SCHROETER, Frederic Christian Gotthelf (1786-1820); MARSHMAN, John Clark & CAREY, William (eds.)
A Dictionary of the Bhotanta or Boutan language. Printed from a manuscript copy made by the late Rev. Frederic Christian Gotthelf Schroeter. Edited by John Marshman. To which is prefixed a grammar of the Bhotanta language. Edited by W. Carey.
Serampore: s.n., 1826. Quarto, contemporary full calf (boards a trifle scuffed), spine in gilt-ruled compartments with contrasting leather title label lettered in gilt, front pastedown with bookplate of John Lawson, original endpapers, pp , -iii, [1 blank], - 35, [1 blank], -6, -268, 267-475, [1 blank]; endpapers and title with light foxing, first and last few leaves with some damp staining to bottom corners; a very good copy.
The first Tibetan-English dictionary. From the library of Swedish antiquarian bookdealer Björn Löwendahl (1941-2013).
Born in Saxony, the missionary Frederic Christian Gotthelf Schroeter (1786-1820) joined the Church Missionary Society in London in 1813 and was soon posted to India, where he arrived in 1815. After several months in Calcutta spent acquiring proficiency in the Bengali language, Schroeter’s linguistic talents were recognised and he was appointed to the British military post at Titaliya in the Purnea district near Nepal and Sikkim, where, in receipt of a Government salary, his brief was to facilitate the translation of the scriptures into the Tibetan language by producing a grammar and Tibetan-English dictionary.
Schroeter commenced his work at Titaliya in September 1816. In a letter of March 20 1819 addressed to the Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, Schroeter wrote: ‘Here I am … in full pursuit of the first rudiments of a language with which Europeans have been hitherto very little acquainted; and I trust that, with the blessing of God, I may be enabled to furnish some materials, to facilitate to others the acquisition of this language; so that finally the Word of Life go forth in this tongue also.’
Schroeter relied heavily on the Alphabetum Tibetanum of Agostino Antonio Giorgi (1711-1797), and his dictionary was essentially to be a translation of the Tibetan-Italian dictionary of Francesco Orazio Della Penna (1680-1745). Schroeter’s death in July 1820, at the age of thirty-four, left both his dictionary and grammar unfinished. Through the editorship of fellow missionaries John Clark Marshman and William Carey, however, Schroeter’s manuscripts were largely completed and finally published in 1826 at the Baptist mission press in Serampore, near Calcutta. In his preface, William Carey states:
‘It is highly probable that the following Dictionary was written by some of the Roman Catholic missionaries who formerly laboured in Thibet. A copy of it was in the possession of the late Major Latter, which was copied by the late Rev. Mr. Schroeter, a missionary belonging to the Church Missionary Society. Mr. Schroeter was placed at Tentaliya, a military post in Poornea, and received a salary from the Government. On his demise his Manuscripts were submitted to the inspection of the editor, and at his recommendation, the printing of the whole was sanctioned by Government, and the expense supported by a generous subscription. The Dictionary was originally written in Italian, and has been partly translated into English by Mr. Marshman […]. The Grammar is very short, and deficient in some important points; but it is all that Mr. Schroeter had written.’
Löwendahl, China illustrata nova, Supplement, 1715; Cordier, Bibliotheca Sinica, 4, col. 2929
Further reading: John Bray, Missionaries, officials and the making of the 1826 Dictionary of the Bhotanta, or Boutan Language, in Zentralasiatische Studien 37, 2008, pp. 33-75.