Rarissimus!

25 November 2011

In 2003, we received the books of Piet van der Loon, who had left them to us in his will. Piet died in 2002, and is buried in the graveyard of St Peter’s Church at Wootton at the foot of Old Boar’s Hill near Oxford, where he lived in the house called “Midhurst” until the time of his death.

I will give an account of his remarkable collection in a later posting, but for now it need only be pointed out that he had what was probably the finest personal collection of Chinese books in Europe, amounting to some 10,000 volumes occupying over 250 metres of shelving. Even now, we are still going through it.

Among his books is the following phonetic dictionary of Fuzhou dialect:

加訂美全八音 四卷 / (清)鍾德明撰
清光緒丙午歲[1906]刊本
福靈堂藏板
線裝1冊 ; 17公分
Sinica 4814

On the front cover, Piet wrote “Rarissimus! 1906”, and on the back “Foochow dialect. 1906. No other copies are known”.

What a dangerous thing to say! The Internet is rapidly making statements of this sort impossible. We have already seen an example of it in the Red Decree: my French colleagues thought that only four copies existed, and I was very excited when I discovered a fifth in Oxford; we now know that there are at least fifteen. I’m wondering how many rare Chinese books there will be in our collections once my project is complete. During Piet’s lifetime, the Internet had not yet become the indispensable scholarly tool that it now is, and despite his acceptance that the computer was the way forward (he was far too shrewd to be Luddite in this matter), he never used one. When we closed the card catalogue in the Oriental Reading Room, he would ask me a little nervously to find books for him “on the screen”.

Two further copies of Jiading meiquan bayin 加訂美全八音 are to be found, in the C.V. Starr East Asian Library of the University of California, Berkeley, and in Yale University Library. Their existence was revealed to me by entries in WorldCat, which also shows that the California copy has been scanned, and is contained in the HathiTrust Digital Library. Grotesquely, the full text seems to be unavailable outside the United States “due to copyright restrictions”.

Li Chunxiao 李春晓 made the work the subject of his doctoral thesis at Fuzhou Normal University in 2002 (加订美全八音音系研究), and published and article about it in 2003 (福州方言韵书《加订美全八音》, 辞书研究 2003:4, 128-134).

According to Li, its author Zhong Deming 鍾德明 was in the employ of Fuzhou Gezhi High School 福州格致中学, the oldest missionary school in Fujian province (it was founded in 1846, and is still in existence), and he got the teachers and students of this and Wenshan 文山, another missionary school, to collaborate in its compilation. Although the missionaries R.S. Maclay and C.C. Baldwin had published An alphabetic dictionary of the Chinese language in the Foochow dialect in 1870 (Methodist Episcopal Mission Press), with a revised edition appearing in 1898, this was presented in English and arranged alphabetically, and was thus inaccessible to Chinese readers.

I’m rather struck by the manner in which Li obtained this information about the book’s background. It was due to a chance meeting with Zhang Guoying 張國英, a retired teacher from Changle No.1 Junior High School 長樂第一中學 whose paternal grandmother Zheng Zhang Zeng’en 鄭張增恩 had been a pupil of Wenshan, and actually participated in the dictionary’s compilation. I wonder if this explains how Li had access to the work in China – so far I haven’t been able to locate a copy there. The digital copy would not have been available then, and in any case it is inaccessible outside the United States. Perhaps Zhang Guoying has one, which he got from his grandmother.

Zhong’s arrangement of the syllables was not alphabetic, but followed that of the Ba yin 八音 (or paik ing in Foochow dialect), the short name of Qi Lin ba yin 戚林八音, which is the oldest known Chinese dialect dictionary. This work is so called because it is a collocation of two dictionaries put together by the Fujian scholar Pu An 晋安 in 1749, one printed on the top, the corresponding part of the other printed on the bottom half of each page. The first is attributed to the famous general Qi Jiguang 戚继光, who is said to have written it during his campaign against the Japanese during the Jiajing 嘉靖 period, and the second was by Lin Wenying 林文英, a jinshi 進士 of 1688. The Library has a copy of this work, which is one of Alexander Wylie’s books:

戚參軍八音字義便覽 四卷 / (明)戚繼光撰
太史林碧山先生珠玉同聲 四卷 / (清)林文英撰
清乾隆十四年[1749]福州日新堂刊本
線裝1冊 ; 23公分
(清)晉安編
封面題名「日新堂戚林八音合訂」
Sinica 558

The words are arranged first by their final sound (the vowel and final consonant, if any), and within that by their initial consonant, and then each of the resulting syllables is arranged by tones, of which there were originally eight, hence the title Pa yin 八音.

Although Zhong’s dictionary is presented in Chinese, and is blockprinted, it does not entirely dispense with romanisation. In fact, the heading for each syllable is its romanised form, printed white on black so that it stands out clearly on the page, starting with lŭng 巃, whose pronunciation is formed by the initial consonant of liu 柳 followed by the vowel and closing part of ch’ung 春. The small size of the edition and the poor quality of its physical production indicate that it was designed for practical use rather than to grace the shelves of a bibliophile. This probably accounts for its rarity.

Piet gives a brief account of these early dialect books in Part 2 (pp.125-126) of The Manila incunabula and early Hokkien studies (Asia Major NS13, 1967, 95-186), but does not mention Jiading meiquan bayin, suggesting that he may not have acquired his copy by that time and so didn’t know it existed. Nor does he mention the Bodleian’s copy of Qi Lin ba yin, being aware only of copies of the 1841 edition in the British Library and the Royal Asiatic Society’s Chinese collection, now in the Brotherton Library at Leeds.

He says that the Ba yin served as a model for the first recorded spelling dicitionary of Hokkien, and the only available dictionary of the Quanzhou dialect, Huiyin miaowu 彙音妙悟, of which he had two editions; these are now also in the Bodleian:

新鐫彙音妙悟全集 不分卷 / (清)黃謙撰
清光緒癸卯[1903]福州集新堂刊本
線裝1冊 ; 22公分
封面題名「增補彙音妙悟」
Sinica 4892

新鐫彙音妙悟全集 不分卷 / (清)黃謙撰
清光緒乙巳[1905]廈門會文書莊石印本
線裝1冊 ; 20公分
封面題名「增補彙音妙悟」
Sinica 4891

Finally he mentions the Changzhou dialect dictionary Huiji yasu tong shiwu yin 彙集雅俗通十五音, which is however unrelated to the Ba yin and its derivatives in the way in which it is compiled. There is a copy of the 1818 edition of this in the British Museum and of the 1869 edition in the Sinologisch Instituut in Leiden. He does not mention the much later edition that came to us from his own collection, which therefore might also not have been in his possession when he wrote the article:

彙集雅俗通十五音 八卷 / (清)謝秀嵐撰
清光緒二十六年[1900]福省集新堂刊朱墨套印本
線裝9冊 ; 15公分
Sinica 4815

Based on this dictionary is the Zengbu huiyin 增補彙音, of which there is a copy of the first edition in the British Library, and a slightly later one in the Bodleian, which came to us from the missionary Edwin Evans in 1856:

增補彙音 六卷 / 佚名撰
清道光己丑[1829]刊本
廈門文德藏板
線裝6冊 ; 15公分
封面題名「增補十五音」
Sinica 308

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