DE DIEU, LODEWIJK
THE FIRST PERSIAN GRAMMAR
Rudimenta linguae persicae.Leiden, Ex Officina Elzeviriana, 1639
FIRST EDITION, LARGE PAPER. Small 4to. pp. (viii) 95 (i). Roman letter, with Arabic, some Italic, occasional Gothic or Hebrew, all pages within typographical rule border. T-p in red and black, woodcut printer’s device, decorated initials and ornaments. T-p a little dusty, light age yellowing, small paper flaw without loss to outer blank margin of F2, single tiny worm trail to couple of ll. A very good, clean, wide-margined copy in C19 half calf over marbled boards, gilt-lettered label, marbled edges, edges, and head and foot of spine a little rubbed, one corner repaired. Small c.1700 probably French armorial stamp (VV?), more modern library stamp (faded) to t-p verso.
A very good, clean copy of the first edition of the first printed Persian grammar—a superb Elzevir typographical feat. This edition was printed on large paper (Willems 477), and this copy partly preserves the original wide margins. Lodewijk de Dieu (1590-1642) was a Dutch Protestant minister and a major scholar of oriental languages trained at Leiden and, in Persian, by the collector Jacob Golius. For the Leiden students and scholars for whom it was produced, this was the first such reference work available, as other important projects, undertaken at the Medici Oriental Press in Rome, had remained in ms. Most importantly, Dieu understood that ‘the verbal system of Persian is completely different from that of Arabic’, as well as ‘the fundamental structural difference between those two languages’ (‘Or. Suec.’, 175). The work comprises sections on the basic elements of Persian, verbs, tenses, conjugations and aspects, nouns, cases, adjectives, numerals, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections (with the odd translation into ‘Belgice’ using Gothic type). The last four ll. contain the first two chapters of Genesis translated by Jacob Tawusus (fl. C16), as they appeared in the first Persian edition of the Pentateuch (Constantinople, 1546). ‘The Elzevirs had 8 special journeymen and 5 correctors working only for the oriental press. They were all inscribed as students of the university. […] Between 1626 and 1642 they produced 13 well-printed books, most of which were published for the students of Hebrew and oriental languages at the university’ (‘Leiden’, 38-9). The Persian type, like the Arabic, was probably purchased by Isaac from the press of the great orientalist Thomas Erpenius, together with Syriac, Ethiopic and Samaritan types; the Hebrew type was the same used at the Plantin press under Franciscus Raphelengius, former professor of Hebrew at Leiden (McKitterick, ‘History’, 184). An important work.Copinger 1314; Willems 477. D. McKitterick, A History of Cambridge University Press: Vol. 1 (Cambridge, 1992); ‘Leiden’, in Hebrew Typography in the Northern Netherlands, ed. L. Fuks et al. (1984); Orientalia Suecana 57 (2008).