This article surveys the deep history of the discipline of comparative philology in the Indo-Persian world, and attempts to situate it within larger debates about global forms of intellectual modernity. From its early beginnings in the production of literary lexicons designed to help poets in different regional centers of the Persianate world understand each other’s works, comparative philology in South, Central, and West Asia developed into a key scholarly discipline in which a whole host of concerns relating to Indo-Persian intellectual life was negotiated: literary canon formation, the arbitration of good taste, the maintenance of cosmopolitan literary intelligibility in an increasingly vernacular world, and even the nature of language itself. These developments took place over many centuries, in a vast array of works, spread out over a vast region that stretched from Anatolia to India. But in their increasingly sophisticated scholarship, as well as their increasing cognizance of their own scholarly disciplinarity, we find several distinctly “modernizing” tendencies among many of the Indo-Persian philologists discussed here, long before the supposed “invention” of the discipline by western scholars like the British colonial judge and orientalist, Sir William Jones (1746-1794).
ʿAbdullahSayyid MuhammadMahmudSayyid Fayyaz“Lug̲h̲āt, Zabān-dānī wa Zabān-āmūzī, Sharḥen, Farhang, [aur] Qawāʿid.”Fārsī Adab: Part 3 (1707-1971)1972LahorePunjab University Press382401edited by Sayyid Fayyaz Mahmud and Sayyid Wazir al-Hasan ʿAbidi (with the assistance of ʿAbd al-Ghani). Vol. 5 of Tārīkh-i Adabiyāt-i Musalmānān-i Pāk wa Hind
AhsanʿAbd al-ShakurBaqirMuhammadMirzaWahid“Lug̲h̲at-Nigārī.”Fārsī Adab: Part 1 (1000-1526)1971LahorePunjab University Press386401Vol. 3 of Tārīkh-i Adabiyāt-i Musalmānān-i Pāk wa Hind edited by Sayyid Fayyaz Mahmud
BalfourFrancisInshā-yi Harkaran = The Forms of Herkern Corrected from a Variety of Manuscripts Supplied with the Distinguishing Marks of Construction and Translated into English: With an Index of Arabic Words Explained and Arranged Under Their Proper Roots1781CalcuttaPrinted at Calcutta by Charles Wilkins
BernsteinJeremy“Chess & Sanskrit: Persian Jones in Old Calcutta.”nyrblog (blog) The New York Review of Books2010November2Accessed on June 26 2013http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/nov/02/chess-sanskrit-persian-jones-old-calcutta
DavyWilliamWhiteJoseph“Letter to Joseph White, September 24, 1779.”A Specimen of the Civil and Military Institutes of Timour or Tamerlane: A Work Written Originally by that Celebrated Conqueror in the Mogul Language and since Translated into Persian. Now First Rendered from the Persian into English from a ms. in the Possession of William Hunter m.d. f.r.s. Physician Extraordinary to the Queen. With other Pieces1780OxfordClarendon Press2839
de BloisFrancoisPersian Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey; Volume v: Poetry of the Pre-Mongol Period20042nd rev. editionLondon; New YorkRoutledgeCurzon, in association with the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
FisherMichael HChatterjeeKumkumHawesClement“Seeing England Firsthand: Women and Men from Imperial India, 1614-1769.”Europe Observed: Multiple Gazes in Early Modern Encounters2008LewisburgBucknell University Press14371
HanawayWilliam LSpoonerBrianHanawayWilliam L.“Secretaries, Poets, and the Literary Language.”Literacy in the Persianate World: Writing and the Social Order2012PhiladelphiaUniversity of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology95142
Iʿtisam al-DinMirzaShigurf Namah i Velaët or Excellent Intelligence Concerning Europe; Being the Travels of Mirza Itesa Modeen in Great Britain and France English and Hindustani translations by James Edward Alexander with the assistance of Shumsher Khan Munshi1827LondonPrinted for Parbury, Allen
JonesWilliam“A Catalogue of Sanscrit, and other Oriental Manuscripts, presented to the Royal Society by Sir William and Lady Jones.”The Works of Sir William Jones with the Life of the Author by Lord Teignmouth [a.k.a. John Shore] in Thirteen Volumes1807vol. 13London399426Printed for John Stockdale Piccadilly; and John Walker Paternoster-Row
KejariwalO. PCannonGarlandBrineKevin“William Jones: The Copernicus of History.”Objects of Enquiry: The Life Contributions and Influences of Sir William Jones 1746-17941995New YorkNew York University Press102115
Khaleghi-MotlaghDjalal“Asadī Ṭūsī (d. 1072-73), Poet, Linguist and Copyist, from Ṭūs in Khorasan.”Encyclopædia Iranica (online)Originally published December 15 1987. Last updated August 16 2011. Accessed on May 28 2014. http://www.iranica online.org/articles/asadi-tus
KinraRajeev“Fresh Words for a Fresh World: Tāza-Gūʾī and the Poetics of Newness in Early Modern Indo-Persian Poetry.”Sikh Formations: Religion Culture Theory20073no. 212549(Special issue “Time and History in Sikh and South Asian Pasts” edited by Anne Murphy.)
KinraRajeevBronnerYigalCoxWhitneyMcCreaLawrence“This Noble Science: Indo-Persian Comparative Philology, c. 1000-1800 ce.”South Asian Texts in History: Critical Engagements with Sheldon Pollock2011Ann Arbor, MIAssociation for Asian Studies359385
LehmannWinfred PA Reader in Nineteenth Century Historical Indo-European Linguistics1967Bloomington, IA; London, UKIndiana University Press(Also available online at: http://www.utexas.edu/cola/centers/lrc/books/readT.htm.)
McGregorStuartPollockSheldon“The Progress of Hindi, Part 1: The Development of a Transregional Idiom.”Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia2003BerkeleyUniversity of California Press91257
RobinsRobert HCannonGarlandBrineKevin“Jones as a General Linguist in the Eighteenth-Century Context.”Objects of Enquiry: The Life Contributions and Influences of Sir William Jones 1746-17941995New YorkNew York University Press8391
SchimmelAnnemarieAnvari’s Divan: A Pocket Book for Akbar: A Dīvān of Auḥaduddin Anvari Copied for the Mughal Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar (r. 1556-1605) at Lahore in a.h. 996/a.d. 1588 Now in the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University1983New YorkMetropolitan Museum of Art
StoreyCharles APersian Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey (Volume iii Part 1: A: Lexicography; B. Grammar; C. Prosody and Poetics)1984LeidenE. J. Brill, Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland
WoodMichael“1786: William Jones discovers Sanskrit’s relationship to Latin and Greek.” pbs video, 4:39, from online interactive timeline for Episode 6 (“Freedom: 1700 ce-2009 ce”) of Wood’s documentary miniseriesThe Story of IndiaOriginally aired on the bbc in 2007 and on pbs in 2009. http://www.pbs.org/thestoryofindia/timeline/6. (last accessed on May 29 2014)
ZiauddinMA Grammar of the Braj Bhakha. The Persian Text Critically Edited from Original mss. with an Introd. Translation and Notes Together with the Contents of the Tuḥfatu-l-Hind1935CalcuttaVisva-Bharati Book-Shop
ZilliIshtiyaq AhmadAlamMuzaffarDelvoyeFrancoise “Nalini”GaborieauMarc“Development of Insha Literature to the End of Akbar’s Reign.”The Making of Indo-Persian Culture: Indian and French Studies2000New DelhiManohar; Centre de Sciences Humaines30944
See Muzaffar Alam“The Pursuit of Persian: Language in Mughal Politics,”Modern Asian Studies32 no. 2 (1998): 336-42; idem “The Culture and Politics of Persian in Precolonial Hindustan” in Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia ed. Sheldon Pollock (Berkeley: University of California Press 2003) 182-5; see also Tavakoli-Targhi Refashioning Iran “The Homeless Texts of Persianate Modernity” and “Orientalism’s Genesis Amnesia.”
JonesGrammar of the Persian Languagexii. A good number of Jones’s contemporaries shared this “blame the munshī” tendency. Francis Balfour for instance complained vehemently of the “arbitrary and various” nature of late Mughal writing practices in the preface to his 1781 edition of Inshā-yi Harkaran (Calcutta: Printed at Calcutta by Charles Wilkins 1781) an influential early seventeenth-century model letter collection by Harkaran Das Kambuh and one of the very first Persian texts to be published in British Calcutta. Balfour went on to lay special blame for any errors in the text specifically at the feet of the late Mughal munshī who according to the Englishman though nominally “employed to remove these intricacies and to correct these errors” was—paradoxically enough—“[too] poorly instructed in the principles of grammar [to be] sufficiently qualified for the [very] task he undertakes.” Despite these hurdles Balfour triumphantly assured his readers—along with none other than William Hastings to whom the volume was dedicated—that he had nevertheless managed to produce a “corrected” version of Harkaran’s letters in which “every intricacy of the Manuscript is removed by exhibiting it printed in the Taleek character” (Balfour Inshā-yi Harkaran 1-7). William Davy for his part expressly warned against the danger of trusting the “native Munchees” whose “knavery avarice and extortion” made it imperative that the British begin mastering Persian themselves (“Letter to Joseph White” 31-2). And yet another of Jones’s contemporaries George Hadley—whose Introductory Grammatical Remarks on the Persian Language (1776) was so overshadowed by Jones’s own Grammar that it does not appear even to have gotten a second printing until Scolar Press published an archival facsimile reprint in 1972—made a habit of blaming his poor sales on his munshīs deftly begging his readers’ indulgence for an “arrangement . . . [that] was not so correct as it would have been had the Mounchee been expert or had my own knowledge of the Persian character been sufficient to have corrected him” (15). There were however notable exceptions to this trend such as Francis Gladwin in his textbook The Persian Moonshee (Calcutta: Chronicle Press 1795) and Iʿtisam al-Din’s own translator James Alexander who had the uncommon courtesy to acknowledge in his preface to the English-Hindustani edition of Shigurf Namah i Velaët that: “I should be guilty of injustice were I not to acknowledge the great assistance I derived in the completion of the above from my Moonshee Shumsher Khan who was formerly in the employ of that distinguished linguist diplomat and soldier Sir John Malcolm. Simply to state the fact of his having been in the service of that officer is sufficient to mark him out as an able scholar without any further encomium of mine.” (ix-x)
ʿAbd al-Shakur Ahsan“Lug̲h̲at-Nigārī,” in Fārsī Adab: Part 1(1000-1526) ed. Muhammad Baqir and Wahid Mirza vol. 3 of Tārīkh-i Adabiyāt-i Musalmānān-i Pāk wa Hind ed. Sayyid Fayyaz Mahmud (Lahore: Punjab University Press1971) 386-401; idem “Lug̲h̲at-Nigārī” in Fārsī Adab: Part 2 (1526-1707) ed. Maqbul Beg Badakhshani vol. 4 of Tārīkh-i Adabiyāt-i Musalmānān-i Pāk wa Hind ed. Sayyid Fayyaz Mahmud (Lahore: Punjab University Press 1971) 838-55; Sayyid Muhammad ʿAbdullah “Lug̲h̲āt Zabān-dānī wa Zabān-āmūzī Sharḥen Farhang [aur] Qawāʿid” in Fārsī Adab: Part 3 (1707-1971) ed. Sayyid Fayyaz Mahmud and Sayyid Wazir al-Hasan ʿAbidi with the assistance of ʿAbd al-Ghani vol. 5 of Tārīkh-i Adabiyāt-i Musalmānān-i Pāk wa Hind ed. Sayyid Fayyaz Mahmud (Lahore: Punjab University Press 1972) 382-401.
BaevskiiEarly Persian Lexicography30-1; see also Siyaqi Farhanghā-yi Fārsī 7-9; and for the specific references in Farhang-i Jahāngīrī and Majmaʿ al-Furs respectively see Jamal al-Din Husain Inju Farhang-i Jahāngīrī 2nd edition 3 vols. ed. Rahim ʿAfifi (Mashad: Mashhad University Press 1980) 1: 5; Muhammad Qasim Sururi Farhang-i Majmaʿ al-Furs 3 vols. ed. Muhammad Dabir Siyaqi (Tehran: ʿAlī Akbar ʿIlmī 1960-63) 1: 2.
Annemarie SchimmelAnvari’s Divan: A Pocket Book for Akbar (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art1983) 69n. For further details on Qatran’s dictionary see Baevskii Early Persian Lexicography 31-43; Siyaqi Farhanghā-yi Fārsī 14-6. For his poetic career see de Blois Persian Literature 186-9; Jan Rypka “History of Persian Literature up to the Beginning of the 20th Century” in Rypka et al. History of Iranian Literature ed. Karl Jahn (Dordrecht: D. Reidel 1968) 194.
On Munjik see for instance de BloisPersian Literature170-1. On Daqiqi see ibid. 94-6; Arthur John Arberry Classical Persian Literature (Richmond Surrey: Curzon Press 1994) 41-3; E. G. Browne A Literary History of Persia 4 vols. (Bethesda: Iranbooks 1997) 1: 459-62.
Olivier RoyThe New Central Asia: The Creation of Nations (New York: New York University Press2000) 76. Roy adds a few remarks that give a powerful sense of the nomenclatural difficulties we face in trying to disentangle premodern linguistic sensibilities from the modern nationalist knots they’ve been tied in: “Since it is obviously not possible to deny that the two languages [Persian and Tajik] are related it was proposed [by Soviet scholars] that the two had diverged in the sixteenth century which made it possible to appropriate classical Persian literature from Rudaki to Saʾadi [sic] under the rubric of ‘Farsi-Tajik’. It was claimed that all the Persian-speaking writers born between Tus and Dushanbe in Greater Khorasan were specifically Tajik. Rudaki . . . thus became the founder of Tajik literature. The problem was that he was also the founder of Persian literature as a whole. As a result of this operation all the Persian-speakers of Central Asia past or present thus found themselves defined as members of a ‘Tajik ethnic group’.”
‘Ali ibn Ahmad Asadi TusiLug̲h̲at-i Furs (Tehran: Kitābkhāna-yi Ṭuhūrī1957). See also Baevskii Early Persian Lexicography 52-5; Siyaqi Farhanghā-yi Fārsī 16-28; Storey Persian Literature vol. 3 pt. 1 3-4.
For details see Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh“Asadī Ṭūsī (d. 1072-73), Poet, Linguist and Copyist, from Ṭūs in Khorasan,”Encyclopædia Iranica(online) orig. pub. December 15 1987 last updated August 16 2011 (accessed May 28 2014. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/asadi-tus. ).
Quoted in BaevskiiEarly Persian Lexicography84. Furughi’s Dānishnāma remains unpublished and according to Baevskii there is only one extant manuscript currently housed in the Republic Manuscript Collection in Baku Azerbaijan but which dates from 1409 ce (i.e. just four years after the work’s compilation). For details see Baevskii Early Persian Lexicography 84-7. If nothing else this is yet another powerful indication that even if dictionaries from this early phase of Indo-Persian philology were superseded in popularity by later works like Farhang-i Jahāngīrī and Burhān-i Qāt̤iʿ—and thus often saw citations of their work and circulations of their manuscripts trail off beginning in the early modern period—they nevertheless had an appreciative audience in their own times even in distant lands.
Quoted in BaevskiiEarly Persian Lexicography105; see also Ethé Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts 1351-2 (#2512) 1608-9 (#2967); Ahsan “Lug̲h̲at-Nigārī” in Fārsī Adab: Part 1 (1000-1526) 390; Storey Persian Literature vol. 3 pt. 1 94-6.
John F. Richards“Early Modern India and World History,”Journal of World History8 no. 2 (1997): 205. On the transregional mobility of Indo-Persian intellectuals during this period see also Alam and Subrahmanyam Indo-Persian Travels in the Age of Discoveries.