BAYER, Theophil (Gottlieb) Siegfrid

BAYER, Theophil (Gottlieb) Siegfrid. Königsberg 6.1.1694 — St. Petersburg 10.2.1738. German Orientalist and Historian, from Königsberg, was elected to the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences and moved to St.Petersburg. In Russian his name is variously spelled as Beer, Beèr, and Bajer’. Son of a painter, of a German family coming from Hungary. Educated at Collegium Fridericianum in Königsberg, and in 1710-15 studied at local university Theology together with classical and Oriental languages. In 1715 dissertation on an exegetic subject. In 1715-17 further studies in Berlin, where he examined Chinese books in the library and learnt Coptic from Lacrôze, then in Halle, where he became acquainted with Francke and started his correspondence with Malabar missionaries, further in Leipzig (Master’s degree in 1717), and again in Berlin. Severe illness prevented him from the planned trip to West Europa.

After having recovered he returned to Königsberg and became in 1718 librarian and Docent at the university. From 1720 Conrector of the cathedral school (future Gymnasium), 1721 Prorector. In 1725 he was invited to the Imperial Academy, and arrived at St.Petersburg in 1726. For several years he was one of the most active members of the philosophical-historical section. The salary was not very good, and in times he even had economic difficulties. In addition, he quarreled with the librarian and suffered of homesickness. In 1738 he decided to return to Königsberg, but on the treshold of travel he got a fever and soon succumbed to it. He married in 1720, and had eight children (2 sons, 6 daughters), four of whom survived their father.

As was usual in his time, Bayer was a universal Orientalist, as much interested in the Near East as in the Far East. His main language was probably Syriac, but he was also much interested in China and India. In the first place he was a historian, and also a good scholar of classical philology, Prussian history and Russian history (a pioneer!). He was one of the first to understand the importance of numismatics for history. His three Oriental monographies (Mus. Sinicum, Hist. Osrhoëna, & Hist. regni Bactr.) were all important pioneer achievements. He prepared the first Chinese grammar and the first Chinese text edition in Europe. As to India he was the first to put together the meagre evidence (just one coin in addition to classical sources) on Bactrian Greeks. More evidence on India he collected from his correspondence with Trankebar missionaries and in St. Petersburg he was able to interview some merchants from Multan. On the basis of xylographs brought from Siberia he reflected on palaeography, and was able to show, for instance, the Western origin of the Mongolian and the Indian origin of the Phags-pa and Tibetan writings. Before his death he was planning a major book on the history of Eastern churches.

Publications: diss. Vindiciae verborum Christi ἡλι, ἡλι, λαμα σαβακτανι quorundam oppositae. Regiomonte 1716; De diis vialibus Graecorum disputatio. Regiom. 1718; Lucubrationes de inscriptionibus Iudaeorum Graecis et Latinis. Regiom. 1721; Auszug der älteren Staatsgeschichte zum gebrauche Petri II. 432 p. St.P. 1728; Historia congregationis cardinalium de propaganda fide, disputatio. Regiom. 1721; De numis Romanis agro Prussico repertis commentarius. Lp. 1722 (in German in Erleuterte Preussen 1, 1724, 417-447); Dissertatio de numo Rhodio in agro Sam­biensi reperto. Regiom. 1723; Begebenheiten von Asow, wie selbiges lange vor Christi Geburth von den Griechen erbauet … und wie es endlich von Russland wieder erobert worden. 242 p. St.P. [1736].

Museum Sinicum, in quo Sinicae linguae et literaturae ratio explicatur. 1-2. 20+145+ 373 p. St.P. 1730; De eclipsi Sinica liber singularis. Regiom. 1718; De horis Sinicis et cyclo horario commentationes. 32 p. St.P. 1735; “Dissertatio de lingua Mangiurica”, Comm. Ac. Imp. Petr. 6, 1738, 329-338; “De lexico Sinico Çŭ gvéy”, Ib. 339-364; “De Confucii libro Ch’ûn çiêu”, ib. 7. 1740, 362-426.

Historia Osrhoëna et Edessena ex numis illustrata. 362 p. St.P. 1734.

Historia regni Graecorum Bactriani, in qua simul Graecarum in India coloniarum vetus memoria explicatur. 30+213 p. St.P. 1738.

reviews in Acta Eruditorum, articles in Acta Borussica, Gel. Preussen, Misc. Berol., Comm. Acad. Imp. Petrop. For instance: “De muro Caucaseo”, Comm. Ac. Imp. Petr. 1, 1726, 425-463; “Chronologia Scythia vetus”, ib. 3, 1728, 295-350; “Conversiones rerum Scythicarum temporibus Mithridatis Magni”, ib. 5, 1738, 297-360; “Fasti Achaici”, ib. 374-448; “De Russorum prima expeditione Constanrinopolitana”, ib. 6, 1738, 365-391; “Origines Russicae”, ib. 8, 1741, 388-436; “Geogr. Russiae vicinarumque regionum circiter A.D. 948 ex Const. Porphyrogenn.”, ib. 9, 1744, 367-422, “… ex scriptoribus septentrionalibus”, ib. 10, 1747, 371-419.

– “Novum Testamentum in linguam Damulicam versum opera B. Ziegenbalg”, Acta Erud. 1717, 249-253, review of his own Hist. Bactr., ib. 1741, 579-590; “Elementa litteraturae brahmanicae, tangutanae, mungalicae”, Comm.Ac.Imp.Petr. 3, 1732, 389-422; “Elementa brahmanica, tangutana, mungalica”, ib. 4, 1735, 289-301.

Sources: F. Babinger, G. S. Bayer. Diss. München 1915; opera in Livotova & Portugal, VIAN 1726-1917. M. 1966, 11f.; Wikipedia (more details in Russian version); *K. Lundbæk, T.S. Bayer, 1694–1738: Pioneer Sinologist. 241 p. SIAS Monograph Series 54. London & Malmö 1986 (cf. *T. Lodén, AO 53, 1992, 159-168).

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