1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anquetil Duperron, Abraham Hyacinthe

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 2
Anquetil Duperron, Abraham Hyacinthe
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ANQUETIL, DUPERRON, ABRAHAM HYACINTHE (1731-1805), French orientalist, brother of Louis Pierre Anquetil, the historian, was born in Paris on the 7th of December 1731. He was educated for the priesthood in Paris and Utrecht, but his taste for Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, and other languages of the East developed into a passion, and he discontinued his theological course to devote himself entirely to them. His diligent attendance at the Royal Library attracted the attention of the keeper of the manuscripts, the Abbé Sallier, whose influence procured for him a small salary as student of the oriental languages. He had lighted on some fragments of the Vendidad Sade, and formed the project of a voyage to India to discover the works of Zoroaster. With this end in view he enlisted as a private soldier, on the 2nd of November 1754, in the Indian expedition which was about to start from the port of L’Orient. His friends procured his discharge, and he was granted a free passage, a seat at the captain’s table, and a salary, the amount of which was to be fixed by the governor of the French settlement in India. After a passage of six months, Anquetil landed, on the 10th of August 1755, at Pondicherry. Here he remained a short time to master modern Persian, and then hastened to Chandernagore to acquire Sanskrit. Just then war was declared between France and England; Chandernagore was taken, and Anquetil returned to Pondicherry by land. He found one of his brothers at Pondicherry, and embarked with him for Surat; but, with a view of exploring the country, he landed at Mahé and proceeded on foot. At Surat he succeeded, by perseverance and address in his intercourse with the native priests, in acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the Zend and Pahlavi languages to translate the liturgy called the Vendidad Sade and some other works. Thence he proposed going to Benares, to study the language, antiquities, and sacred laws of the Hindus; but the capture of Pondicherry obliged him to quit India. Returning to Europe in an English vessel, he spent some time in London and Oxford, and then set out for France. He arrived in Paris on the 14th of March 1762 in possession of one hundred and eighty oriental manuscripts, besides other curiosities. The Abbé Barthélemy procured for him a pension, with the appointment of interpreter of oriental languages at the Royal Library. In 1763 he was elected an associate of the Academy of Inscriptions, and began to arrange for the publication of the materials he had collected during his eastern travels. In 1771 he published his Zend-Avesta (3 vols.), containing collections from the sacred writings of the fire-worshippers, a life of Zoroaster, and fragments of works ascribed to him. In 1778 he published at Amsterdam his Législation orientale, in which he endeavoured to prove that the nature of oriental despotism had been greatly misrepresented. His Recherches historiques et géographiques sur l’Inde appeared in 1786, and formed part of Thieffenthaler’s Geography of India. The Revolution seems to have greatly affected him. During that period he abandoned society, and lived in voluntary poverty on a few pence a day. In 1798 he published L’Inde en rapport avec l’Europe (Hamburg, 2 vols.), which contained much invective against the English, and numerous misrepresentations. In 1802-1804 he published a Latin translation (2 vols.) from the Persian of the Oupnek’hat or Upanishada. It is a curious mixture of Latin, Greek, Persian, Arabic, and Sanskrit. He died in Paris on the 17th of January 1805.

See Biographie universelle; Sir William Jones, Works (vol. x., 1807); and the Miscellanies of the Philobiblon Society (vol. iii., 1856-1857). For a list of his scattered writings see Quérard, La France littéraire.