DARMESTETER, James

DARMESTETER, James. Château-Salins (Meurth, Lorraine) 28.3.1849 — Maisons-Laffitte near Paris 19.10.1894. French Iranian Scholar. Professor in Paris. Son of Calmann D., a Jewish bookbinder, and Rosalie Brandeis, younger brother of the philologist Arsène D. (1846–1888). Educated in Paris, matriculated from Lycée Concordet in 1866. Then studied philology (lic. 1868) and law (lic. 1870) in Paris. Ph.D. 1877 Paris. A student of Bréal and Bergaigne. From 1877 taught Avesta at É.P.H.É. In 1885 succeeded Barbier de Meynard as Professor of Persian Language and Literature at Collège de France. From February 1886 till February 1887 travelled in India (Bombay, Peshawar, Hazara) observing Parsi rituals, collecting manuscripts and learning Gujarātī. Proceeding towards Afghanistan he studied Pashtō and showed its Iranian character. From 1892 director of É.P.H.É. He had always suffered of poor health and died after a short illness. Some sources give 29.11. as the date of his death, but the tombstone (picture in Wikipedia) seems to settle the matter. Married 1888 the English poetess, Mary Robinson (1857–1944) and translated many of her works into French.

Darmesteter was known as a specialist of Zoroastrianism and the Avesta, who often waged rather bold theories. He argued for the late date and Median origin of Zoroastrianism (final form in the 4th century CE, with late Indian, Greek and Jewish influences) and emphasized the importance of Parsi tradition without neglecting the comparative view and IE background. He also knew Sanskrit well. He was characterized as a poor speaker, but good writer.

Publications: Diss. Ormazd et Ahriman. Leurs origines et leur histoire. 360 p. B.É.H.É. 29. P. 1877.

Hauwatât et Ameretât. Essai sur la mythologie de l’Avesta. 92 p. B.É.H.É. 23. P. 1875; Essais orientaux. 279 p. P. 1883; Études iraniennes. 1-2:1-2. 726 p. P. 1887, English transl. Bombay 1888.

– “Notes sur l’Avesta”, MSL 3, 1878, 52-74; “Observations sur le Vendîdâd”, JA 7:17, 1881, 435-514.

– Transl. into English with L. H. Mills: The Zend-Avesta. S.B.E. 4, 23 & 31. Oxford 1880-?? (4. The Vendîdâd; 23. The Sîrôzahs, Yasts, and Nyâyis; 31. The Yasna, Vispered, Âfrînagân, Gâhs, and Miscellaneous Fragments).

– “Le dieu suprème dans la mythologie indo-européenne”, RHR 1, 1880, 305-326; “Le Hvaêtvadatha ou le mariage entre consanguines chez les Parsis”, RHR 24, 1891, 366-375.

Rapport sur une mission philologique dans l’Hindoustan. P. 1887; Lettres sur l’Inde. 355 p. P. 1888.

Le Mahdi depuis les origines de l’Islam jusqu’à nos jours. Bibl. elzev. 43. P. 1885; Coup d’oeil sur l’histoire de la Perse. Bibl. elzev. 44. P. 1885; Les origines de la Poésie persane. Bibl. elzev. 53. P. 1887.

Parsism, its Place in History. 32 p. Bombay 1887.

– “Points de contact entre le Mahâbhârata et le Shâh-nâmah”, JA 8:10, 1887, 38-75.

Chants populaires des Afghans, recueillis, publiés et traduits, précédés d’une introduction sur la langue, l’histoire, et la littérature des Afghans. 1-2. 218+299+227 p. P. 1888-90 (text and transl.).

– “Textes pehlvis relatifs au judaisme”, Revue des Études juives 18, 1889. 1-15 & 19, 1889, 41-56; “Lettre de Tansar à Jusnaf, roi de Tabaristan”, JA 9:3, 1894, 185-250, 502-555 (ed. & transl.).

Translated into French: Avesta. 1-3. A.M.G. 21. P. 1892-93 (complete).

Articles in MSL, JA, RHR, Revue critique, Journal des Débats, Nouvelle Revue, etc.

Sources: *Barbier de Meynard, JA 9:4, 1894, 519-534; *Bréal, BSL 9, 1896, 56-72 & bibliogr. by Blochet, 72-80; Buckland, Dictionary; *Chavannes, JA 9:6, 1895, 40-67; Cordier, JRAS 1895, 216-222; *M. Gardaz, “The Age of Discoveries and Patriotism: James Darmesteter’s Assessment of French Orientalism”, Religion 30, 2000, 353-365; F. Hitzel, D.O.L.F. 255f.; *F. Max Müller, The Jewish Quarterly Review 7, 1895, 173-194; J. Reville, RHR 30, 1894, 205-212; Wikipedia.

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