China books Christmas calendar (24)

Today is Christmas Eve and the end of this China books Christmas calendar. Our collection at the Department of Languages and Literatures in Gothenburg holds many books, and those seen here are merely a random selection. For Christmas Eve we bring out our perhaps rarest book, Étienne Fourmont’s (1683–1745) Lingua Sinarum Mandarinicae Hieroglyphicae Grammatica Duplex, Latine Et Cum Characteribus Sinensium. Item Sinicorum Regiae Bibliothecae Librorum Catalogus from 1742. You can find a full scan at the Bavarian State Library. Fourmont was a French Orientalist, professor of Arabic at Collège de France, and also knowledgable in Hebrew and Chinese.

Fourmont worked with Arcadio Huang 黃嘉略 (1679–1716), a Chinese Catholic convert from Fujian who came to Europe in 1702. They worked together with cataloguing the French royal collection of works in Chinese, and also in compiling a Chinese dictionary. Huang died prematurely in 1716, and it is likely that Fourmont had been copying Huang’s work already in his lifetime. There seems to be reasonable consensus that Fourmont at least did not credit Arcadio Huang enough for his contribution to Fourmont’s publications. There seems to be suspicion that the book of the day is also partially copied from an earlier work by Spanish Dominican China missionary Francisco Varo 萬方濟各 (1627–1687), Arte de la lengua Mandarina from 1703. Fourmont’s main contribution was supposedly the addition of Chinese characters. If you want to know more about Arcadio Huang you can read ”The Paris Years of Arcadio Huang” in Jonathan Spence’s Chinese roundabout: essays in history and culture.

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