The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

October 26, 2013

October 26, 1945

Marco Polo the Description of the World (1938) is the title of an English translation of the writings of this famous traveler. The English translation was made by A C. Moule  (1873-1957) who compared 17 versions of the Polo text. He had help from Paul Pelliot (May 28, 1878 to October 26, 1945).

Pelliot was an expert on the Chinese: he explored central Asia and was a linguistic genius. Pelliot traveled widely collecting old manuscripts and conducting espionage for the Russians on the side. In this translation of Polo we note the mention of "monkeys of several kinds. And they have mercats and other baboon-cats so strange that it [is easy to see how someone could think they had human faces]

After the first world war Paul Pelliot "was active in the Société Asiatique, and in 1920 succeeded Chavannes as co-editor (with Henri Cordier) of T'oung Pao, a position of great power in European Sinology." According to a biographical article , during the second world war:

The skies grew narrower during the German occupation of Paris (1940-1944). TP ceased publication in 1942, not to resume until 1947. Pelliot continued his researches. He was French to the core, but had been too old to be conscripted for the war effort, and remained too proud to take a subordinate role in the ongoing but surreptitious Resistance. He limited himself to frosty contempt for the Vichy capitulation government, and in a celebrated incident, refused to shake the hand of a Vichy minister. Nor would he request official permission for the meetings of the Société Asiatique, which were therefore technically illegal during the occupation, a fact which nobody ever brought to the attention of the authorities. After the liberation of Paris, Pelliot made a brief visit to the USA, and died soon after his return.

This same article says that Pelliot shared the interest of his fellow sinologists in the history of religion. Some of the texts he brought back to France were Buddhist writings and form the basis for a renowned collection at the Bibliotheque Nationale. Of course, as is the case with the similar manuscripts at the British Museum collected by Aurel Stein, one assumes the manuscripts were plundered or obtained in a duplicitous manner. 

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