Meditationes Sinicae, in quibus: I. Consideratur Linguae Philosophicae atque Universalis Natura qualis esse… II. Lingua Sinarum mandarinica, tum in Hieroglyphis, tum in Monosyllabis suis… III. Datur eorumdem Hieroglyphorum, ac Monosyllaborum… IV. Étienne FOURMONT.
Meditationes Sinicae, in quibus: I. Consideratur Linguae Philosophicae atque Universalis Natura qualis esse… II. Lingua Sinarum mandarinica, tum in Hieroglyphis, tum in Monosyllabis suis… III. Datur eorumdem Hieroglyphorum, ac Monosyllaborum… IV.
Meditationes Sinicae, in quibus: I. Consideratur Linguae Philosophicae atque Universalis Natura qualis esse… II. Lingua Sinarum mandarinica, tum in Hieroglyphis, tum in Monosyllabis suis… III. Datur eorumdem Hieroglyphorum, ac Monosyllaborum… IV.
The Beginning of French Sinology.
The First Work Printed with Engraved Chinese Type in France.
Paris, Chez Musier [et al.], 1737.

Meditationes Sinicae, in quibus: I. Consideratur Linguae Philosophicae atque Universalis Natura qualis esse… II. Lingua Sinarum mandarinica, tum in Hieroglyphis, tum in Monosyllabis suis… III. Datur eorumdem Hieroglyphorum, ac Monosyllaborum… IV.

Folio [33.5 cm x 22 cm], (4) ff, xxvi, (2) ff, 152 pp, plus large folding chart of vocalized characters. Bound in contemporary vellum over boards with gilt title label on spine. One or two signatures significantly toned, pages otherwise clean and fresh. A pleasant and very genuine copy.

Scarce first and sole edition of the author’s first work: an elaborate treatise on the Chinese [South Mandarin] language, “the second grammar to be published in Europe, preceded only by Bayer’s grammatical account [St. Petersburg, 1730]” (Löwendahl).  As the first work printed with engraved Chinese type in France, Fourmont’s Meditationes Sinicae may be considered THE BEGINNING OF FRENCH SINOLOGY.

The attractively-printed folio treatise introduces the reader to the Kangxi system of 214 radicals, still in use today as a method of learning Chinese. Fourmont calls this system of forming characters the ‘Clavis Sinica’, using it as a departure point for his discussion of tones, linguistic ancestry, and even a thorough review of known literature (both European and Chinese) on the Chinese language.

The present work is significant in the history of Oriental typography, representing the first use of the petits chinois typeset created at the behest of Louis XIV, the first Chinese type produced in France. “With the support of the Regent, the Duke of Orleans, and of [Jean-Paul] Bignon, Fourmont accomplished the engraving of 80,000 characters for the printing of his [proposed] dictionaries and grammars. This was an ambitious project, since no Chinese engravers were available in Paris. Fourmont had to train French craftsmen, seeing to it that the strokes were scrupulously copied and properly placed for each character. The models were taken from a Chinese dictionary [Pin tse tien / Pin zijian]. The engraving commenced in 1720, and there were seven craftsmen to begin with, the work lasting twenty years in all” (Leung, p. 243).

Fourmont (1683-1745) was appointed in 1711 to assist Arcadio Huang, a Chinese Christian convert brought to Paris to promote the learning of Chinese. After Huang’s death, Fourmont was placed in charge of the Chinese scholar’s papers. Both Fourmont’s Meditationes Sinicae and his Grammatica Sinica (1742) are said to draw heavily on Huang’s own unpublished work.

Our copy is complete of the folding chart of vocalized characters missing in many copies.

OCLC shows seven US copies: NYPL, Yale, Newberry, Chicago, Allegheny College (PA), Cornell, and Columbia.

* Cordier BS III, 1658-60; Lowendahl 402; cf also Leung, Etienne Fourmont (1683–1745): Oriental and Chinese Languages in Eighteenth-Century France.

Price: $15,000.00

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