Studies in Oriental History and Philology


Mélanges d'histoire et de philologie orientale (Studies in oriental history and philology), published in Paris around 1854, is a celebratory volume honoring the 60-year career of French Orientalist Étienne Marc Quatremère (1782‒1857). The volume includes Quatremère’s essays on the Phoenicians, the Biblical Ophir, King Darius of Persia and King Balthasar of Babylon, and Arab science, as well as studies of Jerusalem and the Jordan River. The essays reflect the author’s erudition and his wide-ranging interests in the ancient and modern Near East, its history and languages, Biblical studies, and textual translation and analysis. Quatremère was born in Paris into a well-off merchant family. His father was killed in the Revolutionary terror of 1793‒94 when the boy was 12 years old. His mother rebuilt the family business and Étienne received a thorough classical education. He both studied and taught Semitic and Persian languages and also learned Turkish and Coptic. His work on Egyptian hieroglyphics in some ways paralleled that of Jean-François Champollion (1790‒1832), in what has been considered an academic rivalry between the two men. The recipient of numerous awards and prestigious appointments, Quatremère seldom left his home and never traveled to the regions of the world that he studied with such passion. Indeed, he was something of a recluse who was criticized by some for an excessive commitment to his work. Upon his death, he left a library of over 40,000 volumes, including 1,200 manuscripts, which was acquired by King Maximilian II of Bavaria. The first essay in Mélanges d'histoire et de philologie orientale deals with “the taste for books among the peoples of the East.” In it Quatremère marks the difference between book study and book display. The book also includes a biographical essay about Quatremère by Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire (1805‒95), a journalist and politician best known for his philosophical writings. The Library of Congress copy presented here has an ink stamp in Japanese: Minami Manshū Tetsudō Kabushiki Kaisha Tōa Keizai Chōsakyoku zōsho no in (Seal of collection at the South Manchuria Railway Company, East Asia Economic Research Bureau). During World War II, the South Manchuria Railway Company engaged in extensive intelligence gathering and operational activities on behalf of the Japanese Imperial Army, including efforts to agitate Muslims against Chinese and Russian rule. Most likely the book was confiscated by the U.S. armed forces at the end of the war and subsequently transferred to the Library of Congress.

Last updated: March 17, 2016