtras I, Pali Text Society, lv) and Clark (PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2015, page 68) call it 3rd
- Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies, volume IV, 2013, page 135, note 5
- Heinz Bechert, Buddhismus, Staat und Gesellschaft in den Ländern des Theravāda-Buddhismus, Alfred Metzner, Frankfurt/Berlin, volume 1, 1966, page 105
- Pratidanam (Kuiper Festschrift), Mouton, The Hague/Paris, 1968, page 497
- Handbook of Pali Literature, de Gruyter, Berlin, 1996, pages 3f
- Sangha and State in Burma, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 1975, pages 281f
- a later book than that listed below, cited by Clark in Journal of Burma Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1 (2015), page 99
- in Routledge Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2007, page 585
- in Brill's Encyclopedia of Buddhism, volume I, 2015, page 18
- Journal of Burma Studies, Volume 19, Number 1, June 2015, page 99
- Bulletin of Chuo Academic Research Institute, no. 45 (Nov. 2016), page 237
- Grönbold; DSF spells the first word, which is an honorific, Phra, which is the Thai spelling
- Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies, volume IV, 2013, page 135, note 10
- DSF; date appears on front cover in picture, confirming for that volume
- , page 16
- The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom Publications/Pali Text Society, 2012, page 1691, note 747
- Journal of Burma Studies, volume 19, number 1, June 2015, page 102, note 52
- according to picture caption supplied by DSF
- The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom Publications, 2012, notes 533, 584, 1338
- Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies, volume IV, 2013, page 135, note 8
- DSF, Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies, volume IV, 2013, page 135, note 6
- picture caption
- Masahiro Kitsudo, Pali Texts Printed in Sri lanka in Sinhalese Characters, PTS, 2015, pages 5f
- Chris Clark, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2015, page 82, note 45
- some sources say 1893, others 1893/4; Hamm gives both in different places
- Clark (Journal of Burma Sudies, op cit, page 87) cites Grönbold as giving dates of late 19th to early 20th century; it is said elsewhere (Twentieth Century Impressions of Burma, London, 1910, cited in the publisher's 1965 catalogue, in turn cited by Bollée (“Some lesser-known Burmese inscriptions”, in Pratidānam (Kuiper Festschrift), ed Heesterman, Mouton, Paris / The Hague, 1968, page 497)
- Grönbold, page 12; also stated on title pages
- Smith, Religion and Politics in Burma, page 69
- Indo-Iranian Journal, volume 11, page 311
- Grönbold, page 12
- , page 17
- , page 17
- Itivuttaka translation, Pali Text Society, 2000, page xi
- In the original printed edition. The digital transcript removes them to a separate section but keeps their BJT headings.
- Book of the Discipline, Pali Text Society, Volume V, page 402
- page xi
- Introduction to Pali, 1963, PTS, page 382
- see below
- Pratidanam (Kuiper Festschrift), Mouton, The Hague/Paris, 1968, page 496
- Pali Text Society, 1970
- Journal of Burma Studies, volume 19, number 1, June 2015, pages 79-112
- Journal of the Siam Society, volume 71, pages 75f
- Thai International Journal of Buddhist Studies, volume IV (2013), page 136
- page vii
- Grönbold, Günter, Der Buddhistische Kanon: eine Bibliographie, Otto Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1984
- Hamm, Frank-Richard, "Zu einigen neueren Ausgaben des Pāli-Tipiṭaka", Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 112 (neue Folge, Band 37), 1962, pages 353-378; translated as "On some recent editions of the Pāli Tipiṭaka", in German Scholars on India: Contributions to Indian Studies, ed Cultural Department of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, New Delhi, volume I, pub Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, Varanasi, 1973, pages 123-135
- DSF: Dhamma Society Fund; useful information about various editions, though that about editions other than their own is not always reliable