MEYER, Johann Jakob. Frankenmuth, Saginaw County, Michigan 25.4.1870 — Chur 2.4.1939. German (U.S.) Indologist. Born in an outlying German colony in a poor and big family of German immigrants from Frankonia, being the oldest child of Johann Michael M., of Franconian origin, and Anna Katharina Engel. He was able to enter college rather late, but learned soon Latin, Greek and Hebrew, privately also Sanskrit. B.A. 1891 from Concordia College in Fort Wayne, Indiana and 1894 from Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis. Earning his living from agricultural work he learned Russian, Italian, Spanish and Persian during his free hours. More challenging occupations were found in library work and writing for newspapers. In 1898-1900 he studied Germanic and IE Linguistics at Chicago University (under Buck), in Sanskrit he remained autodidact. Ph.D. 1900 Chicago, his dissertation on the Daśakumāracarita brought him a Docentship. During a four years’ leave because of an illness he visited Europe and married in 1904 a Swiss woman. From 1908 Lecturer in German at Chicago. In this time he was much interested in Finnish language and literature and published a number of translations. Unfortunately his nervous illness recurred and after eight years of illness he retired on disability pension in 1919 and moved with his family to Switzerland. Lived first in Reinach and from 1921 until his death in Chur. Died in paralysis. His wife, Agnes Calonder, died in 1935; they had four sons
During his early years Meyer was mainly interested in erotic and narrative literature. After his first illness he concentrated on epics and after the second on the Arthaśāstra. The last-mentioned text he considered to be genuine and criticized Jolly’s and Losch’s opinions. In his last years he became also interested in the Ṛgveda. His recurring illness and lack of books hampered his work, as did also his lack of systematics, but at the same time his wide learning adds to its value. Especially the massive commentary of his Arthaśāstra translation is still important. He was also known as a friend of nature and a poet.
Publications: Transl.: Daṇḍin’s Daśakumāracarita. Die Abenteuer der zehn Prinzen. Ein altindischer Schelmenroman. 12+367 p. Lp. 1902; Kṣemendra’s Samayamātṛkā. Das Zauberbuch der Hetären. 58+108 p. Altindische Schelmenbücher 1. Lp. 1903; Dāmodara Gupta’s Kuṭṭanīmatam. Lehren einer Kupplerin. 4+156 p. Altind. Schelmenb. 2. 1903; Kāvyasaṁgraha, erotische und esoterische Lieder. 8+221 p. Lp. 1903; Hindu Tales. An English translation of Jacobi’s Ausgewählte Erzählungen. 12+305 p. L. 1909.
– Isoldes Gottesurteil in seiner erotischen Bedeutung. 290 p. B. 1914.
– Das Weib im altindischen Epos. 18+440 p. Lp. 1915; rev. English transl. with rather misleading title as Sexual life in ancient India. 20+590 p. L. 1930, 1952.
– Translated: Kauṭilya, Arthaçāstra. Das altindische Buch vom Welt- und Staatsleben. 88+983 p. Lp. 1926.
– Über das Wesen der altindischen Rechtsschriften und ihr Verhältnis zu einander und zu Kauṭilya. 9+440 p. Lp. 1927; Gesetzbuch und Purāṇa. Ein Beitrag zur Frage von der Entstehungsart der altindischen Rechtsschriften und der Purāṇa. 13+112 p. Ind. Forsch. 7. Breslau 1929.
– “Über den anatomisch-physiologischen Abschnitt in der Yājñavalkya- und in den Vishṇusmṛti”, WZKM 35, 1928, 49-58; “Die menschlichen Körperteile in ihrer Bedeutung für Schicksal und Character”, WZKM 36, 1929, 108-135, 242-262; “Die Baumzuchtkapitel des Agnipurāṇa”, Fs. M. Winternitz 1933, 56-65; “Textchronologie aus Schreibfehlern in Indien”, ZII 10, 1936, 257-276 (ViDhPur); “Moses und Zarathustra, Jesus und Muhammed in einem Purāṇa”, WZKM 43, 1936, 1-18 & 279.
– Trilogie altindischer Mächte und Feste der Vegetation. 1-3. Zürich 1937 (Kāma, Bali, & Indra); Zusätze in WZKM 46, 1939, 47-140.
– From and about Finnish: Koskenniemi: Gedichte. 1908; “A modern Finnish Cain”, Modern Philology 7, 1909; Vom Land der 1000 Seen. Eine Abhandlung über neuere finnische Literatur und eine Auswahl aus modernen finnischen Novellisten. 10+650 p. Lp. 1910.
– Own collections of poetry; articles and reviews; further translations.
Sources: D. George, ZDMG 118, 1968, 224-233 with bibliography; Stache-Rosen 1990, 171f.; F. Wilhelm, N.D.B. 17, 353; photo in Rau 92.