« The Republic of Letters | ‘Lost Articles’ | Criticism »

Tartarian Libraries

CARDINAL Perron, in the Perroniana, has the following curious article of intelligence: “In that part of Tartary which belongs to the kingdom of Persia, there exits a flourishing university, where the Arabs cultivate literature. Gioan Baptista Remondi, who was the first who caused books in the Arabic language to be printed in Europe, and who had even studied in this university, has pretended to say, that there were a number of Arabic books translated from many Greek authors who remain unknown to the Europeans. It was the Arabians who preserved a book of Archimedes: with many authors who have written on mathematics; such as Apollonius Pergeæus, and even Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen.”

To this account may be added that which Bell has given us in his Travels to Tartary. It is—“That in Siberia there exists an uncommon library, the rooms of which are filled with scrolls of glazed paper, fairly wrote, and many of them in gilt characters. The language in which they are written is that of the Tongusts, or Calmucs. Perhaps,” he adds, “they may contain some valuable pieces of antiquity, particularly ancient history.”

At Mount Athos, Mr. Andrews, in his Anecdotes, informs us, “That travellers agree there are several monasteries with libraries full of books, which are illegible to those holy brotherhoods, but whose contents are probably well worth inspection.”

Every captain, who can write his own log-book, has of late obtruded his discoveries of every ten yards of land he has happened to observe, and worked up into pathos his account of forms and short provisions. If these literary navigators would, in their voyages, endeavour to bring some information, or some materials of this kind, to Europe, a new source of knowledge would be opened to our contemplation; many books, which are now lost, might probably be recovered; Science might be enlarged, and Amusement gratified.