November 29, 2012

General Geography in Brief for the Whole World

Published in 1843 with the support of many private donors, General Geography in Brief for the Whole World is a reworking in Bulgarian of Samuel Goodrich’s American textbook, Peter Parley's Method of Telling about Geography to Children, but from the Greek translation produced by American missionaries rather than the original English. Other Greek-language geography texts also inspired aspects of this work, notably William Channing Woodbridge’s Rudiments of Geography (1835), which was translated into Greek by missionaries at about the same time as Goodrich’s text. When American Protestant missionaries began working in the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century, they focused initially as much on general as on religious education. Missionary-produced grammars, arithmetic texts, and geographies thus were commonplace in Bulgaria, which was then under Ottoman rule. This translation was completed by Konstantin Fotinov, a Bulgarian educator closely associated with the American missionaries, who founded a school in Smyrna (present-day Turkey) based on the Lancastrian teaching methods of the English education innovator Joseph Lancaster (1778–1838). Fotinov’s translation was well received in Bulgaria, not only for its easy-to-read content, but also because it was the first illustrated geography book for children in Bulgarian. The publishing house of the Greek A. Damian, which produced the book, mainly issued works sponsored by missionaries.

The Marvelous Address: The Revelation of the Beloved (Disciple)

This 18th-century manuscript is a copy of a commentary on the Book of Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse of Saint John), a work by the 18th century writer Yūsuf al-Bānī entitled The Marvelous Address: The Revelation of the Beloved (Disciple). The text is Garshuni (Arabic in Syriac script), and very clearly written, but the title is also written in Arabic script at the beginning of the book. There are also notes in Arabic script, for example, at the bottom of page 3 and in the margin of page 4. There is an indication that the book was once owned by the monastery at Dayr Kfifan, Lebanon. A printed edition of the book was published in Beirut in 1870.

Commentary to ‘Abd Al-Ghanī Al-Nābulusī's Kifāyat al-ghulām

This late 19th-century manuscript, dated AH 1294 (AD 1877), contains a commentary on Kifāyat al-ghulām (The youth’s sufficiency), one of the many works of ‘Abd al-Ghanī ibn Ismā‘īl al-Nābulusī (1641–1731). ‘Abd Al-Ghanī was a Syrian mystic, theologian, poet, and traveler, and his writings in both poetry and prose reflect his many interests and activities. He spent seven years studying the writings of the Sufi mystics on their spiritual experiences. He also journeyed extensively throughout the Islamic world, to Istanbul, Lebanon, Jerusalem, Palestine, Egypt, Arabia, and Tripoli. The codex is written in a regular Naskh hand, the calligraphic style most used for Arabic from the Middle Ages to current times. Some staining has occurred at the beginning of the manuscript, but the text is still easily readable.

Bulgarian Grammar

Notable as the first Bulgarian grammar, this book is also culturally significant because of the role that its author, Neofit Rilski (1793–1881), played in the promotion of secular education in Bulgaria and in the establishment of a modern Bulgarian literary language. Neofit, a priest associated with the Rila Monastery, was a leading figure in the 19th-century Bulgarian National Revival and its concomitant education reform. He was the first headmaster of the Gabrovo School, the first secular school in Bulgaria. In the midst of a national debate in the 1830s–1840s about choosing among competing dialects and creating a standard literary language, Neofit published his landmark grammar and its philological preface, in which he presented his ideas on the standardization of Bulgarian. Even though his work was grammatically conservative—it included, for example, declension, a feature long dead in the spoken language—it laid the foundation for codifying the new literary language and was enormously influential in the development of modern Bulgarian.

Something for the Unlearned

Most famous for being the father of Bulgarian revolutionary Khristo Botev, Botio Petkov (1815–69) was an accomplished educator and writer in his own right. Among his students were the luminaries Ivan Vazov and Nikola Nachov. Born in the town of Karlovo, Petkov himself studied with a famous teacher, Raino Popovich. Petkov wrote for the early Bulgarian newspaper Tsarigradski vestnik (Constantinople Herald), and published several translations into Bulgarian from Russian, including this book. Petkov completed this translation while he was a seminary student in Odessa, a city in Russia (present-day Ukraine) with a large colony of Bulgarians living outside the confines of the Ottoman Empire. This 1843 booklet is a Protestant religious tract, one of the earliest such items to be published by American missionaries in Bulgaria. The publisher, the press of A. Damian in Smyrna (in present-day Turkey), mainly produced religious works such as this.

Universal Geography for Children

Geography textbooks were very popular as basic education tools during the 19th-century National Revival in Bulgaria. Between 1824 and 1878, some 43 different titles or editions of this genre were published. Universal Geography for Children by Ivan Bogorov, or Bogoev (1818–92), appeared early in this tradition. Bogorov’s book was a translation from the Russian of a work, also entitled Universal Geography, by Vasilii Bardovskii (1804–74), a teacher of geography at a gymnasium in St. Petersburg and the author of several popular Russian geography textbooks. Bogorov’s Mathematical Geography, published separately in 1842 and also a translation from Bardovskii, constitutes part three of the expanded edition of Universal Geography presented here. Universal Geography for Children is thus the third geography text published in Bulgarian, the first being a work by Neofit Bozveli (with language closer to Church Slavic than Bogorov’s), and the second the separately issued Mathematical Geography. Bogorov was a famous Bulgarian journalist and the founder of the first two Bulgarian newspapers.