Archive for the ‘scholarship’ Tag

Franz Rosenthal on Hans Heinrich Schaeder   3 comments

Hinrich Biesterfeldt, ed. “Franz Rosenthal’s Half an Autobiography.” Die Welt des Islams 54 (2014): 34-105.

I’m now reading the hot-off-the-press memoir of Franz Rosenthal, edited by Hinrich Biesterfeldt. I highly recommend it for reasons of interest academic and historical. Here, as only a taste, are some remarks on his teacher Hans Heinrich Schaeder, with whom Rosenthal studied in Berlin.

My principal mentor and shaykh was Hans Heinrich Schaeder, then at the peak of his mental and physical powers, a conscientious and wonderfully inspiring teacher. His official field was Iranian, and I studied Middle Persian and Islamic Persian with him. Initially, he repaired the damage done me by an earlier course in Syriac that was taught by someone incompetent to teach the language. He showed me how to approach Muslim historical texts, how to reconstruct an Oriental religion, Manichaeism, from fragments transmitted in Arabic, and how to use the tools of scholarship properly. Above all, he was the living example of the need for, and the methods of looking at, the large historical picture without ever neglecting the details offered by the sources. He set the subject of my doctoral dissertation for which he prepared my way by his previous instruction in Aramaic. [p. 54]

I’m very happy that this document has appeared, and thanks are due to the editor and the publisher. As far as I’m concerned, one can never have too much personalia to read.

On readers/chrestomathies: what’s the best kind of arrangement?   10 comments

I have spoken here before of my love of chrestomathies, with which especially earlier decades and centuries were perhaps fuller than more recent times. (I don’t know how old the word “chrestomathia” and its forms in different languages is, but the earliest use in English that the OED gives is only from 1832. We may note that, at least in English, the word has been extended to refer not only to books useful for learning another language, but simply to a collection of passages by a specific author, as in A Mencken Chrestomathy.) Chrestomathies may — and I really do not know — strike hardcore adherents to the latest and greatest advice of foreign language pedagogy as quaint and sorely outdated, my own view is that readers along these lines — text selections, vocabulary, more or less notes on points of grammar — can be of palpable value to students of less commonly taught languages, especially for those studying without regular recourse to a teacher. Since I’m talking about reading texts, I have in mind mainly written language and the preparation of students for reading, but that does not, of course, exclude speaking and hearing: those activities are just not the focus.

I have gone through seventy-one chrestomathies from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries in several languages (Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, Georgian, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Old English, Middle English, Middle High German, Latin, Greek, Akkadian, Sumerian, Ugaritic, Aramaic dialects, &c.). The data (not absolutely complete) is available in this file: chrestomathy_data. By far the commonest arrangement is to have all the texts of the chrestomathy together, with or without grammatical or historical annotations, and then the glossary separately, and in alphabetical order, at the end of the book (or in another volume). Notable exceptions to this rule are some volumes in Brill’s old Semitic Study Series, Clyde Pharr’s Aeneid reader, and the JACT’s Greek Anthology, which contain a more or less comprehensive running vocabulary either on the page (the last two) or separately from the text (the Brill series). Some chrestomathies have no notes or vocabulary. These can be useful for languages that have hard-to-access texts editions or when the editor wants to include hitherto unpublished texts, but the addition of lexical and grammatical helps would even in those cases add definite value to the work for students.

In addition to these printed chrestomathies, there are some similar electronic publications, such as those at Early Indo-European Online from The University of Texas at Austin, which give a few reading texts for a number of IE languages: the texts are broken down into lines, each word is immediately glossed, and an ET is supplied, with a full separate glossary for each language.

From a Greek reader I have been putting together off and on.

From a Greek reader I have been putting together off and on.

Over the years, I have made chrestomathy texts in various languages, either for myself or for other students, and more are in the works. (Most are unpublished, but here is one for an Arabic text from a few years ago.) I have used different formats for text, notes, and vocabulary, and I’m still not decided on what the best arrangement is.

This little post is not a full disquisition on the subject of chrestomathies. I just want to pose a question about the vocabulary items supplied to a given text in a chrestomathy: should defined words be in the form of a running vocabulary, perhaps on the page facing the text or directly below the text, or should all of the vocabulary be gathered together at the end like a conventional glossary or lexicon? What do you think, dear and learned readers?

Documentary on the Encyclopaedia Iranica and Prof. Yarshater   Leave a comment

A friend of mine shared this documentary from BBC Persian on Prof. Ehsan Yarshater (b. 1920) and the amazing work of the Encyclopaedia Iranica (online here). It’s in Persian, but English subtitles are available. Knowing the background and looking behind the scenes of major research projects such as this — or the CAD, for another example, volumes of which, like the Encyclopaedia Iranica, have also for some time been freely available online  — is not an opportunity to be missed even by those remotely interested in whatever field the project concerns. In this case, the field is the full breadth of Persian history, languages, literatures, and connections with cultures across a long time period. We can be very grateful that the Encyclopaedia is freely accessible online, rather than hidden behind extortionate tomes in perhaps too distant libraries to multitudes of would-be readers, so interested researchers of all kinds have an ever fruitful resource at their fingertips. But even more than on the Encyclopaedia itself, we get to hear firsthand from a hard-working and experienced scholar. Yarshater mentions his studies many years ago with W.B. Henning and Mary Boyce. I always enjoy seeing scholars’ workspaces, and we have that here, too. We hear him using Persian proverbs and reciting some lines of poetry. In his voice and memories we see an inspiring gentleman. These twenty-five minutes, then, will make for worthy time to anyone interested in Persian culture and intellectual biography.

Gallery of scholars   Leave a comment

I’ve just published a gallery of scholars (also available at the top of the page) who have worked in the fields of the languages and literature of eastern Christianity. I’ve not listed scholars who are still living. I’m sure I’ve failed to include some people who should be here, so if you have any suggestions for additions, please let me know. Also, I could find no photograph of Georg Graf, and I would be grateful to anyone who will point me to one.

Islamkundliche Untersuchungen online   Leave a comment

Since this blog’s inception there has been in the list of links one to digital editions of ZDMG, etc. In the same collection there are now 196 title of the series Islamkundliche Untersuchungen (h/t Sabine Schmidtke), a series covering a range of studies historical, literary, textual, linguistic, and social in the Middle East, and despite its title, the series is not strictly confined to Islamica. Every reader will have his or her own favorites or titles of interest, but as a sampling of the long list of books from this series freely available, here are a few of my own, with direct links:

Galen: “Über die Anatomie der Nerven” : Originalschrift und alexandrinisches Kompendium in arabischer Überlieferung / Ahmad M. Al-Dubayan

The stories of the Prophets by Ibn Muṭarrif al-Ṭarafī / ed. with an introd. and notes by Roberto Tottoli

Studien zum ältesten alchemistischen Schrifttum : auf der Grundlage zweier erstmals edierter arabischer Hermetica / Ingolf Vereno

Die Kritik der Prosa bei den Arabern : (vom 3./9. Jahrhundert bis zum Ende des 5./11. Jahrhunderts) / Mahmoud Darabseh

Über die Steine : das 14. Kapitel aus dem “Kitāb al-Muršid” des Muḥammad Ibn Aḥmad at-Tamīmī, nach dem Pariser Manuskript herausgegeben, übersetzt und kommentiert / Jutta Schönfeld

Die Entstehung und Entwicklung der osmanisch-türkischen Paläographie und Diplomatik : mit einer Bibliographie / Valery Stojanow

Ibn ar-Rāhibs Leben und Werk : ein koptisch-arabischer Enzyklopädist des 7./13. Jahrhunderts / Adel Y. Sidarus

Der Orientalist Johann Gottfried Wetzstein als preussischer Konsul in Damaskus (1849 – 1861) : dargestellt nach seinen hinterlassenen Papieren / Ingeborg Huhn

Das Verhältnis von Poesie und Prosa in der arabischen Literaturtheorie des Mittelalters / Ziyad al-Ramadan az-Zuʿbī

Mädchennamen – verrätselt : 100 Rätsel-Epigramme aus d. adab-Werk Alf ǧāriya wa-ǧāriya (7./13. Jh.) / Jürgen W. Weil

Der arabische Dialekt von Mekka : Abriß der Grammatik mit Texten und Glossar / Giselher Schreiber

Das Kitāb ar-rauḍ al-ʿāṭir des Ibn-Aiyūb : Damaszener Biographien des 10./16. Jahrhunderts, Beschreibung und Edition / Ahmet Halil Güneş

Studien zur Grammatik des Osmanisch-Türkischen : unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Vulgärosmanisch-Türkischen / von Erich Prokosch

Arabic literary works as a source of documentation for technical terms of the material culture / Dionisius A. Agius

Kritische Untersuchungen zum Diwan des Kumait b. Zaid / Kathrin Müller

Athanasius von Qūṣ Qilādat at-taḥrīr fī ʿilm at-tafsīr : eine koptische Grammatik in arabischer Sprache aus dem 13./14. Jh. / von Gertrud Bauer

Erziehung und Bildung im Schahname von Firdousi : eine Studie zur Geschichte der Erziehung im alten Iran / von Dariusch Bayat-Sarmadi

Happy reading.

Cataloging grants   2 comments

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) announces grants available for cataloging work in its eastern Christian collections in Arabic/Garšūnī, Armenian, Old Church Slavonic, and Syriac. These grants are funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Many of these collections are greatly understudied and catalogers thus have prime opportunities for new and further research, as well as the satisfaction of making a contribution to our knowledge of the literature and of manuscript traditions. The grants support full-time cataloging work for periods of one to six months, and are renewable. The work may be done anywhere; residence at HMML is not expected. Catalogers will be expected to prepare text-level records for, ideally, 75 manuscripts per month (with these numbers adjusted for genres with multiple texts per manuscript, such as hagiography and homilies). A sample record may be viewed here. A brief report summarizing completed work (numbers, notable finds, etc.) will be sent twice a month to HMML’s lead cataloger of eastern Christian manuscripts, Adam McCollum. Completed records will be submitted on a monthly basis. The grants offer a stipend of $2500/month, with the added benefit of copies of two digitized manuscripts from HMML’s collections each month at no cost, which may be used for personal research. Those who wish to apply for a cataloging grant may send their CV and a cover letter to Adam McCollum (, to whom also any informal enquiries may be sent.

APIB 27, p. 19

APIB 27, p. 19

CFMM 420, p. 15

CFMM 420, p. 15

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (1880-1964)   2 comments

I came across this morning a short article by Herbert Pierrepont Houghton on Georgian nouns. I’d known his name from The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect and from this bookplate, which is affixed to the inside front cover of Chaine’s Grammaire éthiopienne (Beirut, 1907), now part of HMML’s collection.

Houghton's bookplate

Houghton’s bookplate

From 1923-1950, Houghton taught in the classics department at Carleton College, which is only about 120 miles from where I write these lines. According to a brief mention on Carleton’s website, he first studied at Amherst College before earning his doctorate in 1907 from Johns Hopkins. At Carleton, he taught Greek, but also linguistics — a subject not taught nearly as much then as now — Old English, and Sanskrit. As will be seen from his publications (vide infra), however, these were hardly the full extent of his interests. Incidentally, we may note his attention to and appreciation of typography and book design, when we consider the preface to the second edition of his work on the Amharic verb: “This new edition is printed in Garamond type on India eggshell paper… The cover is purposely of a roseate hue resembling one of the shades used in the flag of Ethiopia, the country of which Amharic is the official language.”

His signature in HMML's copy of Chaine, Grammaire éthiopienne.

His signature in HMML’s copy of Chaine, Grammaire éthiopienne.

As I have said before (here, for example), tactile, or even visual-digital, reminders of our forebears can bring a kind of intellectual pleasure, a sign that we, too, participate in their kind of communio sanctorum, and that is one reason why personalia can be so meaningful (to a small group of people, admittedly!).

Transliteration (Houghton's?) in Grammaire éthiopienne

Transliteration (Houghton’s?) in Grammaire éthiopienne

Here are a few of Houghton’s works, listed in chronological order. NB: some of the books (in italics) are very short.

The Moral Significance of Animals as Indicated in Greek Proverbs (Amherst: Carpenter and Morehouse, 1915).

“Saving Greek in the College”. The Classical Weekly 10.9 (Dec. 11, 1916): 65-67.

“Review of The Sanskrit Indeclinables of the Hindu Grammarians and Lexicographers by Isidore Dyen”. The Classical Weekly 34.8 (Dec. 9, 1940): 88-89.

“Languages of the Caucasus: Georgian Noun Formation and Declension”. The Classical Weekly 36.19 (Mar. 29, 1943): 219-223.

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (from the Carleton website)

Herbert Pierrepont Houghton (from the Carleton website)

“Review of Verbs of Movement and Their Variants in the Critical Edition of the Ädiparvan by E. D. Kulkarni”. The Classical Weekly 37.6 (Nov. 15, 1943): 68-69.

Languages of the Caucasus: Two Studies (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1946).

Aspects of the Amharic Verb in Comparison with Ethiopic. 2d ed.. (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1949).

“Gildersleeve on the First Nemean”. The Classical Journal 49 (1954): 215-220.

“The Coptic Infinitive”. Aegyptus 35 (1955): 275-291.

“The Seventh Nemean”. The Classical Journal 50 (1955): 173-178.

The Basque verb,: Guipuzcoan Dialect (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1944). Cf. The Verb in Guipuzcoan Basque (Charlottesville, Va., 1956).

“Coptic Substantive Relationship”.  Aegyptus 36 (1956): 153-177.

“The Coptic Sentence”. Aegyptus 37 (1957): 226-242.

“The Coptic Apocalypse”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 40-91.

“The Coptic Apocalypse, part III, Akhmîmice: «The Apocalypse of Elias»”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 179-210.

The Coptic Verb, Bohairic Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959). Originally (Northfield, Minn.: Mohn, 1948), online at HathiTrust.

“A Study of the Coptic Prefixed Prepositional Particles”. Aegyptus 39 (1959): 211-222.

An Introduction to the Basque Language, Labourdin Dialect (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1961).

“The Akhmîmic Dialect of Coptic, with a brief Glossary”. Aegyptus 42 (1962): 3-26.

“The Coptic Gospel of Thomas”. Aegyptus 43 (1963): 107-140.

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