The UNESCO started in 1997 the Memory of the World Program which, similarly to the World Heritage program registering the world’s built heritage, inscribes in its list the documentary heritage of the world, that is the most valuable archive holdings and library collections. The list contained thus far 158 items, including such treasures like the Hittite cuneiform tablets, the Gutenberg Bible, the Linné Collection or Chopin’s collected manuscripts.
We have just got news that the Committee of the Memory of the World project on its yearly meeting held four days ago has inscribed thirty-five new items in its register. These include two Hungarian ones: the legacy of the founder of Tibetan studies Alexander Csoma of Körös, preserved in the Oriental Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the 1832 Appendix of János Bolyai, which laid the foundations of non-Euclidean geometry. It is a great honor to us that the web documentation of both items were prepared by Studiolum from the materials of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and in collaboration with the Academy’s colleagues, in Hungarian, English and Spanish version.
Alexander Csoma de Körös in 1842 left Calcutta for Lhasa to look for eventual sources on the history of ancient Hungarians in the library of the Dalai Lamas. In the previous twenty years he had been preparing for this journey. Living in the lama monasteries of “Indian Tibet”, he learned Tibetan language and religion, composed and published the very first Tibetan dictionary and grammar (1834), and gave such a detailed description of Buddhist religion and literary canon, at that time only vaguely known in Europe, that after him no essential could be added. However, he never reached Lhasa. On the way he caught malaria and died in Darjeeling.
Before leaving Calcutta, as if he knew that he would never come back, he gave all his books to his pupil S. C. Malan, secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Malan gave over the books to Tivadar Duka, a Hungarian physician who after the collapse of the Hungarian war of independence in 1849 emigrated to Britain and later worked in India as a medical officer of the British army. Here he was intrigued by the fate of his compatriot and he collected all available information on him. He composed Csoma’s first biography in English and Hungarian, and in 1885 he donated Csoma’s books to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Among Csoma’s thirty-six Tibetan codexes the most valuable ones are the so-called “Alexander Books” that received their name after Alexander Csoma de Körös. These volumes, in which the lamas give detailed answer to the questions raised by Csoma on various topics – philosophy, religion, medicine, astronomy – in question-and-answer form, are exceptional documents of the encounter of European and Tibetan thought.
In the web documentation of Csoma’s legacy we publish for the first time the facsimile, transcription and translation of an Alexander Book, the codex number 4 on Tibetan Buddhist cosmology, and we want to go on with the publication of the other volumes as well. The documentation also includes a detailed biography of Csoma, the description of his legacy, the biography of Duka and his both monographies on Csoma, as well as a lavishly illustrated description of the Tibetan Collection of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
The site dedicated to the Appendix of János Bolyai is also a detailed documentation of the connection and legacy of the two genial mathematicians, father and son, Farkas and János Bolyai, compiled with extreme care by Károly Horányi and Béla Mázi in the Manuscript Department of the LHAS. The site includes the hitherto most up-to-date biography of János Bolyai, based on recently discovered sources and new publications, and it publishes for the first time the facsimiles of some important letters by the two Bolyais. It publishes in its entirety the copy of the Appendix preserved in the LHAS, in which further important handwritten notes were added by János Bolyai himself. The documentation also presents in detail the complete material of the exhibition organized in 2002 for the 200th anniversary of Bolyai’s birth, the adventures of the Europen reception of non-Euclidean geometry, as well as the history of the International Bolyai Prize established at the turn of the 19th-20th century in memory of the great scholar.
And while you are there, go to see also the other sites prepared by Studiolum in collaboration with the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The Hongkong exhibition of the photo legacy of the Central Asian expeditions of Aurel Stein, of which we have also written here in Río Wang. The Stein exhibition organized on the centenary of the discovery of the famous Dunhuang library cave. The exceptionally rich medieval Hebrew codex collection of Dávid Kaufmann, of which we have also given news here and here. The 18th-century album amicorum of Franciscus Pariz Papai including handwritten notes by such notabilities as Isaac Newton or Edmund Halley. The 15th-century Corvina by the Italian humanist Ludovicus Carbo composed on the glorious deeds of Matthias Corvin, King of Hungary, with facsimile, transcription and translation. The site dedicated to Count József Teleki, founder of the Library of the Academy. Within some months we will also publish the legacy of the great Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti, killed in 1944. And the series will hopefully continue.