Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron bigraphy, stories - French orientalist

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron : biography

7 December 1731 – 17 January 1805

Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (7 December 1731-17 January 1805) was the firstT. K. John, "Research and Studies by Western Missionaries and Scholars in Sanskrit Language and Literature," in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. III, Ollur[Trichur] 2010 Ed. George Menachery, pp.79 – 83 professional French scholar of Indian culture. He conceived the institutional framework for the new profession. He inspired the founding of the École française d’Extrême-Orient a century after his death and, later still, the founding of the Institut francais de Pondichéry.Anquetil Duperron, Abraham Hyacinthe. Voyage en Inde. Presentation par Jean Deloche, Manonmani Filliozat, Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat. École française d’Extrême-Orient, Maisonneuve & Larose, pp. 15-32, 1997. ISBN 2-7068-1278-8


He was born in Paris. He stayed in India for seven years (1755–1761), where Parsi priests taught him Persian, and translated the Avesta for him (it is probably not true that he mastered the Avestan language). He edited a French translation of that Persian translation in 1771, the first printed publication of Zoroastrian texts. He also published a Latin translation of the Upanishads in 1804.

He was educated for the priesthood in Paris and Utrecht, but his taste for Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, and other languages of the East caused him to change course to devote himself entirely to them. His diligent attendance at the Royal Library attracted the attention of the keeper of the manuscripts, the Abbé Sallier, whose influence procured for him a small salary as a student of the Oriental languages.

He first lighted on some fragments of the Vendidad, a portion of the collection of texts that make up the Avesta, and formed the project of a voyage to India to discover the works of Zoroaster. With this end in view he enlisted as a private soldier, on 2 November 1754, on the Indian expedition which was about to depart from the port of L’Orient. His friends procured his discharge, and he was granted a free passage, a seat at the captain’s table, and a salary, the amount of which was to be fixed by the governor of the French settlement in India.

After a passage of ten months, Anquetil landed, on 10 August 1755 at Pondicherry. Here he remained a short time to master modern Persian, and then hastened to Chandernagore to acquire Sanskrit. Just then war was declared between France and England; Chandernagore was taken, and Anquetil returned to Pondicherry overland. He found one of his brothers at Pondicherry, and embarked with him for Surat; but, with a view of exploring the country, he landed at Mah and proceeded on foot. At Surat he acquired, by perseverance and address in his discussions with Parsi theologians, a sufficient knowledge of ancient Persian (Avestan, which Anquetil-Duperron mistakenly called Zend) and middle Persian languages to translate the portion of the Zoroastrian texts called the Vendidad (or Vendidad Vide) and some other works.

Thence he proposed going to Benares, to study the language, antiquities, and sacred laws of the Hindus; but the capture of Pondichéry obliged him to quit India. Returning to Europe in an English vessel, he spent some time in London and Oxford, and then set out for France. He arrived in Paris on 14 March 1762 in possession of 180 oriental manuscripts, besides other curiosities.

The Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy procured for him a pension, with the appointment of interpreter of oriental languages at the Royal Library. In 1763 he was elected an associate of the Academy of Inscriptions, and began to arrange for the publication of the materials he had collected during his eastern travels. In 1771 he published his Zend Avesta (3 vols.), containing collections from the sacred writings of the Zoroastrians, a life of Zarathustra (Zoroaster), and fragments of works ascribed to Zoroaster. In 1778 he published at Amsterdam his Legislation orientale, in which he endeavoured to prove that the nature of oriental despotism had been greatly misrepresented. His Recherches historiques et geographiques sur L’Inde appeared in 1786, and formed part of Thieffenthaler’s Geography of India.

The Revolution seems to have greatly affected him. During that period he abandoned society, and lived in voluntary poverty on a few pence a day. In 1798 he published L’Inde en rapport avec l’Europe (Hamburg, 2 vols.). In 1801 and 1802 he published a Latin translation (2 vols.) from the Persian of the Oupnek’hat or Upanishada. This extremely interesting and influential text, the first translation of a collection of Upanishads into a European language, features not just the Latin translation with many Greek, Persian, and Sanskrit words, but also voluminous notes and essays by Anquetil-Duperron. These contributions by Anquetil-Duperron make up more than half of the "Oupnek’hat’s" total page volume.

Arthur Schopenhauer, one of many interested readers of this special version of fifty Upanishads, encountered this book in the spring of 1814 and repeatedly called it not only his favorite book but the work of the entire world literature that is most worthy of being read.


He was the brother of Louis-Pierre Anquetil, the historian.