On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Antonio de Nebrija, author of the first Spanish Grammar (1492) and the first dictionary of the Spanish language (1495), and inspired by the International Decade of Indigenous Languages started by UNESCO this year, Archives Portal Europe celebrates languages and their uniqueness with an online exhibition showcasing material from its network.
- Traces of Jean-François Champollion’s library: the interest for languages and the unlocking of the Egyptian hieroglyphs
- Joseph de Maistre’s multilingual writing in his papers and notes
- Papers on the Tocharian languages in the Antoine Meillet Archives
Language Diversity and Multilingualism in Koç University Library Collections
Koç University Library preserves a valuable and rich manuscript collection whose subjects span a variety of fields, including Turkish poetry, law, geography, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, logic, music, mathematics, chemistry as well as language and cultural history studies.
The collection includes manuscripts that are written in different languages, such as Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Karaman, Crimean Tatar, Crimean Turkish and even bilingual (Persian-Arabic or Arabic-Turkish), and some of these manuscripts are unique testimony of the early Anatolian Turkish language and literature.
Among the dated ones, the oldest manuscript in the collection is “Nazmü’l-Hilāfiyyāt [Manzumetü’n-Nesefiyye]” which dates back to 1100.
The collection was acquired as donations mainly from scholars such as Fuat Bayramoğlu (1912-1996) who served as a diplomat and was poet and author; Şinasi Tekin (1933-2004) who was an acknowledged Turkish linguist professor and Turkologist; Josephine Powell (1919-2007) who was a photographer, traveller and expert on the nomads of Türkiye and their textiles; Mithat Sertoğlu (1991-1995) who served as a journalist and worked as a consultant at Prime Ministry General Directorate of State Archives; and Salim Erel (1929-2014) who was Turkish politician and served as a mayor and the parliament member of the 17th term.
Among the multilingual treasures held by the Koç Library there is the Mousikē technē / Texnologia tes mougikes, a manuscript in Turkish written in Greek alphabet.
The following is an illustration of the tragic love story of Leylā vü Mecnún, (Layla and Majnun) included in a page of MS 06 dating back to 1489, written in Taʿlīq script. Leylā vü Mecnún is the story of these two young lovers who cannot be together because Layla’s father disapprove of their relationship, dooming them to be separated a lifetime before finally be united after death.
These time charts from 1288 and notes related to the horoscopes in the margins of the page are instead written in Naskh which is one of the first scripts of Islamic calligraphy to develop, commonly used in writing administrative documents and for transcribing books.
Interesting is also the drawings of a Luwian hieroglyphic inscription on a statue from the Iron Age transcribed by the Turkish archaeologist Hatice Gonnet-Bağana and part of the Hatice Gonnet-Bağana Hittite Collection.
Finally, also from the Hatice Gonnet-Bağana Hittite Collection is this basalt slab (circa 1,200 BC – 500 BC), representing an inscription written in neo-Hittite hieroglyphics.
Traces of Jean-François Champollion’s library: the interest for languages and the unlocking of the Egyptian hieroglyphs
Jean-François Champollion was a French philologist and Egyptologist who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822.
Champollion became interested in languages and specifically in hieroglyphs and Egyptian studies at an early age. At the age of 16, he had already mastered several languages and had also given a lecture before the Grenoble Academy arguing that the language spoken by the Egyptians and, consequently, the Hieroglyphic texts were related to Coptic.
After years of closely studying hieroglyphs and the multilingual text found on the Rosetta stone, Jean-Francois Champollion succeeded in 1822 in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs through the oval shapes (known as Kharratis) found in hieroglyphic texts, which include the names of kings and queens.
Among the many items enumerated in his inventory [Figures 1-3], the list of books included in his personal library reveal the keen interest that Champollion had for languages and cultivated throughout his entire life.
In the inventory [Fig.3] are listed for instance dictionaries in Arabic, Hebrew and Chinese, twenty-four volumes on the Coptic language; the list mentions also thirty volumes about the History of Egypt, books on the history of Latin Literature and many other tomes about the languages of Eastern Asia.
These books perfectly mirror the interests and the studies to which Jean-François Champollion dedicated his life and that led him to the discovery that enabled the unlocking of the Egyptian language and history.
Joseph de Maistre’s multilingual writing in his papers and notes
Joseph de Maistre was a philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat who was a subject of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which he served as a member of the Savoy Senate (1787–1792), as ambassador to Russia for King Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy, and was also minister of state to the court in Turin (1817–1821).
Joseph de Maistre made significant contributions to the history of social, political, and religious ideas.
He had also seemed to have an interest in linguistics as it is demonstrated to his contributions to the controversy over the origins of language. Moreover, together with French , his mother tongue (as well as almost all of the Piedmontese nobility), and Greek and Latin which he learned during his time with the Jesuits, de Maistre could also speak Italian, English , Spanish , Portuguese and a little German.
The extensive knowledge of many different languages inevitably reflected in his papers and diaries. In his multilingual writings include essays on linguistic matters and about the relationship between languages, sometimes using different languages within the same work.
The Archives départementales de la Savoie holds De Maistre papers and among the written works included in the “Papers and fragments” section of his archive can be found, for instance, a transcription of the text from the Rosetta Stone (1802, ms.a.).
There are also some notes on the “Hebrew language” and the “Oriental languages” (Cagliari, 1802, ms. a.), and “De antiquis litteris haebraeorum et graecorum” (Cagliari, 1802, ms.a.) followed by notes in Latin, Hebrew and Greek.
Papers on the Tocharian languages in the Antoine Meillet Archives
The Tocharian languages are an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family spoken in the Tarim Basin territory by its inhabitants, the Tocharians.
Also known as Arśi-Kuči, Agnean-Kuchean or Kuchean-Agnean, the existence of the Tocharian languages was documented in a group of fragments found towards the end of the 19th Century in the Chinese Turkestan, containing texts in different languages .
On Archives Portal Europe there is an interesting collection of documents related to Tocharians studies. In particular, the Collège de France preserves some papers and fragments of articles written by the French Linguist Indo-Europeanist Antoine Meillet who dedicated part of his studies to investigating Tocharian languages.
The full list of papers and documents related to Tocharian included in the Antoine Meillet archives are available here.