GIORGI, Antonio Agostino (1711-1797). Alphabetum Tibetanum. Romae : Typis Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1762.

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GIORGI, Antonio Agostino (1711-1797). Alphabetum Tibetanum missionum apostolicarum commodo editum : praemissa est disquisitio qua de varo litterarum ac regionis nomine, gentis origine moribus, superstitione, ac Manichaeismo fuse disseritur. Beausobrii calumniae in Sanctum Augustinum, aliosque Ecclesiae Patres refutantur. Romae : Typis Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide, 1762.


4to., (11 x 8 inches). Half-title, title page printed in red and black, with vignette woodblock device of the Congregation. 6 leaves of plates, including 4 folding by Alexius Giardoni, numerous diagrams in the text, Tibetan characters designed by Francisco Orazio della Penna di Billi and cut by Antonio Fontarita in 1738, woodcut head- and tail-pieces and initials (small amount of worming in two sections, confined to margins, scattered pale foxing). Contemporary vellum over paste-board, title within a fine gilt border on the spine, above a small decorative panel containing a fleur-de-lis tool.

Provenance: with the 19th-century ink library stamp of l'abbé Xavier Deidier on the half-title and Deidier's ownership inscription on the title-page.


The second edition, significantly revised and augmented, of the first treatment of the Tibetan language. The work was compiled by Antonio Giorgi from the notes and reports of Francisco Orazio della Penna di Billi and Cassiano di Macerata, Capuchin friars (an off-shoot of Franciscans) at the mission in Lhasa, founded by the Jesuit Order by Ippolito Desideri. The Capuchin Order expelled the Jesuits from Tibet in 1721, seeking total hegemony over the area, while ceding India, in which the Jesuits were already in place. The mission at Lhasa flourished between 1715 and 1745. The first edition of this work appeared in 1759, and such was the demand that a second appeared only three years later, and much improved. In addition to its great importance as a linguistic study, the work is a major source of information for Tibetan philosophy and culture in the eighteenth century.

The Alphabetum Tibetanum is a relatively late publication of the Propaganda Fide (Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith). Soon after the Propaganda was founded in 1622, it established its own press. Known colloquially as the Polyglotta, from 1626 this press was responsible for a large number of publications in a total of 23 different languages, including Arabic, Coptic, Syriac, Chaldean, Japanese and Ethiopic, creating fonts for many non-Latin scripts. It produced translations of religious material, such as the Scriptures and the Catholic liturgy, as well as dictionaries and grammars of the indigenous languages spoken in the many different locations where Catholic missionaries were active. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Propaganda Fide press was a powerful rival to the various Protestant missionary presses. Lust, Western Books on China, 198; Cordier, Sin. 2928.  Arader Galleries is determined to be the most competitive price for work of equal quality. For all inquiries please contact Greg McMurray, MLS, Director, Rare Books.