Julius Klaproth

Julius Klaproth

Julius Heinrich Klaproth (1783-1835), German Orientalist and traveller.

Klaproth was born in Berlin in October of 1783, the son of the chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth. He devoted his energies in quite early life to the study of Asiatic languages, and published in 1802 his "Asiatisches Magazin" (Weimar, 1802-1803). He was in consequence called to St. Petersburg and given an appointment in the academy there. In 1805 he was a member of Count Golovkin's embassy to China. On his return he was despatched by the academy to the Caucasus on an ethnographical and linguistic exploration (1807-1808), and was afterwards employed for several years in connection with the academy's Oriental publications. In 1812 he moved to Berlin; but in 1815 he settled in Paris, and in 1816 Humboldt procured him from the king of Prussia the title and salary of professor of Asiatic languages and literature, with permission to remain in Paris as long as was requisite for the publication of his works. He died in that city on the 28th of August 1835.

The principal feature of Klaproth's erudition was the vastness of the field which it embraced. His great work "Asia polyglotta" (Paris, 1823 and 1831, with Sprachallas) not only served as a resumé of all that was known on the subject, but formed a new departure for the classification of the Eastern languages, more especially those of the Russian Empire. To a great extent, however, his work is now superseded. The "Itinerary of a Chinese Traveller" (1821), a series of documents in the military archives of St. Petersburg purporting to be the travels of George Ludwig von, and a similar series obtained from him in the London foreign office, are all regarded as spurious.

Klaproth's other works include:
* "Reise in den Kaukasus und Georgien in den Jahren 1807 und 1808" (Halle, 1812-1814; French translation, Paris, 1823)
* "Geographisch-historische Beschreibung des ostlichen Kaukasus" (Weimar, 1814)
* "Tableaux historiques de l'Asie" (Paris, 1826)
* "Memoires relatifs a l'Asie" (Paris, 1824-1828)
* "Tableau historique, geographique, ethnographique et politique de Caucase" (Paris, 1827)
* "Vocabulaire et grammaire de la langue georgienne" (Paris, 1827)


Klaproth was the first to publish a translation of "Taika" era Japanese poetry in the West. Donald Keene explained in a preface to the Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai edition of the "Man'yōshū:": "One 'envoy' ("hanka") to a long poem was translated as early as 1834 by the celebrated German orientalist Heinrich Julius Klaproth (1783-1835). Klaproth, having journeyed to Siberia in pursuit of strange languages, encountered some Japanese cataways, fisherman, hardly ideal mentors for the study of 8th century poetry. Not surprisingly, his translation was anything but accurate."

One of the Klaproth-edited books which have now been scanned and uploaded to the Internet for online study is the posthumously published French translation by Isaac Titsingh of one of the many chronicles of Japanese history:
* Siyun-sai Rin-siyo/Hayashi Gahō. (1652). "Nipon o daï itsi ran; ou, Annales des empereurs du Japon, tr. par M. Isaac Titsingh avec l'aide de plusieurs interprètes attachés au comptoir hollandais de Nangasaki; ouvrage re., complété et cor. sur l'original japonais-chinois, accompagné de notes et précédé d'un Aperçu d'histoire mythologique du Japon, par M.J. Klaproth." Paris: Oriental Translation Fund, 1834. [http://books.google.com/books?id=18oNAAAAIAAJ&dq=nipon+o+dai+itsi+ran --"Two digitized examples of this rare book have now been made available online: (1) from the library of the University of Michigan, digitized January 30, 2007; and (2) from the library of Stanford University, digitized June 23, 2006." Click here to read the original text in French.]


* Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkōkai [Japanese Classics Translation Committee] , tr. "The Manyōshū: One Thousand Poems." New York.
* Screech, Timon. "Secret Memoirs of the Shoguns: Isacc Titsingh and Japan, 1779-1822." London.

NAME=Klaproth, Julius
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Klaproth, Jules de;Klaproth, Heinrich Julius;Lauterbach, Wilhelm (Pseudonym); Or, Louis de l' (Pseudonym); Klaproth, Julius Heinrich von
SHORT DESCRIPTION=German orientalist
DATE OF BIRTH=October 11 1783
DATE OF DEATH=August 20 1835

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