Abel-Rémusat, Jean-Pierre (1788-1832)
[MANUSCRIPT] Vocabularium Sinico-Latinum, characteres circiter 1700 explicatos praebens. Kalendis VIIis, CIƆ’IƆCCCX
[Paris], 1810. Unpublished manuscript in the hand of Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat. Quarto (230 x 180 mm), original card covers, spine with small printed paper label bearing the Sir Thomas Phillipps Collection number 7382; pp 51, , [11 index of Latin words], followed by several pages of Abel-Rémusat’s notes; clean and legible throughout; housed in a clam shell box of crushed red morocco over cloth, spine in compartments with gilt ornament and lettering.
An important Chinese-Latin dictionary in manuscript, prepared by the renowned French sinologist Abel-Rémusat (1788-1832) at the outset of his academic career. It pre-dates his first published work, Essai sur la Langue et la Litterature Chinoise (Paris, 1811), and was possibly preparatory to his Plan d’un dictionnaire chinois (1814).
The present manuscript appeared as number 1623 in the auction catalogue produced for the sale of Abel-Rémusat’s library following his death in 1832, Catalogue des livres, imprimés et manuscrits, composant la bibliothèque de feu M. J.-P. Abel-Rémusat, Professeur de langue et de littérature chinoise et tartare mandchoue au College royal de France, Membre de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, Président de la Société asiatique de Paris, etc. (Paris : J.-S. Merlin, 1833), where it is described as “Ms. de la main de M. Abel-Rémusat.”
The manuscript was acquired – either at the sale of the Rémusat’s library in 1833 or shortly afterwards – by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), and thus became part of one the greatest private collection of manuscripts ever assembled. It is recorded as number 7382 in Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca D. Thomæ Phillipps, Bart. (1837).
Having abandoned his medical degree in Paris in favour of the study of the Chinese language, Abel-Rémusat devoted five years to teaching himself how to read it. By 1813 he had acquired such mastery of the language that he was able to publish Essai sur la langue et la littérature chinoise. In November 1814 a chair in Chinese was created for him at the Collège de France, a significant event which marks the birth of academic sinology. His Élémens de la grammaire chinoise (1822) is regarded as the first scientifically rigorous exposition of the Chinese language in the West. Before his untimely death from cholera in 1832, Rémusat served as editor of the Journal des savants (from 1818), founded the Société asiatique (1822), and completed a number of important translations, which included one of the first Chinese novels published in Europe, lu-kiao-li, ou Les deux cousines : roman chinois (1826).