Tuesday, September 29, 2015

1841. And Latin. And The Khyber Pass.

By 1841 railroads were not yet anywhere near the Khyber Pass. The first railroad in India opened in 1853. I can find no information about commercially viable rail lines operating anywhere in Afghanistan earlier than the 20th century. The Khyber Pass railway was opened in 1925.

The Khyber Pass has been one of the world's most important routes for business and military exploits since before Alexander the Great.

In 1841 as in 1925, the Khyber Pass, which today connects Afghanistan and Pakistan, was on the border between the area under British rule and Afghanistan. The British East India Company ruled in 1841, the British monarchy in 1925.

I have not been able to find any evidence that the East India Company ever supported Classical scholarship to a great degree in the area under its control. I assume that in 1841 the young Queen Victoria knew some Latin. Latin seems to have thrived longer and stronger among European royalty and high aristocracy than in many other places, and mid-19th-century Oxford and Cambridge are reputed to have been great centers of Classical scholarship, the scene of a Renaissance of Latin and Greek.

And they were not the only such centers. In 1841 the Bibliotheca Scriptorium Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana was still 8 years away: it began in 1849 in Leipzig. The Oxford Classical Texts series, obviously created in respectful imitation of the Teubner series, didn't begin until 1896. Teubner and OCT are huge figures in Classical publishing, but we must remember that they didn't suddenly appear from out of nowhere.

What I'm saying is that in 1841, many books were published in Latin, by a great variety of publishers in Europe and the United States, including many newly-written texts as well as texts written in antiquity and the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

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