Friday, October 26, 2018

Translating Tamil

First page of a letter from Levi Spaulding to his nephew Lyman Spaulding, August 22, 1863.
In June of 1819, a young man named Levi Spaulding embarked on a trip to South Asia that would ultimately lead him to the island country of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. The small nation had just been colonized by the British in 1818, and Spaulding's intent was to serve as a minister of God to its indigenous people. Spaulding had originally intended to be a farmer in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where he was born in 1791, but his father's death in 1809 changed the trajectory of his life. Instead, he enrolled in Dartmouth College as a member of the class of 1815 and had a spiritual awakening there after several years of religious indifference. After graduating, he promptly attended Andover Theological Seminary and received his degree in 1818. Only a short year later, Spaulding was on a ship headed for India. He would return only once to his native country for a two-year furlough and spent his life ministering to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka and southern India. He died in Uduvil, a town at the north of the island, in 1873 at the ripe old age of 82.

The title page from Spaulding's Tamil translation of the New Testament (vol. 2).One of the most daunting initial challenges for Spaulding was a lack of suitable religious texts. When he wrote to his nephew in 1863 to describe his early days as a missionary, Spaulding mentioned that upon his arrival he discovered that there were only two grammars in the mission, no dictionaries, and no Christian texts. There weren't even enough English Bibles for the missionaries. Spaulding dedicated himself to translating various tracts, sermons, and other religious texts into Tamil, including Pilgrim's Progress. Spaulding recounted in his correspondence that he would often pick up new words during his conversations with the local community and then immediately pencil them on his shirt sleeves for later transcription. Eventually, the fruit of his labors was both a Tamil-English dictionary and a Tamil translation of the New Testament.

To see a volume of Spaulding's Tamil New Testament, come to Rauner and ask for Alumni S7393t v.2. To read his correspondence with his nephew, ask for MS 838563.1.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Doctor Franklin and Lord Dartmouth

Engraving of the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, William Legge
This week, we welcomed to Special Collections a visiting delegation of Rotarians from the United Kingdom. First editions of works by Austen, Dickens, and Shakespeare were on display for them, as well as historic Rotary Club publications and a few items connected to the college's namesake. William Legge, the second Earl of Dartmouth, was the leading trustee for the English trust that funded Eleazar Wheelock's initial educational venture, Moor's Charity School. In an an effort to drum up financial support for the founding of Dartmouth College, Wheelock named the school after Legge. Wheelock hoped that the nobleman would be flattered and respond with a generous donation; Lord Dartmouth declined the invitation to contribute.

In addition to his connection to America through Moor's Charity School, the Earl of Dartmouth had
Engraving of Benjamin Franklin
another important tie to the colonies. From 1772 until 1775, he served as the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for the Colonies; the position had been newly created in 1768 to bring the American colonies to heel after the passage of the controversial Townshend Acts in 1767. Among the items we had on display for our British guests was  a letter written (or, at least, dictated) by Benjamin Franklin to Lord Dartmouth in December 8th, 1772. In his letter, Franklin states that he would like to share his perspective on the general sentiments of "leading people in America" with Dartmouth, particularly their concerns about recent measures taken by the British government. Franklin suggests that Dartmouth may not be receiving a true account from his official government representatives in America.

At this time, Franklin was living in London. He had originally moved there as a representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly to protest the influence of the Penn family. However, over the two decades
Manuscript text of the letter from Franklin to Dartmouth
that he was there, his role soon morphed into a defender of the colonies at large, including the Massachusetts Colony. He became well known in London political circles in particular for his vehement rejection of the 1765 Stamp Act. In 1772, Franklin was writing to Lord Dartmouth because he had recently come into ownership of a packet of letters written by the current Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, that both recommended strengthening executive power in the colonies and asserted that colonists would never have the same full rights that they would enjoy if they still lived in England. That very same month, Franklin would send those letters to the Massachusetts Assembly. Six months later, they were published widely in America and served to fuel the fires of rebellion.

To read Franklin's letter to Lord Dartmouth and see the engraving of him, come to Special Collections and ask for Ticknor 772658.1. To see the engraving of Lord Dartmouth, ask for Iconography 741.