XAVIER, Hieronimus; DE DIEU, Lodewijk. [with] XAVIER, Hieronimus; DE DIEU, Lodewijk. [and] DE DIEU, Lodewijk.


XAVIER, Hieronimus; DE DIEU, Lodewijk. [with] XAVIER, Hieronimus; DE DIEU, Lodewijk. [and] DE DIEU, Lodewijk. Historia Christi Persice. [with] Historia S. Petri. [and] Rudimenta Linguae Persicae.

Leiden, Ex Officina Elzeviriana, 1639


FIRST EDITIONS, III on LARGE PAPER. 4to. 3 works in 1, separate titles and imprints, I: pp. [24], 636, [4]; II: pp. [8], 144; III: pp. [8], 95, [1]. Arabic letter, with Roman. Titles in red and black with printer’s device, all pages within typographical rule. Slight age browning, first gathering of I and last of III a trifle dusty and waterstained along edges. Good copies in contemporary Dutch vellum over boards, yapp edges, later morocco label, all edges blue, covers a little soiled. Early ms ‘X’ to front pastedown, C19 armorial bookplate beneath, C18 ms bibliographical note to fly, early ms contents and illegible later inscription to first title, occasional underlining.

A most interesting C17 sammelband for students of Persian, including the first-ever printed grammar of Persian, and Persian translations of the lives of Christ and St Peter, all overseen by Lodewijk de Dieu. ‘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).

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, his Persian grammar – here the third work, printed on large paper – 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 first and second works are Persian translations of the lives of Christ and St Peter, for the use of missionaries. Edited and translated into Latin by de Dieu, they were written, in collaboration with Abdu-s-sattar al-Qasim, by the Jesuit Jerome Xavier, born Jerónimo de Ezpeleta y Goñi (1549-1617). Xavier lived at the Mughal court of Akbar (1542-1605), who commissioned the works, and later under Akbar’s son Jahangir. De Dieu added a preface explaining that Xavier had added numerous ‘heretical’ passages to the life of Christ, from apocryphal material, seeking to undermine the Jesuit approach to the (not always faithful) translation of sacred texts.

I: USTC 1027952; Willems 490 (issued together with II). II: USTC 1011873: Willems 490 (issued together with I). III: USTC 1011890; Willems 477 (printed on large paper). 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); E.D. Maclagan, ‘Jesuit Missions to the Emperor Akbar’, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1896).
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