Filip Vezdin's Contribution To Indic Studies In Europe At The Turn Of The 18th Century

Branko Franolic


      Filip Vezdin was an Indologist of Croatian nationality. He was born in 1748 in Hof (Croatian name Cimov) in Lower Austria, son of Jurje and Helena Bregunic. In the register of births, marriages and deaths his surname is spelt 'Vesdin'; Wesdin and Weszdin are also found; and he was sometimes incorrectly called Werdin or Weredin 1 He was educated in Sopronj in Burgenland, and Linz, where he took holy orders (a Discalced Carmelite) and the name Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo. After that he studied in Prague, then subsequently he studied oriental languages in Rome. In 1774 he was sent to Malabar as a missionary and became vicar-general on the Malabar Coast (1776-1789). He returned to Rome in 1789 and was seven years Professor of Oriental Languages at the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide. In 1798, under pressure from the French military authorities, he was forced to move to Vienna. After a period in Vienna from 1798 to 1800, he returned to Italy and became prefect of studies at the Propaganda in Rome, where he remained until his death on January 7th, 1806.

     On his return from India, Vezdin published several works relating to that country. His first work was published in Rome under the title: Sidharubam2 seu Grammatica Samscrdamica, cui accedit Dissertatio historicocritica in Linguam Samscrdamicam, Auctore Fr. Paulino a S. Bartholomaeo. Romae MDCCXC. (Sidharubam or Sanskrit Grammar Preceded by a Historical Critical Discussion of the Sanskrit Language, written by Fr. Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo. Rome 1790.) pp. 188, in 4°. It is the first grammar of Sanskrit printed in Europe "in which the true condition, origin, excellence, antiquity, wide distribution and originality of that language are shown, certain books written in it are critically reviewed, and at the same time several very old tribal liturgical sermons are briefly described and explained" (from the title page). "The first Sanskrit grammars printed in Europe did not come from the English Indic scholars of Calcutta; rather they are the work of Sancto Bartholomaeo printed in Rome in 1790 and 1804." (R. Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance, Columbia Univ. Press, New York 1984, p. 32). "The first systematic attempt to impart a more extended acquaintance with Sanskrit to European students, was the publication by Paulinus a Bartholomaeo, a German [sic!] missionary of the name of Wesdin, of a short and imperfect grammar of the language, to which he gave the title of 'Siddharubam, seu Grammatica Samscrdamica,' Rome 1790." (H.H. Wilson, A Notice of European Grammars and Lexicons of the Sanskrit Language, Proceedings of the Philological Society, Vol. 1, No. 3, Jan. 27, 1843, p. 16).3

     Prior to this there had been only handwritten grammars by missionaries, of which the most important was compiled by the German missionary, Hanxleden. Vezdin's opponents claimed that he had merely printed Hanxleden's grammar. Vezdin himself lists Hanxleden in the references, but in the paper De codicibus indicis manuseriptis R.P. Joannis Ernesti Hanxleden Epistola (On the Manuscript Indian Codices of Johann Ernest Hanxleden, Vienna 1799), where he sets out Hanxleden's bibliography in greater detail, he denies drawing up his grammar according to Hanxleden's: their affinity, Paulinus says, stems from the fact that both grammars were written on the basis of the same Indian philological works. Vezdin brought back Hanxleden's manuscript Sanskrit grammar to Rome and made use of part of it: he pronounced him the best Sanskrit scholar of his time.

     "The Jesuit Hanxleden, a resident at the Malabar mission from 1699 until his death in 1732, may have been the first European to write, in Latin, a Sanskrit grammar for his own use and to attempt a dictionary. (It is likely that Roth, who died at Agra in 1668, had compiled a Sanskrit grammar before Hanxleden: it has never been found, although it could perhaps be recovered in the Vatican archives). Hanxleden appended to his work some Christian poetry composed in Sanskrit by catechumens. The material remained in manuscript but was useful to Sancto Bartholomaeo." (R. Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance, 1984, p. 32).

     In the discussion of Sanskrit Paulinus supplies illustrative extracts from various Indian languages and dialects comprising passages of Indian verse and their Latin translation. One example is given here in English: "Knowledge is so infinite that it cannot be acquired in a small number of years, and so one must separate out and gather together what is essential and what is better, just as a swan, when swimming in the water, separates out and drinks the better and more excellent water. " "Power, good counsel, the expansion of territory, an abundance of fortresses or towns and military strength, a real friend, and good mutual understanding with neighbouring kingdoms - these are the seven true supports of a kingdom." In 1791 Vezdin had his second work published entitled Systema Brahmanicum Liturgicum, Mythologicum, Civile, ex Monumentis indicis Musei Borgiani Velitris Dissertationibus historico-criticis illustravit Fr. Paulinus a S. Bartholomaeo, Carmelita discalceatus. Romae 1791. (The Brahmanic Liturgical, Mythological and Civil System, According to the Indian Monuments of the Borgia Museum in Velletri, Explained in Historic Critical Discourses by Fr. Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo, Discalced Carmelite, in Rome 1791.) XII, pp. 326, in -4°. Many consider the Systema Vezdin's most important work. He reconstructs and interprets the religious and civil organization in Brahmanic India, adding a list of the manuscript works he used: primarily the dictionary of Sanskrit, "Amarasinha" (the first part of which, "De Caelo", he published in 1798 in Rome)4, then the epic poems "Magha"5, "Bhagavadam", "Ramayanam" and "Yudhisdira", the book on the origin of the world and the universe, "Sambhavan" or "Puranam", and some other works. Vezdin divided the Systema into three groups: the Liturgy (the rendering of sacrifices, the cult of Lingam, the phallus of the god Shiva, penitence and feasts, and the Creation myth); the Mythology (Indian gods and the worship of animals, the links between Indian and other religions); and the Civil System (castes, their relation to fields of activity, and Indian money).

     This work was rendered into German by Johann Reinhold Forster and published in Gotha in 1797 under the title: Darstellung der brahmanischindischen Gotterlehre, Religionsgebrauche und burgerlichen Verfassung. Nach dem lateinischen Werke des Vater Paullinus a St. Bartholomaeo bearbeitet. Mit dreissig Kupfertafeln. Gotha 1797. (An Account of the Brahmanic-Indian Teachings on Gods, Religious Customs and the Civil System, Adapted from the Latin Work by Fr. Paullinus a St. Bartholomaeo. With thirty copper plates. Gotha 1797.) in - 4°. In the foreword Forster explains why he had to adapt the work: Paulinus's Latin original was so obscurely written that it was difficult to understand. Forster illustrates this point, slightly ridiculing the author.

     Vezdin's works enjoyed great popularity and were translated into many languages. Vezdin's translators were usually his opponents, or else the irascible missionary made them his opponents with his caustic remarks. Both Systema and Sidharubam were published in German in the Abhandlungen uber die Geschichte, Wissenschaften und Literatur Asiens, Band 4, Riga, 1797, 485 pp. Johan Friedrich Kleuker supplied comments on some sections of Vezdin's Sidharubam.

     In 1791 the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide published Vezdin's study of Indian alphabets: Alphabeta Indica, id est Grenthamicum seu Samscrdamico-Malabaricum, Indostanum sive Vanarense, Nagaricum vulgare et Talinganicum. Romae 1791. (Indian Alphabets, that is, the Grantha or Sanskrit-Malabar, Hindustani or Varanasi, Vulgar Nagari and Telegu Alphabets. Rome 1791.) in -8°, 24 pp.

     On pages 8-11 of Alphabeta Indica (Praecipua Indiae Orientalis Alphabeta inter se collata), the main alphabets of Eastern India are mutually compared in a synoptic table. Grantha, which appeared in India about the 5th century AD, is a literary script of the south Dravidian, variety used by Tamil Brahmans. "Indostanum" and "Nagaricum" are variants of the script more usually known as Devanagari, which developed from a variety of Gupta script through Siddhamatrika, and is the most widespread script for Sanskrit. However, the Propaganda Fide used Dravidian Grantha (which appears in the Congregatio's booklet published in 1772). "Talinganicum" is also Dravidian, having developed out of the early Grantha script, but adapted to writing on palm leaves. The more usual term for the language written in this script today is Telegu, spoken principally in the state of Andhra Pradesh. It is the most widely spoken of the four major Dravidian languages of Southern India. In the same year, 1791, another of Vezdin's works appeared, Centum Adagia Malabarica cum textu originali et versione Latina: nunc primum in lucem edita a Paulino a Sancto Bartholomaeo. Romae 1791, 12 p., in -4°.

     In the following year Vezdin's Examen Historico-criticum Codicum Indicorum Bibliothecae Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, Romae 1792, 80 p., in -4° was published in Rome.

     In 1793 the Propaganda published Vezdin's critical analysis of the Indian codices kept in the Borgia Museum in Velletri: Musei Borgiani Velitris codices Avenses, Peguani, Siamica Malabarici, Indostani animadversionibus historico-criticis castigati et illustrate Accedunt Monumenta inedita, et Cosmogonia Indico-Tibetana, Romae 1793, 266 p., in -4°. The work was dedicated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia, founder of the Borgia Museum in Velletri. In his pamphlet Lettera su' Monumenti Indici del Museo Borgiano illustrati dal Padre Paulino di S. Bartolomeo, 1793, 25 p. in -4°, Count della Torre di Rezzonico criticised Vezdin for having neglected the influence of Scythian civilization on the Brahmanic system of mythology and claimed that Indian temples were of Scythian origin. Vezdin promptly responded in his Scitismo sviluppato in riposta alla Lettera del Signor Conte C. della Torre di Rezzonico su' Monumenti Indici del Museo Borgiano di Velletri (Rome, 1793, 24 p. in -4°), rejecting the theory of the Scythian origin of Indian civilization.

     Both pamphlets were addressed to Cardinal Stefano Borgia (1731-1804) who as a secretary of the Propaganda Fide had founded the museum in Velletri which had a vast collection of oriental, especially Coptic and Kufic manuscripts. It acquired an international reputation and attracted many scholars, among them the Danes Georg Zoega, Jakob Adler, Nils Show and Friedrich Munter. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited the museum in 1787. Shortly after S. Borgia's death in Lyon, 23 November 1804, Vezdin wrote a biography of the Cardinal's life: Vitae synopsis S. Borgiae S.R.E. Cardinalis, 2 plates, Romae, 1805, 75 p., in -4°. In 1794 Vezdin published: India Orientalis Christiana, continens Fundationes ecclesiarum, Seriem episcoporum, Missiones, Schismata, Perscutiones, Reges, Viros illustres. Auctore P. Paulino a S. Bartholomaeo, Romae 1794. (Christian Eastern India, Containing the Founding of the Churches, the Sequence of Bishops, Missions, Schisms, Persecutions, Kings, Illustrious People. Written by Fr. Paulinus a St. Bartholomaeo, Rome 1794.) XXIII, 280 pp., in -4°.

     This work, on the first page of which there is an engraving representing Vezdin, is a survey of the history of Christianity in India, accompanied by a geographic map of the Malabar Coast. One of Paulinus's predecessors, the sixth bishop in the Mogul empire, had been Innocentius a S. Leopoldo, a Discalced Carmelite himself, "ex illustri de Kollonitz familia", i.e. from the aristocratic Kolonic family, whose origins were in Croatia and who died in Malabar in 1735 (cf. p. 54).

     In 1795 Antonio Fulgoni published Vezdin's polemical work De Veteribus Indis dissertatio, in qua cavillationes auctoris Alphabeti Tibetani (A.A. Giorgi) castigantur. Romae, 1795. (Dissertation on Old Indians in which are censured the sophistries of the author [A.A. Giorgi] of the Tibetan Alphabet) 54 p., in -4°. The following year Antonio Fulgoni published Vezdin's most popular work Viaggio alle Indie Orientali, umiliato alla Santita di N.S. Papa Pio Sesto Pontefice Massimo, da Fra Paolino da S. Bartolomeo, Carmelito scalzo. Roma 1796. (A Voyage to Eastern India, Submitted to the Holiness of Our Holy Father Pope Pius the Sixth, the Supreme Pontiff, by Fr. Paulinus a St. Bartholomaeo, Discalced Carmelite. Rome 1796.) XX, 404 pp., in -4°, with 12 copper plates.

     "As these various works of Fr Paulinus are sought after, on occasions people have paid quite a lot for them," says J.-C. Brunet in his "Manuel de Libraire' (Paris, 1863). Viaggio was Vezdin's most popular work and it was translated into many languages, German being the first (1798 and 1815): Des Fra Paolino da S.B. Reise nach Ostindien, mit Anmerkungen von J.R. Forster. (Forster also adapted Systema). Vezdin says of this translation that it is "mutilated ( ...) distorted." It was translated, together with the notes, from German into English by William Johnston (A Voyage to the East Indies: containing an Account of the Manners, Customs ... of the Natives, With a Geographical Description of the Country. Collected from Observations made ... between 1776 and 1789 ... With notes and illustrations by J.R. Forster ... Translated from the German by W. Johnston, pp. XII 478. Vernor and Hood, London, 1800, in -8°).

     Johann Reinhold Forster, the German translator who was a Professor of Natural History in the University of Halle, says in his Preface: "It is the more valuable, as the author understood the Tamulic or common Malabar language; and, what is of more importance, was so well acquainted with the Samscred, (a language exceedingly difficult,) as to be able to write a Grammar of it. It appears from some of his quotations, that he understood also the English and French. His knowledge of the Indian languages has enabled him to rectify our orthography, in regard to the names of countries, cities, mountains and rivers. The first European travelers who visited India were, for the most part, merchants, soldiers, or sailors; very few of them were men of learning, or had enjoyed the advantage of a liberal education. These people wrote down the names of places merely as they struck their ear, and for that reason different names have been given to the same place in books of travels, maps and military journals. To this may be added, that the authors were sometimes Dutch, sometimes French, and sometimes English; consequently each followed a different orthography, which has rendered the confusion still greater. The author of the present work thought it of importance to correct these errors; a task for which he seems to have been well qualified by his knowledge of the Indian dialects. Thus, for example, he changes the common, but improper, appellation Coromandel into Ciolamandala, Pondichery into Puduceri, etc; but the Reader ought to remember, that, as the author wrote in Italian, his c before e and i must be pronounced tch, etc. As the changed orthography of the names of countries, cities and rivers, rendered a Geographical Index in some measure necessary, one has been added at the end of the work. Readers acquainted with the tedious labour required to form such a nomenclature, and who may have occasion to use it, will, no doubt, thank the translator for his trouble." The first page of Viaggio has a portrait of the author. The text begins: "L'aimable Nannette, a French ship under the command of M. Berteaud, sailed to anchorage off Puduceri on the 25th of July 1776. The arduous sea journey lasting six months and six days had unsettled our hearts and made fast our desires to the land. Our eyes were fixed on the coastal beach. No one talked of anything other than disembarking as soon as possible, when the dusk, which is exceptionally brief in India, rendered our desires futile and with a dark veil night covered land and sea." Puduceri is Pondichery, a town under French administration. At that time the governor of the town was Law de Lauriston, who had been born there. Vezdin spoke well of him, as a reasonable and moderate man.6 On pages 327-328 of Viaggio Vezdin recorded Altro Canto in Lingua malabarica (Another song in the Malabar language). Viaggio is not merely a travelogue but also a compendium of geographic and historico-cultural information about the India that our missionary had got to know. The song in glory of Krishna, is accompanied by notes. "Oh, you young parrot, crown of people and its most precious joy. Tell, please tell of the noble deeds of the god Krishna. With your song bring delight and pleasure to our hearts. Lift the long suffering from our spirits. Oh, beautiful bird, so that you should tell of those noble deeds we shall treat you to as much sweet milk, sugar and bananas as you want. And having made a tasty meal from all this for yourself, you will sit down and start the story."

     In the note the author explains: "The parrot is the emblem of the goddess Sarasvati, the protectress of eloquence."

     The French translation from the Italian came out in 1808: Voyage aux Indes orientales, par le P. Paulin de S. Bartholemy, Missionaire. Traduit de l'italien par M***, avec les Observations de Mm. Anquetil-Duperron, J.R. Forster el Silvestre de Sacy, et une Dissertation de M. Anquetil sur la Propriete individuelle et fonciere dans l'Inde et en Egypte. A Paris, 1808. (A Voyage to the East Indies, Written by Fr. Paulinus a St Bartholomaeo, Missionary. Translated from the Italian by M***, with Observations by Messrs Anquetil-Duperron, J.R. Forster and Silvester de Sacy, and a Dissertation by M. Anquetil on Individual and Land Property in India and Egypt. Paris, 1808.)

     The work was translated by an amateur and was first known in manuscript. The printed edition includes the notes supplied by Forster in his German translation. Anquetil says he is not very happy about undertaking this task as he is in "open war" with the missionaries in virtually all matters, but he will nevertheless prepare the work, as he considers that this will be "of use to my homeland". Both Anquetil and Paulinus were dead before the editing of the French translation was complete. De Sacy finished it adding a few observations on Anquetil's commentary and taking at times the side of Paulinus. Anquetil was one of the few people who knew how to write the missionary's surname in the correct original form, i.e. Vesdin. In the editor's foreword to Voyage it is stated that "The Voyage by Fr. Paulinus (... ) was translated into several languages and enjoyed great fame in the whole of Europe. However, so far we have not had a French translation, and this apparent neglect of an interesting and instructive travelogue should undoubtedly be ascribed to the political events of which France was the scene at the time of that work's publication."

     On Page III of Voyage, Anquetil gives his opinion of Vezdin's comparativist work. Anquetil queries the reliability and accuracy of the forms and meanings supplied by Paulinus, observing that not even his teachers had been reliable. ("This is a simple critical observation"). In the same note he reproaches Vezdin for his comparativist work, which is precisely what makes us view Vezdin today as especially important: "Instead of wasting time by providing 24, 30, 100 pages and so on, which prove little or nothing, instead of comparing 100, 200 words of various languages, the missionary would have done better to enrich the public with a good and complete translation of 'Amarasinha' or publish Hanxleden's and Biscoping's dictionaries." After these sometimes very caustic critical observations Anquetil ends in a conciliatory and friendly tone: II it is amusing to see two almost decrepit old men ending up by wearing themselves out for the progress of Indian literature, while a thousand strong, fresh and well-fed young people, having lolled around in bed, go off to pester India just to pile up the rupees."

     In 1798 Vezdin published his comparative study De Antiquitate et Affinitate Linguae Zendicae, Samscrdamicae, et Germanicae Dissertatio. Auctore P. Paulino a S. Bartholomaeo, Patavii 1798-99, pp. 56, in -4°. (Dissertation on the Antiquity and Affinity of the Zend, Sanskrit and German Languages. By Fr. Paulinus a St. Bartholomaeo, Padua, 1799.) This work was dedicated to Stefano Borgia who was at that time Prefect of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide.

     This is the first methodical study of the affinity of Indo-European languages. In it Vezdin displays a sound knowledge of previous theories concerning the emergence and affinity of languages. The assertion that there was an affinity between Old Persian and Sanskrit had been made before by William Jones (1746-1794), but, as Paulinus says, "nulla suae assertionis produxisset documenta", he did not set out any evidence to support his assertion. On page LIII of De Antiquitate (Vocabula.) we find an example of how Vezdin compares words from different languages, in this case, Sanskrit and German. For the moment Latin is merely for elucidation. For German words Paulinus also took pains to find the oldest forms he could and always referred to dictionaries. The words are predominantly German, but there are also Gothic ones.

     Vezdin identifies the importance of comparing terms belonging to the "original link of mutual communication", and in his analysis strives to find the oldest possible recorded forms. "Pliny, in Historia naturalis, book VI, chapter 17, says: 'The Indians are virtually the only nation never to have moved out of their country.' We must, then, determine the ancient period in which foreign (externa) words were added to the Sanskrit language, and if I am not mistaken, many words common to several languages should be attributed to that first period spent together by the nations in the Sennar plain and to the original link in mutual communication which existed before the nations scattered, because these same words do not denote skills or mutual trading affairs, or unusual foreign things, but rather what is basic to human need. There are not so many of these foreign words, nor are they so significant, for anyone to claim on the basis of them that these languages are somehow derived from the Sanskrit tongue; because of the few nouns, the roots of which cannot be shown, no intelligent person will say that one language is a dialect of another tongue or claim that they are akin, especially as there is no or hardly any affinity between the verbs and particles. The German, Slav, Greek and Latin languages are thus compared with Sanskrit; but the same does not hold true for Zend, which agrees with Sanskrit in nouns, verbs and particles. It remains for us to show the antiquity and affinity of the Zend and Sanskrit languages on the basis of old words brought down by the ancient Greek and Latin writers for our dissertation to be clearer and more certain." (p. XXXVI). Vezdin was among those who first, in the 18th century, noted in detail the striking similarity of Sanskrit to Latin and Greek. Thus were set in motion the investigations that led to the discovery of the interrelationship of all the Indo- European languages, which in turn laid the foundation of modern comparative and historical linguistics.

     In 1800 Antonio Fulgoni published Vezdin's polemical tract Jornandis Vindiciae de Var Hunnorum. Auctore P. Paulino a S. Bartholomaeo, Romae 1800. (A Search for Justice for Jornandes in View of the Hunn word "var". Rome, 1800.) pp. 12, in -4°. This work was again dedicated to Stefano Borgia. Vezdin was not only an Indologist; he was also intensely interested in linguistic questions nearer home. In this polemical tract, which though a complete failure in its ultimate objective is almost similar to more modern philological dissertations, he endeavors to establish the meaning of the Hunn term "var" which appears in the sixth-century Alani historian Jordanis (to whom Vezdin refers by the Gothic form of the name, Jomandes). Vezdin identifies this word with the Hungarian "var" and erroneously translates it as "river", which does not fit in with the Hungarian.

     On the first page of the tract Vezdin writes: "Even today the Slavs, Bulgars and Croats call the Magyars Ugrians," the name which starts with the specifically Croat form "Ugri". It is interesting to note that Vezdin was familiar with Sajnovics's work on the genetic affinity of the Hungarian and Lapp languages, which was one of the first methodical comparative studies.7 Our missionary says that "even as a lad I worked through it with admiration" (he would have been at least 22 years old). This reading obviously spurred him on to further comparativist work. He also refers to S. Gyarmathi's Affinitas Linguae Hungaricae8 to support his argument.

     In 1802 Antonio Fulgoni published Vezdin's dissertation De Latini Sermonis Origine el cum Orientalibus Linguis Connexione Dissertatio. F. Paulini a S. Bartholomaeo, Romae 1802. (Dissertation on the Origin of the Latin Language and its Connection with the Oriental Languages. By Fr. Paulinus a St. Bartholomaeo. Rome, 1802.) pp. 8 + 24, in -4°. While in the dissertation on the affinity of Zend and Sanskrit he expressed his ideas cautiously, he is much bolder when talking about the connection between Latin and Sanskrit and explains that the two oriental languages, and especially Sanskrit, in the majority of their words "so happily and precisely accord with the Latin terms and so similarly alter their verbs that two peas in a pod are barely more alike. " He reiterates that they correspond precisely in basic expressions. All this leads him to believe that the ancient Hindus and Latins were one stratum of people in ancient times (unus stirpis homine fuisse), and he calls the original language "unus primordialis Samscrdamicus sermo" (p. 10); the proto-language was a cruder, primordial Sanskrit. Vezdin leads the field with his detailed and well-argued discussion of the connection between these languages and in the way he proves that connection. However, J.F. Kleuker, who published his philological studies in Riga and knew Vezdin's Sanskrit work, had already been pondering the common root of German, Greek and Latin with Sanskrit (as our missionary asserts, cf. p. 10- 11), while setting out the affinity between the first three of these.9

     On pages 15-22 of De Latini Sermonis Origine, Vezdin compares Sanskrit and Latin words. Despite his listing the pairs of words without any particular order, he nevertheless demonstrates their affinity quite convincingly. Talking about the difficulty of reconstructing the original form from the final one, he provides a particularly interesting example on page 18: "From Anna we have derived (apud nos factum est) Anicka, Ance, Ancza, Anka, Nanka, Nanna, Nannetta, Nanenka." Obviously, these are all Slav or Slavicized diminutives. There is no doubt as to what he means by "we" (apud nos), as is seen from the work to which he directs us in connection with these different forms of the name "Ana": "Beitrag zur praktischen Diplomatik fur Slaven (Contribution to a Practical Study of Slav Documents, Vienna, 1801, p. 118). The author, Fr. Caroli Alter, custodian of the Vienna University library and reviewer of many of Vezdin's dissertations, talks in "Beitrag" about the notation of time in Slav documents and, in this connection, about religious holidays and proper names.

     In 1804 the Propaganda Fide printed Vezdin's Vyacarana seu Locupletissima Samscrdamicae Linguae Institutio, in usum Fidei Praeconum in India Orientali, et Virorum Litteratorum in Europa adornata a P. Paulino a S. Bartholomaeo, Carmelita Discalceato, Collegii Urbani S. Congr. de Prop. Fide Studiorum Praefecto, S. Congr. Indicis Consultore, Mission. Oo. Syndico, Academiarum Veliternae, R. Neapolitanae, Caesaro-Regiae Patavinae Socio, et Galliae Scientiarum Instituto Correspondente. Romae 1804. (Vyakarana or the Most Ample Arrangement of the Sanskrit Language for the Use of Messengers of the Faith in Eastern India and Literary Men in Europe, Embellished by Fr. Paulinus a St. Bartholomaeo, Discalced Carmelite, Learned Prefect of the Collegium Urbanum of the Holy Congregation for the Promotion of the Faith, Counsel for the Index of the Holy Congregation, Principal for Eastern Missions, Member of the Velletri, Royal Neapolitan and Imperial Royal Paduan Academies, and Corresponding Member of the French Academy of Sciences. Rome, 1804.) p. 333, in -4°. This Sanskrit grammar also was dedicated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia. On page VI Vezdin lists the books dedicated to Cardinal S. Borgia by various scholars. Paulinus dedicated the majority of his works to Cardinal Borgia, who gathered around himself a number of researchers.10

     In writing his Vyacarana, Vezdin had to tackle many difficult problems; he was committed to presenting the grammatical characteristics of Sanskrit from the point of view of Latin. In this respect, he was following a tradition: Renaissance grammarians and scholars continued, in the manner of Donatus (mid-4th century AD) and Priscian (about 500 AD), to impute Latin grammatical traits to non-Latin idioms, and grammars of European vernaculars were cast almost entirely in the Roman mould. This approach which rests upon disclosing and studying similarities between the two languages, inevitably leads to the discovery of differences in the structures of the two languages and the outline of a contrastive analysis.

     Vyacarana is divided into seven chapters. In the first chapter, the sounds and the script of Sanskrit are analysed (p. 1-19). In the second and third chapters the declension of nouns ending in a vowel (p. 20-38) or a consonant (p. 39-54) are presented. Vezdin gives a rather clear and complete description of the system of the inflection of Sanskrit nouns. In the third chapter Vezdin also deals with personal, demonstrative and relative pronouns (p. 54-59), with grammatical gender (p. 60-63), adverbs and prepositions (p. 64-65); and conversion of substantives into adjectives and vice versa (p. 69-70). In chapter four, the conjugation of different kinds of verbs is systematically presented (p. 72-122). Vezdin deals with the morphology of the verb extensively, trying to find a Sanskrit equivalent for every Latin conjugational pattern.

     In chapter five, the syntactic function of different inflexional endings (noun cases) is exposed (p. 125-139). Chapter six deals with vowel mutation in compound nouns (p. 140-146), with adverbs (p. 146-151), supines, participles and gerundives. Vezdin tries to provide some analogical forms in Sanskrit which would correspond to Latin supines and gerundives. The last chapter (Nomenclator Latino-Samscrdamicus) gives Sanskrit equivalents of various Latin terms and vice versa (p. 154-221). Pages 222-298 (Sankirnavargga, classis miscellanea variorum vocabulorum ordine alphabetico) contain a Sanskrit-Latin dictionary. Pages 299-307 contain a list of Nanartha vargga (group of antonyms), i.e. Sanskrit nouns and verbs which have opposite meanings and Latin adjectives which have two or more semantic equivalents in Sanskrit. Sanskrit cardinal and ordinal numbers are summarily dealt with on page 326.

     As one can appreciate from the foregoing, Vezdin is the author of many learned books on the East, which were highly valued in their day and have contributed much to the study and knowledge of Indian literature and Indian life. Although we are indebted to him for the first printed Sanskrit grammar, he seems somehow to have fallen into oblivion. "Between 1780 and 1800 the conscientious research of Anquetil and Sancto Bartholomaeo coincided with the scientific foundations being laid in Calcutta." (R. Schwab, op. cit. p. 134-135). After his return from India, Vezdin had twenty books published in Europe, dealing with Sanskrit and Indian civilization. All were written in Latin, except Viaggio (1790) and Scitismo svilupato (1793). Little is known about his grammars Sidharubam (1790) and Vyacarana (1804) and they do not seem to have had any direct bearing on the origins of Indology. However, "Paulinus a Sancto Bartholomaeo collected some important materials as much linguistic as theological in nature." (R, Schwab, op. cit., p. 32). Therefore, the entire opus of this forgotten pioneer of Indic studies deserves to be critically examined and in the light of this analysis, Vezdin's contribution to Indic studies. rightly acknowledged.


      1 I. Slamnig, Filip Vezdin (1748-1806) pionir evropske indologije, Rad, JAZU, Vol. 350 (1968), p. 550-554.

      2 According to Michael O'Keefe, Sidharubam is a garbled version of the Sanskrit siddha rupa 'correct form'. It probably comes via the Malayalam language spoken in Kerala. I have traced a small Sanskrit grammar bearing the title: Siddha-rupa (Paradigms of Sanskrit grammar. Followed by the Ganashtaka, Vagisi-stava, and Mukundashtaka hymns), pp. 45, VII, Kottakal, 1920.

      3 "This first grammar of the Sanskrit language, being a translation of an original work, is accurate, although not comprehensive. It is printed with Roman letters in all except the first section, in which the Sanskrit words are expressed in the characters of the Tamil alphabet, of very indifferent typographic execution. The Roman representation of the words in accordance with the original Tamil, is disfigured by corruptions derived from the peculiar pronunciation of the natives of that part of the Peninsula of which Tamil is the vernacular idiom, by whom soft labials are substituted for hard, and soft dentals or semivowels for hard dentals, in certain situations. Thus Someba is written for Somapa, and bhavadi for bhavati, and vrikshal for vrikshat. With respect also to the Roman orthography, a most barbarous-looking equivalent is not unfrequently given for the original, depending partly upon German and partly upon Italian pronunciation, and which it often requires some consideration to identify; kashtasrita is not at once recognisable in kaszdaschrida. The grammar is followed by two vocabularies, one Latin and Sanskrit, arranged according to the analogous senses of the words; the other, Sanskrit and Latin, arranged alphabetically. " (H.H. Wilson, Ibid., p. 16.)

      4 Amarasimha was the earliest and the best known Sanskrit lexicographer. He was the author of the famous lexicon Amarakosa and his name became an eponym for a Sanskrit dictionary, just as Calepin, the Latin Dictionary of the 16th century was named after Ambrosio Calepino. Amarasimha was a Buddhist and may have lived in the 5th century AD or even earlier. By tradition, he was a contemporary of Kalidasa, the greatest poet and dramatist in Sanskrit literature.

      5 Vezdin possessed a fragment of the book of Magha, the 7th century poet who wrote a long poem on an incident in the life of Krishna.

      6 It was his son, Jacques Law de Lauriston, who commanded the French troops who took Dubrovnik on the 26th of May 1806 during Napoleon's campaigns in Croatia. Law de Lauriston was a descendant or relation of the Law who made himself known by his speculations under the regency of the Duke of Orleans.

      7 Joannes Sajnovics, Demonstratio Idioma Ungarorum et Lapponum idem esse ... Hafniae anno 1760. Hafniae (Copenhagen) [1770]. Tyrnaviae (Bratislava) 1772.

      8 Samuel Gyarmathi, Affinitas Linguae Hungaricae cum Linguis Fennicae originis gramatice demonstrata; nec non vocabularia dialectorum Tataricum et Sclavicarum cum Hungarica comparata. Gottingae, 1799.

      9 "It is easy to tell from the existing [Sanskrit] pronouns that German, Greek and Latin are contained in them, only for words of that kind, i,e. pronouns, for which a linguistic basis and origin need be proved, does it follow that the last named languages share a common distant source in Sanskrit." Kurzer Auszug aus des Fr. Paullinus a S. Bartholomaeo Sidharubam oder Samskrdamischen Grammatik mit einigen Bemerkungen uber einzelne Punkte des Inhalts der genannten Schrift von J.F. Kleuker in the Abhandlungen uber die Geschichte ... Wissenschaften und Literatur Asiens, Bd 4, Riga 1797 (p. 307-308).

      10 The circle of S. Borgia's admirers included the Makarska vicar-general, Ivan Josip Pavlovic Lucic (Paulovichius Lucichius, 1755-1818), who was quite a prolific writer in Latin, Croatian and Italian. On page VII of Vyacarana Vezdin also cites one of Pavlovic's works, (De Theologo Episcopi Epistola, Rhagusii (Dubrovnik), 1801, in -8°), and in general mentions him in favourable terms in his prefaces. A book with a dedication to Borgia, which was known to Vezdin, also came from the apostolic vicar in Turkish Bosnia, Grgur Vareski ("Vrhu kraljevstva Marijina govorenja" -To the Head of the Kingdom of Mary's Words, Dubrovnik, 1799. This is a translation of the work Regno di Maria by A. Borgia).

      The above text was published in: Branko Franolic, Filip Vezdin's Contribution to Indic Studies in Europe at the Turn of the 18th Century. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Latines, 1991. 22p.

Filip Vezdin or Wesdin, pioneer of European Indology

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