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.

December 30, 2016

December 30, 1889

The Royal Society blog has an interesting article on the orientalist Henry Yule (May 1, 1820 to December 30, 1889). His fame rests on his scholarship with eastern languages and history, such as a two volume translation of Marco Polo's writing. Let's start though with a glimpse of Victorian science. In 1840 a plan was being implemented to study the magnetism of the earth. This involved connecting a series of measuring stations, and one of these was in Aden, in the area we know now as Yemen. This thrilling project still resonates, but there were difficulties in their implementation: one was the condition of equipment which was shipped out and in this case, suffered from moisture and probably other things. Anyway the wooden parts of the measuring equipment was warped. This was a trial for the young Yule, then a mere lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers, who was in charge of delivering the equipment. The whole episode was a failure we mention to contrast with his later scholarship. Besides his translations of Marco Polo, Henry Yule produced a dictionary of Anglo-Indian terms. It is titled Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive (1886). And of course referred to as Hobson Jobson.

And therein we find a discussion of the word "beryl":

BERYL, s. This word is perhaps a very ancient importation from India to
the West, it having been supposed that its origin was the Skt. vaidurya,
[the latter is a word for beryl] ... Professor Max Muller has treated of the possible relation between vaidurya and viddla, 'a cat,' and in connection with this observes that "we should, at all events, have learnt the useful lesson that the chapter of accidents is sometimes larger than we suppose."—(India, What can it Teach us? p. 267). 

Chapter of accidents: what a nice phrase. One does wonder how far back the connection of cats and gemstones goes. 

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