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BICENTENARY OF SOCIETE ASIATIQUE – 1822-2022 – Library Rarities

Le dieu hindou Gaṇeśa, illustration d’un manuscrit du Bhāgavata Purāṇa (©Georges Chatelain)

 

Exhibition from November 28 2022 to January 13 2023. Collège de France, 11 place Marcelin berthelot. 75005 PARIS

The Société Asiatique was founded in 1822 and is one of the oldest associative institutions in France. Born in the movement of enthusiasm aroused by the first conquests of scientific orientalism: deciphering of writings, resurrection of monuments and comparison of languages, this learned society crossed the 19th and 20th centuries, in close liaison with the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres and the College de France.

The Société Asiatique Library, established in the first years of the association’s existence, has been enriched over the years by legacies and donations. It now has more than 100,000 printed volumes and more than 1,900 periodicals. On the occasion of its bicentenary, ninety of the rarest works are presented to the public. They cover all areas of Orientalism, and are divided by major theme: history of Asian society, religious studies, geography and travelers, linguistics, and finally history. The event ends with a final section devoted to twenty precious Asian documents, some illustrated. The whole attests to the universalist interest of the association.

In addition to two essays on the history of the Asian Society, the catalog includes the biographies of twenty-three of the most important French orientalists.

Among the documents presented, we will particularly note interesting travelogues from the 17th and 18th centuries, the first dictionaries of rare languages such as Manchu or Cam, translations of Catholic pious books into Armenian and Mongolian, manuscripts and ancient prints in Sanskrit, Cam, Chinese, Lolo script and Japanese. The two most valuable works are undoubtedly a Sino-Manchurian ennoblement edict (1735) and an illustrated Chinese herbarium for medicinal use, a faithful 18th century copy of a 16th century work, a work offered to the Society at its first session, April 1, 1822.

Fuxi, patriarche mythique de la médecine chinoise. Herbier dit herbier Lasteyrie (©Georges Chatelain)
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