The Bhagvat-Geeta

Or Dialogues Of Kreeshna And Arjoon; In Eighteen Lectures; With Notes. Translated From The Original, In The Sanskreet, Or Ancient Language Of The Brahmans.

HASTINGS, Warren / WILKINS, Charles

The First Edition Of The Bhagavad G t

WILKINS, Charles The Bhagvat-Geeta Or Dialogues Of Kreeshna And Arjoon; In Eighteen Lectures; With Notes. Translated From The Original, In The Sanskreet, Or Ancient Language Of The Brahmans.

Printed For C. Nourse, 1785.

First edition. 4to (317 x 235mm). Bound in very fine contemporary tree calf, gilt border to covers, seven gilt compartments to spine, six encasing a gilt flower, and one with the red morocco title label. All edges yellow. An exceptionally well-preserved copy. Very slight signs of wear to the spine ends and corners, with a little rubbing to the base of the spine. Upper joint strengthened. Internally clean and very fresh.

The first edition the Bhagavad G t , the most revered text in Hinduism, with a fine association and provenance. This English translation is the editio princeps of the G t , preceding any printed edition in an Indic language by some twenty years.
Wilkins was a pioneering Sanskrit scholar, entering the service of the East India Company as a writer in 1770. In his service he proved adept in the vernacular Hindu and Bengali languages, as well as in Persian. In 1778, after assisting in the publication of Halhed's Grammar Of The Bengali Language, Wilkins took up the study of Sanskrit, the classical source of most modern Indian languages.
By 1783, Wilkins's work for the East India Company was interfering with his study of Sanskrit, and even took a toll on his health. This led to an intervention by the Governor-General of Bengal, Warren Hastings, who would become his patron.
In Hastings, Wilkins had found a generous and enthusiastic patron. It was arranged that Wilkins could move to Benares, freed from administrative duties, to focus on translating the portion of the Mahabharata known as the Bhagavad G t from Sanskrit into English. In this he was aided closely by the Brahmin pundit Kasinatha Bhattacharya.
Wilkins presented his translation to Warren Hastings in October 1784, who immediately wrote to his wife "My friend Wilkins has lately made a Present of a most wonderful work of Antiquity, and I am going to present it to the Public." By December, he had written to Nathaniel Smith, the Director of the East India Company, to seek the Company's patronage in publishing the translation. Were it not for Hastings's insistence with the Company, Wilkins translation may never have been published.
The Court Of Directors approved, praising the "fidelity, accuracy, and merit of the Translator". They went on to write "the antiquity of the original, and the veneration in which it hath been held for so many ages, by a very considerable portion of the human race, must render it one of the greatest curiosities ever presented to the literary world".
Its publication in London in 1785 was the foundational event in the history of Sanskrit studies in the West. It was the first work translated directly from Sanskrit into English, and was carried out by the first Englishman to master the classical Indian language. It also marked the first appearance in the Western world of the most sacred text in Hinduism, and within a few years Wilkins's translation had been rendered into Russian, French and German. Moreover, its publication led to "a series of important translations of ancient Indic works that would make an enormous impact on European letters, inspiring a veritable 'Oriental renaissance'" (Richard H. Davis).
This copy is notable both for its fine condition and provenance. William Markham (1760-1815) served as Warren Hastings's Private Secretary in Bengal from 1777-81, becoming Resident at Benares until his return to England in 1783. Though still a teenager when he entered Hastings's service, Markham was a loyal and effective secretary, noted for his personal attraction. The aid and testimony he provided to and on behalf of Hastings at his later impeachment has been considered instrumental to his acquittal, and following the trial Hastings wrote to Markham to express his warmest gratitude for his service. His library at Becca Lodge included other Indian language books published under the Company's patronage, including Halhed's A Code Of Gentoo Laws (1776).

PROVENANCE: William Markham (1760-1815) with his Becca Lodge bookplate to the front pastedown; thence by descent. Markham served as Private Secretary to Warren Hastings during his Governorship of Bengal, and later as Resident at Benares.

Davis, Richard H., Wilkins, Kasinatha, Hastings, and the First English Bhagavad G t (2015).

Stock ID: 41023


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