x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Polymath's dictionary manuscript uncovered in British Library

The manuscript of a 212-year-old dictionary written by a British polymath employed by the East India Company in the late 18th century has been traced in the British Library.

LONDON // The manuscript of a 212-year-old dictionary written by a British polymath employed by the East India Company in the late 18th century has been traced in the British Library

The find had shed new light on the history of words in Indian languages.

The dictionary, titled "Comparative Vocabularies", was written in 1800 by Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton, who was a surgeon to the governor-general Lord Wellesley in Calcutta (now Kolkata).

The manuscript traced in the British Library by Rini Kakati, the London-based director of Friends of Assam and the Seven Sisters (Fass), is a dictionary of 10 languages, including Assamese, Bengali, Manipuri, Garo, Rabha Koch, Kachari, Panikoch and Mech.

Ms Kakati said she was told of the manuscript by Raktim Ranjan Saikia of the department of geology in JB College in Jorhat, on behalf of Asom Jatiya Prakash, publisher of the dictionary. She said she was delighted to be able to trace the historic collection.

The book has 155 pages of landscape-sized paper. There are 18,000 words with 1,800 words in each of the 10 languages.

A Scottish physician, Buchanan-Hamilton is recognised for making significant contributions as a geographer, oologist, and botanist while living in India. The standard botanical author abbreviation 'Buch.-Ham.' is applied to plants and animals he described.

In 1794, he was appointed a surgeon with the East India Company. He explored Burma, Chittagong, the Andaman Islands, Nepal and North Bengal and Bihar, and made detailed surveys of the botany, geography, agriculture, economy, social conditions and culture of these areas.