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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1803 to 1806 > Persian

Among the languages which occupied Mezzofanti at this time, Persian appears to have received the principal share of his attention. One of the first presents which he received from De Rossi was, as we have seen, a " Persian Anthology ;" and in a letter to De Rossi, written early in 1806 (which Cavaliere Pezzana has published in the Modena Journal, Memorie di Religione,) he expresses much anxiety to obtain a copy of the great Persian classic, Kemal Eddin.

The same letter, however, contains another request from which it may be inferred that much of his time was still drawn away from these studies by his duties as librarian. Speaking of the catalogue then in preparation, he complains of the miserably defective condition of the library in the department of Bibliography ; and begs of his correspondent to send him the titles of the Bibliotheca of Hottinger, (perhaps his Promptuarium, seu Bibliotheca Orientalis, Heidel¬berg, 1658) and that of Wolff, in order that he may provide himself with these works, as a guide in his task.

On this subject he speaks more explicitly in a letter of the 3rd of March, in the same year. After alluding to a commission of De Rossi's which he had failed in executing, he proceeds : The preparation of the Catalogue keeps me in constant occupation, because these Oriental books are for the most part without the name of the author or the title of the work. Their value, that is to say their scientific importance, bears no proportion to the labour they cost; inasmuch as they are all Grammatical Treatises, books of Law, and such like. However, should I meet any work of interest, I shall not fail to communicate it to you ; although, I fancy, it will be difficult to meet with anything that you do not know already.

I received from Vienna immediately on its publication, the Grammar of the learned Dombay, Note 1 who is well known for other works, particularly upon the language and history of Morocco. It happens that I have got two copies of it; and I have set one of them apart for you, for which you may perhaps give me in exchange one of your own duplicates. It contains the Grammar arranged after the manner of the Latin Grammarians; the rules of Persian according to Meninski, with this advantage, that here they are given in consecutive order, whereas in Meninski Note 2they are found mixed up with those of the Arabic and Turkish. Your friend, M. Silvestre de Sacy, reviewed it in the Magazin Encyclopedique, and took exception to Dombay's reducing the Persian to the system of the Latin Grammar. I hope shortly to receive the other from Leipsic, as also the tales of Nizami, in Persian and Latin, printed by Wolff, and published by L. Hill, who promised for the same year, 1802, an edition of the Divan of Hafiz.Note 3

I am only waiting for a safe opportunity to forward your books. We cannot fail of one in the coming spring. As to the " Oriental Anthology," I have given it in charge to the courier as far as Milan, but have not yet heard intelligence of it.

Book-buying is undoubtedly very troublesome, and the least disagreeable part of it is the money the books cost, although in Oriental works I always find this excessive. I beg you not to spare me whenever any occasion offers in which my services may be useful.

The Abate de Rossi had requested to be furnished with a note of the principal Oriental MSS. of the Bologna collection ; but Mezzofanti's labor in preparing the general Catalogue was so great, and the time fixed for its completion was so entirely inadequate, that, for a considerable time, he was unable to comply with his friend's request. It is to this he alludes in the following letter, dated May 11, 1806. After apologizing for the delay in forwarding the book referred to in the letter of March 3rd, he proceeds : 

My labor at the Catalogue still continues, nor can I hope at the period appointed for its close, to have done more than merely sketch it out;—that is, we shall have nothing entered but the bare titles of the works. This, however, in itself, is a task so difficult in our Oriental MSS., that, up to the present time, it has never been 'satisfactorily done. Besides the Oriental books, I have also to deal with the Greek ; and all must be in readiness within the coming month. The truth is that I should require a year at least to give a proper shape to my labor, and in the beginning my impression was that it would require two. And in my present difficulty, what gives me most pain is that I am not able to send you, as early as I could wish, the note which you have often expressed a wish to obtain ; but I shall send it the very first moment in my power.

1 have received your new work, Note 4 for which I beg you to accept my best thanks. I did not write at the moment, knowing you do not like very frequent letters; I have besides too much respect for time devoted like jours to the honour of Italy, on which your works in Oriental literature have shed a lustre. I long nevertheless for a fitting opportunity to prove to you the sincerity of my gratitude.


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Note 1
"Grammatica Linguee Mauro-Arabicse, juxtavernaculi Idioma-tii Usum." 4to. Vienna, 1800. See the " Oatalogo della Libreria Mezzofanti" p. 14.

Note 2
"Institutiones Linguae Turcicae,cum Budimentis parallelis Linguarum Arabicoe et Persicae." 2 vols. 4to. Vienna, 1756." "Catalogo," p. 36.

Note 3
An intended reprint of the edition of the Divan, which was published at Calcutta, 1791.

Note 4
Probably the "Lexicon Hebraicum Selectum ;" or the " Dissertation on an edition of the Koran," both of which were published at Parma, in 1805. See"Oatalogo della Lib. Mezzofanti," p. 17 and p. 40.

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