English Texts Home Page
Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories
An English translation of this famous collection of Jātaka stories, including one not found in the Pāli collection (with an embedded reading of the text).
J S Speyer
(first published 1895)
Html Table of Contents
Preface to the Electronic Edition
The text that follows is substantially a transcription of the translation of Jatakamālā made by J. S. Speyer and published originally in 1895 under the title Garland of Birth Stories. In preparing this edition I have made some small changes, mainly in presentation, so as to make the text more readable, which I will outline here.
These include splitting paragraphs which were very long in the original publication; removing opening quotation marks from each new paragraph when the speech is continued (an old practice now largely abandoned); reformatting for clarity, especially in regard to distinguishing between verse and prose; changing Roman numerals to the more familiar Arabic; and exchanging the written “&c.” with “and so on”, which is how I have read it in the audio recordings which accompany this text.
I have also occasionally corrected spelling mistakes found in the text, though there were very few of these; I have taken some words into the footnotes, mainly where the Sanskrit had been included in brackets; and conversely brought matter back into the text from the footnotes, when it was originally part of the text.
While reading the text in for the audio recordings it became clear that the punctuation in the original printing was sometimes quite misleading, and in the later stories I started to correct this, but I have not been as consistent as I would have liked to be.
The page numbers from the text (which is reproduced from Motilal Banarsidass’ 1990 edition) have been entered in square brackets for reference purposes.
On the whole I think that Speyer has made a good and readable translation, but there are occasions where there are misinterpretations that will be obvious to anyone reading from a Buddhist perspective today, especially the frequent references to the Self, an interpretation which is unwarranted by the grammar or by the doctrine.
If I had more time I would like to undertake a fresh translation, or at least a revision of the present translation, but at present such a task is beyond me owing to the demands that other work places upon me, but maybe it can be accomplished at a later date.
All the stories have been read in and are being made available as audio files (mp3s), either from the html page on which the story occurs, or via the Audio page.
last updated: January 2010