When ancient languages meet

Glossarium sanscritum title page

Title page of Bopp's Glossarium sanscritum (2nd edition)

There was a time, not so long ago, when scholars used Latin instead of modern languages to write their philosophical, botanical, medical or philological studies. For one work, it was also the case of Franz Bopp, the famous German linguist who did so much for the study of Sanskrit in Europe, in the beginning of 19th century—the pioneers’ age.

Franz Bopp

Franz Bopp (1791-1867)

Bopp studied Sanskrit in Paris with Antoine-Léonard Chézy (who occupied, in Collège de France, the first European chair of Sanskrit) and Louis-Mathieu Langlès (librarian, conservator of the oriental manuscripts at the Bibliothèque Nationale). After publications about Sanskrit verbs and grammar, Bopp gained the chair of Sanskrit at Berlin (1821) and started the compilation of his Glossarium sanscritum. First published in 18301, this dictionary had been added cognate languages like Greek, Latin, German and Lithuanian in the following reeditions (1847 and 1868-71).

My library owns the original edition; for my part, I found last year in Manhattan, Kensas, a copy of the second edition2 which seems to have belonged to the English philologist John William Donaldson (1811-1861).

John W. Donaldson's signature

John William Donaldson's signature?

While this second edition represents a precise scholarship work rich in cross-references, it is, materially, an exquisite masterpiece of typography printed on high-quality rag paper. And the binding!—half binding with corners and raised bands, dark purple shagreen and marbled paper on boards… If stored in good conditions, this delicacy will live for 500 years more. Will there still be someone mastering Latin and interested in Sanskrit learning?

Some 1500 years and 8000 km separate Amarasiṃha, the composer of the famous Amarakośa glossary, and the first Sanskrit courses Franz Bopp took in Paris in 1812. Thus, nothing is impossible, even the meeting of Sanskrit and Latin in the same book…

The verb diś

Definition of verb diś, 'to show'

  1. Glossarium sanscritum a Francisco Bopp, Berolini, ex Officina academica, 1830, apud Ferdinandum Dümmler.
  2. Glossarium sanscritum in quo omnes radices et vocabula usitatissima explicantur et cum vocabulis graecis, latinis, germanicis, lithuanicis, slavicis, celticis comparantur a Francisco Bopp, Berolini, prostat in Libraria Dümmleriana, 1847, ex Officina academica.