A revision of Dr. Wade’s rules for the transliteration of foreign terms into Karen. (Presentation copy)
Rangoon : American Mission Press, C. Bennett, 1875. Octavo, original printed green wrappers (lightly foxed), stitch bound, a presentation copy inscribed by the author in pencil on the upper wrapper ‘M.S. Rice Esq., from C.H. Carpenter’; pp 24; text in English and S’gaw Karen script; internally very clean; a near fine inscribed copy.
A rare late nineteenth century linguistic pamphlet on Karen, the language spoken by the Sgaw Karen ethnic group in the regions then known as eastern Burma and northern and western Siam. Its author, the American missionary C.H. Carpenter, was a teacher at the Rangoon Baptist College.
‘Rev. C. H. Carpenter was born in 1835, and was a graduate of Harvard University and the Newton Theological Institution. He received his appointment July 1, 1862, and sailed the following October for Burmah. On reaching Rangoon the following May, Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter found a home in the family of Dr. Binney, whose assistant he was to be in the management of the theological seminary. At once his warmest sympathies were enlisted for the Karens, of whom he says, “If there is a people anywhere eager to learn, it is the Karens. They come down to Kemendine sometimes hundreds of miles, on foot, not to make money, but to study. I wish you could see Dr. Binneys’ 62 bare-footed, bare-legged students of theology.’ [From William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; reprint, 1988, p. 184]
Carpenter’s arcane linguistic study on foreign terms in Karen left the reviewer in The Indian Evangelical Review, volume II, no. VII, January 1875, somewhat mistified: ‘Finally from Burma comes a little pamphlet entitled A Revision of Dr. Wade’s Rules for the Transliteration of Foreign Terms into Karen. We have no doubt at all that Dr. Wade’s Rules were as good as they could be to begin with, and that this Revision makes them a great deal better. Unfortunately we are unable to judge of their correctness, and fear that the little pamphlet will not circulate very widely throughout lndia.’
The reviewer’s closing judgement was correct: OCLC locates only 2 copies (Harvard – Carpenter’s alma mater – and the British Library).