[This is a translation of a section of the first book, 'On the Air, Waters, and Places of Brazil', of Piso's massive, four-book work. It is followed by those passages from the fourth book, on the plants of Brazil, that would later be drawn upon in G. W. Leibniz's De novo antidysenterico americano of 1695, a translation of which will follow shortly. Among other interesting features of this work, the selection translated from Book I may very well be the first European description ever of couvade, which would later be well attested in the ethnographic record. The original Latin text follows. And yes, this is how I spend my Saturday nights.]
...The women are marvellously fertile, and give birth with little pain, rarely aborting. At the time of childbirth the husband lies down in the place of the wife for the duration of the labor, and, like a woman about to give birth, enjoys sweetmeats and feasting, citing the necessity of restoring his lapsed vigor. A preposterous custom, of course, which nevertheless appears to them to be most praiseworthy, as many women, immediately after giving birth, with no one having assisted them, get right up to meet [the men]; nay more, they hasten to the nearby river to cleanse their body, and from here they seek out their nourishment. They do not bemoan the killing of children beyond two or three days, with the mothers filling the whole place with their miserable wailing. With the profuse tears that they have in their power they welcome their relations and their returning friends, whose misfortunes and labors they [peregre] endure, weeping with many sighs and groans, and pressing them to their chests with arms around their neck and head.
Those who live among the Hollanders and the Portuguese follow Christ, though more indifferently, and the adults are very laid-back with respect to our efforts: nor can our pleading make its way much into their heads, unless they are of a tender age, with souls that are not yet preoccupied, and that are remote from their parents. Their languages are hardly different the one from the other. And however much those who are born [there] descend from a lineage of cannibals, nevertheless through mutual exchange with Europeans and through habit they are improved, and they shed their barbarity, attaining to a humanity that is comparable to our own. Unlike Mediterranean peasants, they are truculent, brutal, without law, without religion, they roam in the manner of wild beasts, without any fixed or stable quarters, and here and there will lie in wait, with admirable knowledge and swiftness, for the fish or wild animals that will be their victuals, whether these be abundant or scarce. They know how to hurl javelins, without a bow, with the most admirable strength and with stupendous skill... The men and the women as well go about with nothing covering their pudenda, with their hair disshevelled, though some of them have it clipped, and with the other body parts hairless; and they adorn themselves with the feathers of differently colored birds. They disgracefully paint their bodies with a certain dusky color pressed out of the lanipapa apple. And nor is the face free of ornamentation: they affix the most vile and tedious little stones to their ears, which have been pierced since earliest infancy, as well as to the lower and upper lips.
When one of them falls ill, his friends approach, and they conjure a
trick, making notice of a remedy that they have already tried out on
themselves. Next they scarify and cut deep into the skin of his muscular
arms and of parts of his thighs with the spines of the Carnaiba tree,
and with the teeth of the fish they also use to sharpen their arrows, so
that he bleeds profusely... They bring on vomiting by force by means of
the twisted leaves of the Carnaiba, which they force into his throat.
With these and similar remedies tried out in vain, they attempt nothing
else, nor yet do they relinquish the sick man, but by unanimous
consensus, as if desperate for his health, they kill him off with a
wooden cudgel, still gratifying him and themselves, that his death has
come to pass in a masculine fashion, and that he is liberated of all
suffering. In this way, indeed, they rejoice and glory in this moment of
death. It is with great applause among his relatives that his enemies
take vengeance upon the cadaver of the victim, this one for a shameful
love, that one out of brutal indivtiveness, tearing him to pieces in the
most savage manner of wild beasts. Others come forth for the flesh and
bones, down to the teeth, scraping them down for their frightful
Chapter 49. Of Caa-apia and Its Properties.
... The indigenous people crush the plant, and expel the poison from the stomach by the juice that is drunk: wounded by serpents or struck by poison arrows, they pour it drop by drop into the wounded person in lieu of an antidote, and not without success. Here there are also other species of Caa-apia, similar in all respects to the first one, except as concerns their leaves, which are of course of the same figure, but are serrated and bristly along their edge, and their stalks are covered with sparse hairs...
Chapter 65. Of Ipecacuanha and Its Properties
Finally, the proper order of things brings us to those much-vaunted salutary roots, which, beyond their power of purgation by both the upper and lower passages, are eminently opposed to all poison. Nor do I believe that one could find on this earth a more effective remedy against the many illnesses arising from a long obstruction, and above all for the assuaging of the fluxus ventris.
There exist two species, neither having been described, to my knowledge, nor their excellent qualities brought to light. And both are dedicated to the same use, but with different degrees of powers, depending upon their figure and their native soil. Indeed, one of them, the smaller one, lying low in the soil, grows in meadows; it is not so different from pennyroyal, for the stalk extends upward with many lanuginous leaves, and is encircled with little white flowers. Its root is course, fibrous, whitish, and it is called by the Portuguese, for the sake of distinction, Ipecacuanha blanca, which, while agitating the body less, resists most powerfully against poisons, and is likewise given to children and to pregnant women.
The other is a demi-cubit in length, though endowed with only three or four leaves. It delights in dark places, and is found in denser forests. At the top of its stalk it produces black berries, though not many. Its root is fine, winding, knotted, of a dusky color, unpleasant to the taste, bitter, hot, and piercing. In a dried form it is kept for many years, nor is it easy to cut. Its dosage is one drachma if reduced to a powder, or, in an infusion, two drachmae, give or take.
And both [species] are for daily use, though they prefer it diluted, since either in chewing on it at night in the open air or in mixing it in water, it powerfully communicates its medical virtue to the liquors [of the body]. Afterwards a caput mortuum is left over, and it is prepared again in the same way and is furnished for the same use; though no longer as effective for purging and vomiting, it is now more effective as an astringent. Thus this root does not only remove even the most tenacious sickness-inducing matter from the affected part, expelling it through the upper passage, but also, functioning as an astringent, restores the tonus of the viscera. Beyond this, it relieves flatulence and other illnesses, counters the effect of poisons and of venoms both hidden and manifest, immediately expelling them through vomiting. Wherefore it is carefully [religiose] guarded by the Brazilians, who first revealed its virtues to us.
[Draft of an encyclopedia entry to appear, in German, in Die Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit.]
Justin E. H. Smith
The concept of animal is seldom deployed in the modern period without explicit or implicit reference to the concept with which it is presumed to contrast, namely, that of human. ‘Animal’ first functions to delimit the bounds of philosophical anthropology; only later does it come to denote the range of entities of interest to zoology. Between Aristotle and the modern period, this anthropocentric perspective was reflected in the printed bestiaries of the middle ages, which served as guides to the various kinds of beasts, usually arranged alphabetically, including both real and fantastical kinds, and described according to human concerns; thus recipes are often given along with summaries of morphology. On the traditional understanding, plants share one level of soul activity with humans --the vegetative-- while animals share two-- the vegetative and the sensitive. Modern writers could nevertheless draw on ancient sources such as Porphyry’s On the Abstinence from Animal Food which recognized that animals, unlike plants, must always descend from parents, are generally countable as separate individuals, whereas plants may simply be great vegetating masses; and that individual animals consist of specialized organs with specific functions, such as respiration, nutrition, digestion, self-motion, and generation.
The rediscovery of Aristotle’s view that “we must avoid a childish distaste” for zoological researches, “[f]or in all natural things there is something wonderful” (PA 645a 15-24) signalled the emergence of a distinct zoological program in the modern period. The intrinsic value of coming to know nature independently of human concerns was fueled by the translation and publication of Aristotle’s biological treatises by Theodor Gaza in 1483, and by the Lyon edition of his collected works (1529-39). In Thomas Moffett's Insectorum sive minimorum animalium theatrum of 1634 we find an encouragement to study small and seemingly ugly animals, because "nihil tota hac rerum universitate (praeter hominem) esse divinius" (Praefatio, ii). And several decades later, Edward Tyson explicitly invokes the work of these predecessors in his eloquent plea for the promotion of zoology: "[H]ow great Diligence hath been used of late," he asks, "to ransack both the Indies, to pry into all the Corners of the World, both inhabited, and uninhabited, to find out a new Plant, not before described...? And how little hath been done in the Improvement of the History of Animals?" (Tyson, 22). The school of medicine at the University of Padua was headed by Hieronymus Fabricius d’Acquapendente (1533-1619) who conducted research into comparative anatomy and embryology. It was in Padua that William Harvey developed his own brand of Aristotelian natural philosophy coupled with an empirical approach. Harvey’s work on animal generation demonstrated that the birds and mammals shared a common mode of origination in the “egg,” and opponents of spontaneous generation, beginning with Antony van Leeuwenhoek and Francisco Redi, argued that insects as well were generated from eggs. By the early nineteenth century, Erasmus Darwin could suggest that all animals were descended from a single common ancestor, having sprung as it were from an original egg, and from there gave rise to all the forms of life that followed, connecting them together by a hidden ‘filament’. “[W]ould it be too bold to imagine,” he wonders in the 1794 Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life, “that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality... [and] with the power of acquiring new parts?” (Darwin, § 39).
Despite the breadth of the category, the paradigm animal has always been the quadruped, and species that deviated from this model gave rise to conceptual problems. Some borderline cases, such as the famous ‘zoophyte’, were of interest to early modern naturalists, such as the 16th-century Aristotelian anatomist Julius Caesar Scaliger, because they seemed to belie the cosmological view of nature as consisting in neat, hierarchically ordered levels of beings. Thus we see attributed to Sclaliger the view that “the Creator of Things concatenated a series from plants to men, so that they cohere together as if without any interval: thus the zoophytes link the brutes with the plants, as the simians [simia] link the quadrupeds with men” (cited in Tyson, 5; this passage would, a century later, serve as the opening epigram for Charles White's straightforwardly racist work, An Account of the Gradation of Man of 1799).
The great apes or, as they were all generically called throughout the 17th century, the ‘orang-outang’, seemed to straddle the animal-human boundary in the same way that humans straddled the animal-angelic boundary. Further, some naturalists attributed a share in animal life to nature as a whole, or to its smaller parts. With the discovery of microscopic life beginning in the 1620s, parts of matter that had previously appeared perfectly lifeless revealed themselves to be full of organisms, and Leibniz maintained that it is only the limitations of human perception that prevents us from noting the presence of animal life in the smallest portions of matter. Thus he writes to Antoine Arnauld in the mid-1670s that “since matter is infinitely divisible, no portion can be designated so small that it does not contain animated bodies, or at least bodies endowed with a primitive Entelechy or (if you permit me to use the concept of life so generally), with a vital principle; in short, corporeal substances, of all of which one can say in general that they are living” (Leibniz II 118). Francis Glisson proposed in his On the Energetic Nature of Substance of 1672 that all of physical nature is characterized by biousia, a vital reflexivity that is best exemplified in the nerve tissue of the larger animals. The recognition that worms and other simple life forms were not undifferentiated masses, but possessed distinct organs and were generated by parents of the same species was another consequence of the invention of the microscope. As Kant explains in his treatise Von den verschiedenen Rassen der Menschen of 1775, Im Thierreiche gründet sich die Natureintheilung in Gattungen und Arten auf das gemeinschaftliche Gesetz der Fortpflanzung, und die Einheit der Gattungen ist nichts anders, als die Einheit der zeugenden Kraft, welche für eine gewisse Mannigfaltigkeit von Thieren durchgängig geltend ist” (Kant II 429).
Within the Aristotelian tradition, it would have made no sense to ask whether an animal has a soul: an animal was nothing other than the sort of entity that has an anima. Descartes controversially denied that vital functions including not just digestion and generation, but also perception and intentional movement needed to be accounted for in terms of the inherence of a soul; they could be explained “mechanically” giving rise to the doctrine of the “beast-machine.” Language, he maintained, as well as behavioural flexibility, both of which the brutes lacked, indicated the presence of a soul in humans alone. Thus he wrote to Henry More in a letter of 1649: “[W]hen I investigate what is most probable in this matter, I see no argument for animals having thoughts except this one: since they have eyes, ears, tongues, and other sense-organs like ours, it seems likely that they have sensation like us; and since thought is included in our mode of sensation, similar thought seems to be attributable to them.” Yet, he goes on to observe, there are “other arguments, stronger and more numerous but not so ovbvious to everyone, which strongly urge the opposite... In the first place, it is certain that in the bodies of animals, as in ours, there are bones, nerves, muscles, animal spirits and other organs so arranged that they can by themselves, without any thought, give rise to all the movements we observe in animal” (AT V 277). And in another letter later in the same year, Descartes specifies that “[t]he wagging of a dog’s tail is only a movement accompanying a passion, and so is to be sharply distinguished, in my view, from speech, which alone shows the thought hidden in the body” (AT V 344f.).
Some philosophers associated with the 16th-century skeptical movement, and its later echoes in the 17th and 18th centuries, argued that, even with respect to the faculty of reason, animals are no different than, and possibly superior to, human beings. In his treatise That Animals Make Better Use of Reason than Humans, published posthumously in 1648, and known primarily through the celebrated discussion of it in Pierre Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique of 1697, Hieronymus Rorarius argued that animals are capable of perceiving God’s intention in nature directly, as for example when they predict a coming storm and change their behavior in preparation. Humans, in contrast, must learn to read the significance in the animals’ behavior, rather than grasping what is to come directly. Language, then, is a compensatory bridge between human beings and a world known by animals much more spontaneously and immediately.
In any event, Descartes’s position on the “beast-machine” already vigorously contested in its own day by the Cambridge Platonists, especially Henry More, rapidly ceded, in the course of the 18th century to vitalism, as the full complexity of animal anatomy and physiology revealed themselves to observers and experimentalists (for a general account of this shift, see Roger 1991 ). Kant’s conception of an organism as an entity whose parts were reciprocally cause and effect of the whole and whose functioning could never be explained by reference to the laws of mechanics alone stimulated a school of “romantic” biology, with mechanism re-emerging as the dominant philosophy of the animal only with Claude Bernard’s Experimental Medicine of 1865.
Animals increasingly entered the experimental realm as subjects from the early days of the establishment of scientific academies, and the Cartesian insistence that animals did not feel pain doubtless assuaged some consciences. The Royal Society experimented on mice and on dogs,to study respiration and blood transfusion; and in 1671 Leibniz noted that the advantage of working with animals, in contrast with humans, is that “wir können sie aufschneiden und examiniren wenn und wie wir wolen” (LH III 1, 3; Smith 2010, Appendix I, § 28). Bernard would argue that to deny the relevance of animal vivisection to science would be “to introduce confusion and obscurity into biology... since in the science of life the character that should be placed at the first order of importance is the vital character,” and this is something humans and animals share, and machines do not.
While the beauty and efficiency of animal bodies, and the apparent fixity of the species, was cited from the mid-17th century onwards by Boyle, Newton, Ray, and others as conclusive evidence for the existence of a wise, omnipotent, and benevolent creator, a natural origin, not only for vermin and insects through spontaneous generation, but for quadrupeds and humans was discreetly mooted by some 18th century philosophers. Evolutionary thought, the acceptance of the theoretical possibility of emergence of new forms, or extinction of old ones, as a result of natural forces took its cue from ancient non-Aristotelian sources, especially the Epicurean natural philosophy of Lucretius (see Wilson 2008).
The alternative view --species fixism-- depended on a combination of Christian piety with the exigencies of taxconomy. Already in 1680, Edward Tyson had suggested that the flipper bones of a porpoise are the modified hoof bones of a formerly terrestrial animal, though he was reluctant, in his anatomical study of a chimpanzee 18 years later, to posit similar kinship relations between the higher primates and human beings. That some related species had descended from a common ancestor was proposed by the Comte de Buffon in his Histoire Naturelle (1749-88); some naturalists, including Buffon, posited degeneration from an ideal type as the cause of the proliferation of species. Others, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, in his Philosophie zoologique of 1809, argued for a thoroughgoing transformism involving real species change over time through the transmission of acquired traits.
Atran, Scott, The Cognitive Foundations of Natural History: Towards an Anthropology of Science (Cambridge, 1991).
[Ger'e, No. 190. With note: Съ подлинника въ Моск. Арх. М. И. Д. Въ Ганнов. библиотеке хранится черновая этого письма, на которой помечено, что 26 iюля 1838 г. съ нея выдана копiя Жуковскому, сопровождавшому въ то время Е. В. Государя Наследника. English translation to follow.]
Allerdurchleuchtigster Grossmächtigster Czaar Allergnädigster Herr
Nachdem ich wieder verhoffen erfahren, dass die Ottomannische Pforte abermahl mit E. Gross Czaarischen Mt. zu brechen begriffen, und auch gegen Pohlen sich feindlich erzeige; so verursacht mein Eifer zu Dienst E. Mt. dass ich dero überschreibe, was ein sehr erfahrner und belobter General gegen mich gedacht, als bereits im vorigen Winter ein solcher Bruch besorget worden. Es bedünckte ihm nehmlich, dass Eure und des Königs zu Pohlen Mayt. mit aller dienlichen Macht so früh als müglich an den Fluss Niester oder Tyras sich zu sezen hätten, nicht weit von dem orth, wo König Uladislaus dem Sultan Osman in Person so glücklich wiederstanden. Man müste auch einige bequeme oerther zwischen dem Nieper und Niester wohl befestigen, und alle LebensMittel vor Menschen und Vieh theils zur Haupt armée, theils dahinein bringen lassen. Der Tartarische schwarm wäre durch eine gleichförmige leichte Reuterey zimlich in Zaum zu halten. Solte man nun einen solchen Post am Niester finden, welchen der Feind mit seinem Haupt corpo, wegen abgehender Subsistenz und ander Besorgniss, vermuthlich nicht leicht würde vorbeygehen noch hinter sich lassen dürffen; so wäre rahtsam sich daselbst wohl und weitläufig, mit gräben Brustwehr und flanquen zu veschanzen, und mit allem zu versehen; zumahl denen Türcken lange im felde zu stehen nicht wohl müglich.
Auff allen fall aber weil es kommen kan, dass man ins feld rücken müsste; wäre ein (so zu sagen) bewegliches retrenchement, nehmlich eine Wagenburg nöthig. Dann die Erfahrung gegeben, wie zu Zeiten die Türcken mit so dicken Hauffen eingedrungen, dass unsere bataillons erster und ander lini, als nicht hoch gnug, ganz zu boden getreten worden; darüber eine ganze Armée leicht zertrennet, und in Unordnung bracht werden kan. Dagegen ist nichts besser als ein Tabor oder Wagenburg, welche auch von alters hehr bey den Scythischen Völkern in ihren ebenen Feldern im gebrauch gewesen; da man ein unempfindliches hartes Holz der einbrechenden furi entgegensezet.
Weil aber bisweilen eine Wagenburg, wenn sie durchbrochen, zu deren so sie gebraucht verwirrung und untergang gedienet; wie dessen ein Exempel geben kan die schlacht so der Feldherr Johann Sobieski (hernach König) gegen die Türcken gewonnen; so vermeynte eben dieser General, dass sonderbare anstalten und vielfältige Vortheile zu guther Anordnung einer Wagenburg nöthig.
Es haben aber E. Mt. verständige Leute bey sich, die alles wohl ausfinden und veranstalten können. Und bin ich nicht ausser hofnugf, es werde diese der Türcken Friedbrüchigkeit mit Gottes Hülffe zu ihrem Verderben gereichen.
Ich bin ausser meiner profession diessmahl geschritten, weil ich nicht meine, sondern eines erfahrnen Kriegesmannes gedancken melden, und zugleich gelegenheit nehmen wollen, meinen Eifer zu dienst E. Mt. und meine erkentlichkeit zu bezeigen.
Sonsten habe annoch anfügen sollen; wofern iezo nicht müglich seyn solte den Krieg in Pommern und Meklenburg, (wie doch gleichwohl annoch hoffen will) zur decision zu bringen; so scheine doch es können die Sachen dergestalt gefasset werden; dass die Schweden in Teutschland gnugsam in Zaum zu halten, obschohn E. Mt. macht gänzlich, und die Pohlnische oder Sächss. gröstentheils, darauss gezogen würden.
Schliesslichen, habe sowohl an E. Mt. Generalfeldzeugmeister Herrn von Bruce, als an den jüngern H. Graf Golofkin, dero abgesandten zu Berlin bereits aus Dressden aussführlich geschrieben und gemeldet, worin ich aus E. Mt. Landen liecht und information zu dero Selbsteignen Dienst verlange.
Hoffe es werde solches zu E. Mt. oder dero Canzley Kundschaft kommen seyn.
Ich habe auch dem Herrn General de Bruce einen Brief an den H. Metropolit Ressanski zugestellet, darinn ich diesen ersuchet, sonderlich in einer Sach, so zu ausbreitung des Christlichen glaubens gereichen kan, nehmlich zu übersetzung der zehen geboth, des Vater Unser, und des Symboli Apostolici in die besondere Sprachen der Völcker, so in E. Mt. weitem Reich wohnen, oder daran grenzen, samt einem kleinen dictionariolo ieder Sprache, behülfig zu seyn. Wofern nun dieser vortreffliche geistliche E. Mt. willen diessfalls vernehmen möchte, ist kein Zweifel er würde umb so mehr an Hand zu gehen, sich eiferig erweisen.
Und ich verbleibe lebenszeit
E. Grossczaarischen Mayt.
G. W. Leibniz
Wien den 18 Dec. 1712.
An Seine Gross Czaarische Majestät allerunterthänigst.
[from the Historia Aethiopica (Frankfurt, 1681). Latin transcription to follow.]
Chapter IX. Of the Abyssinians, of their Spirit, and of their Nature. Generally speaking, the Abyssinians have plenty of spirit, but they are ignorant of how to cultivate it, as they have almost entirely lost their knowledge, not only of the belles lettres and of the sciences, but also of the liberal arts. They have even been neglectful of those who are the most useful to human life, and who should most of all be supported, given the absolute necessity of their services, for example [those who practice] medicine, which almost no one knows...
Although the Abyssinians are as ignorant as I have just explained, they very much love able men; this is what brought it about that the Jesuits were so well received there at the end of the last century. A great mark of their spirit is that, with all the ignorance into which they have been sunk for many centuries, nonetheless they have always cultivated their poetry, not in fact the pagan and profane poetry that is reflected in an infinity of fictions and fables, but rather sacred poetry, for they are such good Christians that they have no interest in hearing of an adulterous Jupiter or a prostitute Venus, of the jealousies of Juno or the debauches of Bacchus, and of all those other fables to which the pagans are attracted only because they consecrate, so to speak, their most infamous crimes...
Chapter X. Of the Manner in which the Abyssinians Live, of their Manner of Dress, and of Combat. The Abyssinians live very poorly, for as theymake no use of spoons, nor of knives, nor of forks, they are compelled to cut their bits of food and to bring them to their mouths with their fingers. Their taste is so particular that they often sprinkle with bile the flesh that they bring to the table only half-cooked, and this sauce does for them what the most exquisite mustard would do for our most refined eaters...
Chapter XI. In which is treated the Fecundity of Abyssinian Women, the Color of the Abyssinians, and their Cities. The essential reason for the multiplication fo the Abyssinians is the great fecundity of their women. The ease with which they give birth is no less great, for they do it, as happens everywhere in the warm countries, almost without pain. When they wish to bring their child into the world, they bring themselves to their knees, and they free themselves of it in this posture, ordinarily with no help from a midwife.
The children are born red, and not black, but they become black gradually, and this color pleases them much more than any other: thus one must not be surprised when it is said that they depict the Devil as being white, since he is unworthy of their own color.
As for other features, they do not have that defect of the Moors in the nose and in the lips. They are all generally well built, strong, robust, and capable of much work, at which they do not grow tired.
It is principally in the people of the kingdom of Enarea that we find all of these beautiful qualities, both of the spirit and of the body. Those of the Tygre are, by contrast, very unfaithful, deceitful, cruel, and vindicative in the extreme. One also finds among them men who are naturally white; but besides the fact that this sort of white men emit a very bad odor, this whiteness is not agreeable, since it is too close to paleness...
Chapter XII. Of the People Mixed in with the Abyssinians, and of the Languages Used in Abyssinia. ... One also often finds in the deserts those people whom the Portuguese call 'Caffres'. They live without Law, without God, and without a king, and without any habitation more certain than where the night obliges them to sleep. They cover themselves with no clothing; their usual nourishment is the flesh of serpents and of dragons. Their language is sooner a sort of whistling than the voice of man...
It is true that these sorts of whistlings are in common usage among all the Abyssinians; they also have particular characters for marking them in their writing. The Ethiopian language has seven of them that are entirely unknown to us. This is the language that was at first wrongly called 'Chaldaic' in Rome, when certain books in that language began to appear there for the first time...
[Ger'e, No. 181, to read the original French, click 'keep reading' below]
To Count Golovkin, the Representative of the Tsar in Berlin
The prompt departure of Your Excellency from Dresden did not permit me to extend my thanks for all of the favors I received, nor to recommend myself for the continuation of these benefits. I am thus doing this by means of this letter, and as His Majesty the Tsar gracefully had the patent sent to me, and even the payment of my pension from last year, I beg Your Excellency once again to let the Great Chancellor know of all the thankfulness that I have towards him, and that I beg him to reserve for me the honor of his good graces.
I transmitted to the General Feldzeugmeister [Jacob Daniel] Bruce some desiderata that I hope to obtain from Russia itself. And here I have no particular interest of my own, but all of my requests serve toward the public good and toward the glory of His Majesty.
I requested some books from Russia and some notices concerning the state of research there, [and] some letters and books on the learned men of the country, so that I can communicate with them in the service of the Tsar.
But in particular I am requesting samples of all of the languages that are different from Slavonic that are found in the great Empire of the Tsar and in neighboring states. These samples would consist in a translation of the Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed in each of the languages, written in Russian characters, with an interlinear Russian version written word-for-word below, and then a small vocabulary of each language, indicating the most frequently used words, the nouns, verbs, numbers, and so on, together with their meaning in Russian.
Now these samples would not only be glorious for the Empire of the Russians, in that they would mark its extent, but they would also have a clear usefulness, for by means of them we would learn the ancient origins, the relations, and the migrations of the peoples who make up the ancient History of Russia and also of other countries, whose inhabitants earlier emerged from greater Scythia, which is now subjugated in great part to the Great Tsar of the Russians, as for example the Parthians, the Alans, the Roxolani, the Huns, Bulgars, Avars, Khazars, Hungarians, and Cumans. In addition, this would constitute the beginning of the work of converting these people and of propagating the Christian faith. This is why I wrote to the Metropolitan of Ryazan, the merit of whose doctrine has been praised, and I hope that my desires will be favored by the supreme authority of His Majesty.
I also hope to know what has been discovered or might be discovered concerning that great question, whether America and Asia touch at the northeast corner [of Asia], or whether there is a sea between them. His Majesty could shine great light for the whole world concerning the things I have just noted, as for example the variations of the Magnet and other matters. And as I see that His Majesty the Tsar wishes that [works of] great learning be translated into Russian, I dare say that if I had the necessary additional assistance, one could produce a General Encyclopedia or quintessence of the sciences in the Russian language, which would perhaps surpass everything we have up until now in every other language. Therefore I beg Your Excellency to see to it that this letter, which I give myself the honor to write to you, Sir, be communicated to the Great Chancellor, and through him to the Great Tsar, so that his Majesty should see, more and more, my good will, and so that he should be able to favor it as it finds fitting. If there is anything you wish to let me know, Sir, I beg you to address it to M. Jablonski, the secretary to the King at Berlin, and I am...
Вашей Светлости и Любви Тайнной Советникъ фонъ Лейбницъ приятное Ваше писанiе отъ 25 Окт. вручилъ намъ исправно и вящей словесно предлагалъ, что Вы ему въ коммиссiи дать изволили. Мы Вашей Светлости и Любви обязаны за доброе мненiе и намеренiе, которое Вы кнамъ и интересу нашему оказуете и мы на то его Лейбницево предложенiе наше мненiе письменно ему объявить указали, на что мы ссылаемся и ко оказанiю всехъ приятныхъ угодностей пребываемъ
12 Нояб. 1712
The Privy Councillor von Leibniz, my Cherished and Esteemed sir, did duly give me your agreeable letter of 25 October, and also told me what you charged him to communicate. I am very attached to you, Cherished and Esteemed sir, for the good thoughts and intentions that You have shown in relation to me and my interests, and I have issued a command that an answer be given to Leibniz in written form concerning his proposal, to which I refer, and in fulfillment of all agreeable functions I remain
12 November, 1712
[Ger'e, No. 179. Includes note: "Съ оригинала въ Моск. Арх. М. И. Д. Заглавiе заимствовано нами изъ письма Лейбница къ посланику Головкину. Напечатано у Посс. стр. 235."] circa 1712.
Es wird verlanget:
1) Ein catalogus der Bücher, die in Russland heraus kommen, sowohl derer so sich in den officien finden, als anderer.
2) Nachricht von den griechischen oder Russischen Manuscripten, so in den Clöstern Russlands und sonst in selbigen Landen sich finden.3) Register gelehrter Leute sowohl Russen als ausländer, so in Seiner Grossczarischen Mt. Diensten oder sonst in dero Landen.
4) Nachricht von dem Mann aus japonien der durch Sturm an der Siberischen Küste angelandet, von dem Herr Vinnius umbstände wissen soll; und wenn der Mann noch vorhanden, köndte man noch mehr davon erfahren.
5) Nachricht von den Leuten aus Siberien so nach Norden fortgereiset und endtlich in warme Länder gekommen seyn sollen.
6) Beförderung der Proben von den Sprachen des grossen Reichs Seiner Mt. und angrenzenden Lande, welche Proben im Vater Unser, glaube und zehen gebothen in iede Sprache versezet, samt einer Russischen Version interlineari, auch vocabulario brevi nominum verborum et numerorum bestehen köndten.7) Es wird auch verlangt ein Russisch dictionarium, oder vocabularium.
8) Eine Slavonische Grammatik.
9) Alte Russische Historische Bücher.
10) Das Buch genant Paterikon.
11) Russische Bibel, insonderheit das neue Testament neuer edition.
12) Das officium divinum in Russisch.
13) Catechismus Russicus.*
It would be desirable to have:
1) A catalog of books that are published in Russia, both those that are found in the officies [of state], as well as others.
2) News of the Greek or Russian manuscripts that are found in the monasteries of Russia and in [neighboring] lands.
3) A register of the learned people, both Russians as well as foreigners, who are in the service of His Great Majesty the Tsar, or are in his country for another reason.
4) News of the man from Japan who landed in a storm on the Siberian coast, about whose circumstances Herr Vinnius wishes to know; and if the man is still present, one could learn still more from him.
5) News of the people from Siberia who travelled into the North and who are said in the end to have arrived in a warm country.
6) Transmission of samples of the languages of the kingdom of His Majesty, as well as bordering countries, which could consist in samples of the Our Father, beliefs and prayers, written down in each language, together with an interlinear Russian version, as well as a concise vocabulary of nouns, verbs, and numbers.
7) I would also like to have a Russian dictionary or vocabulary.
8) A manual of Slavonic grammar.
9) Old Russian historical books.
10) The book called Paterikon.
11) The Russian Bible, in particular the New Testament, in a new edition.
12) The officium divinum in Russian.
13) The Russian catechism.
For a pdf version of the article, click here. Forthcoming in M. Dascal, V. Boantza, and A. Cattani (Eds.), Controversies in the Scientific Revolution. This version replaces the earlier draft, entitled "Autochthony and Traduction: The Unity and Diversity of the Human Species in Early Modern Philosophy," which I posted on 28 March.
Philosophy and Its History:
Aims and Methods in the Study of Early Modern Philosophy
(Oxford University Press)
Edited by Mogens Laerke, Justin E. H. Smith and Eric Schliesser