SCHMIDT, Isaak Jakob

SCHMIDT, Isaak Jakob (Jakov Ivanovič Šmidt). Amsterdam 14.10.1779 — St.Petersburg 27.8.(8.9.)1847. Dutch-born Central Asian Scholar in Russia. Academician in St. Petersburg. It is said that he was born in the Netherlands in a German (Moravian) merchant family, but Le Calloch points out that his father Jan S. was born in Amsterdam in 1843 and his mother Anna van Dam (d. 1795) six years later. Originally they were Dutch Arminians, but had joined the Moravian Brudergemeinschaft. In 1785 they moved to Neuwied in Rheinland and thus their son learned perfect German. The wars had ruined the family fortune and in 1798 he moved to St.Petersburg and soon to Sarepta in the Kalmuk area, learnt the language and travelled with nomads in the country between the Volga, Don and Caucasus. In missionary work he was less successful. He became Russian citizen in 1800. In 1804-06 he was the commercial representative of the Moravian Brudergemeine in Sarepta and in 1807-11 representative of the Brudergemeine in Saratov by the Volga. Now he also learned classical Mongolian with the help of two Buriats. In 1812 he moded to Moscow, where his papers were destroyed by fire in 1812. Soon again in St.Petersburg he left business in 1819 and began scholarly work in earnest. Later joined the Imperial Academy in St.Petersburg (1826 correspondent, 1828 Adjunkt, 1831 eo., 1833 ord. member). Hon. Dr.Phil. 1827 Rostock, various other honours. An eye disease in 1842 affected gravely his eye sight for his last years. Married 1812 Sara Dorothea Wigand (Le Calloch: Marie-Helene, S.D. was her mother), one daughter..

Schmidt was an important pioneer of Lamaist, Tibetan and Mongolian studies. Through him the narrative collection mJaṅs-blun became known in Europe. However, he was mainly a Mongolian scholar, who in Tibetan relied heavily on Csoma’s works, although supplementing them from Mongol and Kalmuk sources.

Publications: Kalmuk translations of the Gospel acc. to Matthew (1815), catechism (1817) and other Christian texts (1818), Mongolian New Testament (1827).

Forschungen im Gebiete der älteren religiösen, politischen und litterarischen Bildungsgeschichte der Völker Mittelasiens, vorzüglich der Mongolen und Tibeter. 16+287 p. St.P. 1824; Philologisch-kritische Zugabe zu den von … Remusat bekannt gemachten … Originalbriefen der Könige von Persien, Argun und Oldhäitu an Philipp den Schönen. 1824.

Ueber die Verwandtschaft der gnostisch-theosophischen Lehren mit den Religions­system des Orients, vorzüglich dem Buddhaismus. Lp. 1828.

Edited in Mongolian & transl.: Geschichte der Ost-Mongolen und ihres Fürstenhauses verfasst von Ssanang Ssetsen Chungtaidschi. St.P. 1829 (Erdeni-yin tobči); Podvigi ispolnennogo zaslug geroja Bogdy Gesser Hana. 191 p. St.P. 1836 (ed.); Die Taten Bogda Gesser Chans. 14+288 p. St.P. 1839 (Transl.).

– “Über einige Grundlehren des Buddhismus”, Mem. Ac. Imp. 6:1, 1832, 89-120, 221-262; “Über die sogenannte dritte Welt der Buddhaisten”, Ibid. 6:2, 1834, 1-39; “Über die tausend Buddhas einer Weltperiode”, Ibid. 6:2, 1834, 41-86; “Die Volkstämme der Mongolen”, Ibid. 6:2, 1834, 409-477.

Grammatik der Mongolischen Sprache. 12+179 p. St.P. 1831; Grammatika mongol’skogo jazyka. 8+184 p. St.P. 1832; Mongolisch-deutsch-russisches Wörterbuch / Mongol’sko-nemecko-rossijskij slovar’. 8+613 p. St.P. 1835.

Grammatik der tibetischen Sprache. 15+318 p. St.P. 1839; Grammatika tibetskogo jazyka. 3+333 p. St.P. 1839; Tibetisch-deutsches Wörterbuch. 11+748 p. St.P. 1841; Tibetsko-russkij slovar’. 11+765 p. St.P. 1843.

Edited in Tibetan & transl.: Dsanglun oder der Weise und der Thor. 1-2. 38+326, 4+ 404 p. St.P. 1843.

Index des Kandjur. 215 p. St.P. 1845.

With O. Böhtlingk: “Verzeichniss der tibetischen Handschriften und Holzdrucke im Asiatischen Museum”, Bull. hist.-philol. 4, 1847, 81-125.

Brief articles in publications of Imperial Academy in St.Petersburg.

Sources: *F. Babinger, “I.J.S., 1779–1847, ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Tibetforschung”, OZ 8 (Fs. F. Hirt) 1920, 7-21; R. Hoche, A.D.B. 31, 1890, 750f.; *A. Ivanov, Russk. biogr. slovar’ 23, 1911, 353f.;B. Le Calloc’h, “Isaac-Jacob Schmidt, fondateur des études mongoles”, JSFOu 82, 1989, 81-99; Stache-Weiske 2017, 557; *Vigasin 2008, 87 (photo); H. Walravens, N.D.B. 23, 2007, 193f.; Walravens 2008, 163-165; *Rec. des Actes, Acad. Imp. de St.P. 1847-48 3-6 (obituary with portrait), 40-44 bibliography; Rossijskie mongolovedy (XVIII – načalo XX vv.). Ulan-Udè 1997, 19-23; works publ. by Imperial Academy in Livotova & Portugal’ 1966; Wikipedia with portrait.

*H. Walravens, Isaak Jakob Schmidt (1779–1847. Leben und Werk des Pioniers der mongolischen und tibetischen Studien. AKM 56:1. Wb. 2005.

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