ANQUETIL-DUPERRON, Abraham Hyacinthe

ANQUETIL-DUPERRON, Abraham Hyacinthe. Paris 7.12.1731 — Paris 18.1.1805. French Orientalist, Pioneer of Iranian and Indian Studies. Travelled in India 1755-61, then member of the A.I.B.L. in Paris. He was the son of a spice merchant from Paris, Pierre Anquetil and Angélique Coignard, and brother of historian Louis-Pierre Anquetil (1723-1806). He studied as a pupil of the Jansenist bishop de Caylus in Paris and among Dutch Jansenists, learning, among other things, Oriental languages. Back in Paris in 1752 he is said to have seen in the Royal Library the copy of an Avestic fragment kept in Oxford, which nobody could read, and decided to solve its secret. Leaving Paris 7.11.1754, he arrived at Pondichéry in 10.8.1755. He was able to find patrons and got, in addition to the small scholarship of the Royal Library, a grant from the French Governor General for studying Oriental languages. For a while he studied Persian and Tamil and had some problems with his health. In 1756 he went to Chandernagore and learnt Bengali. In the be­ginning of the Seven Years’ War he served a short time in the army, but quarreled with his officers and left.

Travelling by land to Pondichéry he arrived there after three months in 10.8.1757. In the winter he proceeded by sea, visited Kerala, and went from Goa to Pune and Elura, where he was the first to describe the cave temples (later he also saw and described those of Kanheri and Elephanta), and further to Surat, where his brother, Etienne-Jean Anquetil de Briancourt (1727–II) was the vice-director of the French factory (then director and 1773-78 French consul). As an unscrupulous, quarrelsome and charming person Anquetil-Duperron alternately quarreled with and made use of the Europeans and the Parsis of the town, and making good use of the party division of the Parsis and even of blackmail he secured manuscripts and good teachers, the cousins Darab and Kaus.

A period of intensive work, 30.3.1759–10.1.1760, produced the first French translation of the Avesta. Anquetil-Duperron left Surat in 15.3.1761 and arrived 8 months later at Portsmouth. First interned, he then visited Oxford to study local Parsi manuscripts and arrived at Paris in March 1762. His manuscript collection he deposited in Royal Library. He remained the rest of his life in Paris living in a rather humble position concentrating on his studies and working as an interpreter of Oriental languages at Royal Library. From 1756 correspondent and from 1763 full member of the A.I.B.L. As a royalist he lost his position during the revolution. In 1804 he was invited to the new Academy, but declined to give the oath of loyalty to the emperor. He had ascetic habits and remained unmarried. Beside Avestan, Pahlavi and Persian he also knew several Indian languages, Hebrew and Arabic.

The Zend-Avesta roused a great controversy, where Anquetil-Duperron was even accused of forging his text. Among critics were Diderot, Voltaire, Melchior von Grimm and the young —> William Jones, among defenders Herder, J. de Guignes, Heeren and Tychsen. Arguments were rarely much to the point. Some later critics (—> v. Bohlen still in 1831) attempted to explain Avesta as a kind of corrupted Sanskrit. Definitely the controversy was decided in favour of Anquetil-Duperron and the Avesta by Rask (1826) and Burnouf (1833).

During his late years Anquetil-Duperron has been described as a political utopist and a paranoiac, but his scholarly work was still quite acceptable according to the standards of the time. His Oupnek’hat, translated from the Persian version (Sirr-i Akbar), was the first sample of the Upaniṣads known in Europe. Although written in complicated Latin, with frequent Greek and Persian works inserted, it caused much attention and was admired by many (e.g. Schopenhauer). He was also interested in Sanskrit and collected material about it. His papers are kept in Bibliothèque nationale.

Publications: Le Zend-Avesta. 1–3. P. 1762–69. French transl. with a “Discours pré­liminaire” of 500 p. including a description of his travels, and various appendices. German transl. by Kleuker, Riga 1775, and of Vol. 1 by J. G. Purmann 1776; vol. 1 (travels) also republished in 1997.

– “Recherches sur les langues anciennes de la Perse”, MAIBL 31, 1763, 340-442.

– “Exposition du système théologique des Perses, tiré des livres Zends, Pehlvis & Parsis”, MAIBL 37, 1774, 571-709, “Recherches sur le temps auquel a vécu Zoroastre, législateur des Perses & euteur des livres Zends”, Ibid. 710-754; “Mémoire dans lequel on essaye de concilier les auteurs grecs et principalement Hérodote et Ctesias sur le commencement et la durée de l’empire assyrien et ces écrivains avec les Perses sur les règnes qui forment ce que les Orientaux appellent la dynastie des Peschadiens”, MAIBL 40, 1773, 356-476; “Le premier fleuve de l’Inde, le Gange, selon les anciens, expliqué par le Gange, selon les modernes”, MAIBL 49, 1808, 512-646; further articles in MAIBL and JS.

Legislation orientale. 312 p. Amsterdam 1778; Recherches historiques et géographiques sur l’Inde. B. 1786-88 (vols. 2-3 of J. Bernouilli’s Description historique et géographique de l’Inde); Dignité du commerce et de l’état commerçant. P. 1789; L’Inde en rapport avec Europe. 1-2. P. 1798.

Transl. from Persian: Oupnek’hat. Id est secretum tegendum: opus ipsa in India rarissimum. 1-2. 111+736, 16+880+36 p. Argentorati IX-X (1801-02) (analysis by A. Weber, Ind. St. 1-2 & 9, German transl. by F. Mischelin 1882).

Transl. with notes: Voyage aux Indes Orientales, par le P. Paulin de Saint-Barthélemy. P. 1808 (acc. to title page transl. by M***, notes by A-D, Forster and Silvestre de Sacy, acc. to Valensi tr. by A-D and edited by SdeS).

– A.H.A.D., Voyage en Inde 1754–1762. Relation de voyage en préliminaire à la traduction du Zenda-Avesta. Présentation, notes et bibliogr. par J. Deloche, M. Filliozat et P.-S. Filliozat. 530 p. P. 1997.

Sources: *Catalogue des livres de A.H. A.-D. Paris 1805; Présentation of the 1997 edition of his Travels, 9-58 with portrait medaillon; *H. Beveridge, “A. du Perron”, Calc. Review 103, 1896, 284-305; A. Boës, Lex. gramm. 1996, 30f.; Dacier, Hist. & Mém. de l’Inst. de France 3, 1818, 146-170; *P.-S. Filliozat, “Anquetil Duperron, un pionnier du voyage scientifique en Inde”, CRAI 149, 2005, 1261-1280; K. Karttunen “Anquetil Duperron – Zarathuštran löytäjä” in O. Kantokorpi (ed.), Matka-arkku, Helsinki 1982, 9-20; *J.-L. Kieffer, A.-D. L’Inde en France au XVIIIe siècle. P. 1983; R. Schwab, Anquetil-Duperron. Sa vie. 8+240 p. P. 1934; Sengupta 1996, 1-11; *Romain Stroppetti, A.-D. sa place et son role dans la Renaissance orientale. Montpellier 1986 (diss.); L. Valensi, D.O.L.F. 21-23 and “Éloge de l’Orient, éloge de l’orientalisme le jeu d’échecs d’A.-D.”, *RHR 222, 1995, 419-452 (on Législation or.); *A.D. Waley, “A.D. and Sir William Jones”, History Today 2, 1952, 23-33; *Wikipedia with picture.

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