Saturday, April 11, 2009

la madelaine de saussure

Thanks to the blog, Bradshaw of the Future (link), I’ve come across the wonderfully named Memiyawanzi, also a blog, which is named after a Hittite word. (The stem of this word is memija ‘word; deed’ which is cognate with some other IE words meaning either ‘to speak’ (Old Russian měniti ‘speak’) or ‘to think, remember’ (Sanskrit manyate ‘s/he thinks’); see Gamkrelidze and Ivanov Indo-European and the Indo-Europeans p.394.) Anyway, the blogger therein has a wonderfully moody piece about bibliomania and having bought online a copy of Johannes Schweighæuser’s 1825 Lexicon Herodoteum. This reminded me in one powerful Proustian moment of my having bought a second edition of F. de Saussure’s Système primitif des voyelles dans les langues indo-européenes. I got it from a marvelous used book store (link) nearby in the next town over from where I live, nestled as it is behind an abandoned Target store. I am one of Michael’s few walk-in customers. My standard question whenever I visit is “Have any linguists died?” I bought the Saussure from the as-yet-unpriced library of an ex-Africanist, Charleton Hodge. He had acquired the book in 1961, as he duly noted on the front page. But, what really caught my eye was the bookplate on the front endpaper. The book had been in the library at Johns Hopkins University at one time as part of the Stratton Memorial Library. Who was Alfred William Stratton [1866–1902], who had received his PhD from Johns Hopkins in 1902 and had been the Principal of the Oriental College and the Registrar of the Punjab University, at Lehore? The book had been donated to the library, but as was penciled in above the bookplate it had been “replaced by Collitz 1879 copy”. That would have to be Professor Hermann Collitz, Indo-Europeanist, first president of the LSA in 1924, and who had retired from Johns Hopkins in 1927. Collitz had died in 1935, and, so I wondered, when had my copy been replaced, and where had it been before Hodge bought it. Better yet, who was A W Stratton? Turns out he was a student of Professor Maurice Bloomfield [1855–1928], philologist and Sanskrit scholar. I found out that Stratton’s widow had published his Letters From India in 1908, and about which more in a subsequent post.

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