From Johann Severin Vater
Konigsberg in Pruss. the 4th Novbr. 1809.
Be pleased to accept the book, which I take the liberty to offer You as a mark of the high veneration, I have allways felt for the wise ruler of a great people,1 and which I feel more particularly for the philosopher, who instituted and still pursues profound inquiries into the history of the native American tribes and their languages. I flatter myself, that, if You find my book deserving of some attention, You may perhaps be pleased to have it’s principal contents published in Your language,2 and I am confident, Sir, that You will promote the success of my passionat and perservering studies3 of the languages of Your part of the world. The list of the Grammars and Dictionaries I had the opportunity to make use of, be pleased to see in my book pag 154ff. But nothing in this way would be more important to me, than texts of these languages, little narrations or dialogues, taken down from the conversation of the Indians, and explained by a litteral translation. I need not tell You, Sir, how important are extensive collections of the words of the American languages, but how little sufficient a collection of words, however extensive, can be for the purpose of obtaining an intimate knowledge of the structure and affinities of any language, how seldom it can be expected to gather information about the grammatical points, the terminations of nouns and of persons and tenses of the verbs; from such persons as may have an opportunity of collecting words, such, as Mr. Volney has given about the language of the Miamis, and that such specimens, as I desire to obtain, are the principal means of obtaining that knowledge what it is my wish to have.
I sollicit Your generous assistance not only for the interests of my own researches; it is not I believe too presumptuous to add, that it will be interesting to the general enlargement of historical information in Europe
Any communications, which You, Sir, may be disposed to send me, I beg You to direct to John Gibson Esq. to the care of Msts Cox, Heisch and Compy at London or to the Consul of the United states at Petersbourgh
I am most respectfully
|John Severin Vater|
RC (CSmH: JF-BA); dateline at foot of text; endorsed by TJ as received 16 Sept. 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Vater, Untersuchungen über Amerika’s Bevölkerung aus dem alten Kontinente (Leipzig, 1810; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 443). Enclosed in Levett Harris to TJ, 13 June 1810, and William Lee to TJ, 8 Aug. 1810.
Johann Severin Vater (1771–1826), philologist, was educated at the University of Jena and the University of Halle, where he received his doctoral degree in 1794. He became a full professor of theology and Oriental languages at the University of Jena in 1799 and was named to the same chair at the University of Königsberg in January 1809. Vater published grammars of numerous languages, including Polish and Russian, and completed Johann Christoph Adelung’s Mithridates: Oder Allgemeine Sprachenkunde (Berlin, 1806–17) after Adelung’s death in 1806 (Ernst Eichler and others, eds., Johann Severin Vater—Ein Wegbereiter der Deutsch-Slawischen Wechselseitigkeit , 1–18; Greene, American Science description begins John C. Greene, American Science in the Age of Jefferson, 1984 description ends , 382).
volney printed a four-page “Vocabulaire de la Langue des Miamis” at the end of the second volume of his Tableau du Climat et du Sol des États-Unis d’Amérique (Paris, 1803; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4032).
1. Reworked from “country.”
2. Reworked from “tongue.”
3. Manuscript: “studis.”
- Adelung, Johann Christoph; Mithridates: Oder Allgemeine Sprachenkunde search
- Cox, Heisch and Company (London) search
- Gibson, John search
- Harris, Levett; consul at Saint Petersburg search
- Indians; dialects of search
- Indians; languages search
- Indians; Miami search
- language; Indian search
- Miami Indians search
- Mithridates: Oder Allgemeine Sprachenkunde (Adelung) search
- philology; works on search
- Tableau du Climat et du Sol des États-Unis d’Amérique (Volney) search
- Untersuchungen über Amerika’s Bevölkerung aus dem alten Kontinente (Vater) search
- Vater, Johann Severin; identified search
- Vater, Johann Severin; letters from search
- Vater, Johann Severin; Untersuchungen über Amerika’s Bevölkerung aus dem alten Kontinente search
- Volney, Constantin François Chasseboeuf, comte de; Tableau du Climat et du Sol des États-Unis d’Amérique search
- Volney, Constantin François Chasseboeuf, comte de; “Vocabulaire de la Langue des Miamis,” search
- “Vocabulaire de la Langue des Miamis” (Volney) search