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Polyglot from the Far Side of the Moon - The Life and Works of Solomon Caesar Malan (1812–1894)

  • Pocket

  • 2023

  • Engelsk

Though recognized in the latter part of the 19th century as "the greatest Orientalist in Britain," the Geneva-born Anglican priest, Solomon Caesar Malan (1812–1894) was such an extraordinary person that he has defied any scholarly person to write a critical account of his life and works. Consequently, almost no one has written anything critically appreciative and insightful about him since his death.

A polymath with extraordinary talent for languages and sketching, among other specialized skills, Malan focused much of his life on assessing biblical translations in ancient Middle Eastern and East Asian languages, while also producing English translations of alternative expressions of Christianity found in north Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. A life-long interest of his was comparing the proverbs of his name-sake, King Solomon, with proverbial wisdom from as many cultures and languages as he could find. That interest culminated in a three-volume work that enshrined his achievements realized through his capacities as a hyperpolyglot within the context of a search for shared wisdom across many cultures.

In this volume, produced by a team of collaborators from a wide range of scholarly interests and varying expertise, we have presented a critically assessed account of the life and key works produced by Solomon Caesar Malan. In fact, it is the first work of its kind on Malan written since his death, now having occurred more than 125 years ago. Readers will journey through an itinerary that starts in Geneva before it became part of Switzerland, moves to Great Britain, and ultimately into one of the colleges in Oxford. Subsequently, it moves us into an exploration of the journey of his life that involved a huge range of places, people, and languages: starting in Calcutta, touching unusual figures from Hungary, India, and China. Those seminal experiences led Malan into studies of languages related to even more distant cultural worlds in Central, Southeastern, and East Asia. The historians among us have delved into Malan’s life in Calcutta, Geneva, and Dorsetshire, while others have explored the nature of his hyperpolyglossia, and tested the quality of his understanding of ancient literature in classical languages that include Chinese, Manchurian, Sanskrit and Tibetan. Notably, Malan’s personal library was so unique, that when he donated it to his alma mater at Oxford University, it became one of the major bibliographic precedents for what is now the Oriental Division in the Bodleian Libraries. Yet, when one follows the twists and turns of his life’s journey, and the surprises that occur from documenting the history and content of the Malan Library as well as critically analysing aspects of his opus magnum, Original Notes on the Book of Proverbs (1889–1893), we believe both general readers and scholarly specialists will be entranced.

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