HYDE, Thomas. Historia religionis veterum Persarum, eorumque magorum. Ubi etiam nova Abrahami, & Mithræ, & Vestæ, & Manetis, &c. historia, atque angelorum officia & præfecturæ ex veterum Persarum sententià. Item, persarum annus ... Zoroastris vita, ejusque et aliorum vaticinia de Messiah è Persarum aliorumque monumentis eruuntur: primitivæ opiniones de Deo & de hominum origine reserantur; originale Orientalis Sibyllæ mysterium recluditur: atque magorum Liber Sad-der (Zoroastris præcepta seu religionis canones continens.) è Persico traductus exhibetur. Dantur veterum Persarum scripturæ & linguæ (ut hæ jam primò Europæ producantur & literato orbi postliminiò reddantur,) specimina. De Persiæ ejusdemque linguæ nominibus; déque hujus dialectis & à modernâ differentiis, strictim agitur. Author est Thomas Hyde S.T.D. Ling. Hebraicæ in Universitate Oxon. professor regius, & ling. Arab. Prof. Laudianus. Præmisso capitum elencho, accedunt icones, & appendix variarum dissertationem. Oxford, Sheldonian Theatre, 1700.
4to. Entirely uncut in modern panelled calf, spine lettered in gilt, retaining the original endpapers; pp. [xxxii], 556, 16 leaves of plates with 18 engraved illustrations (one leaf printed on both sides, a few folding); light spotting in places only, paperflaw to margin of p. 371, a few tiny traces of worming to margins, initially only; a very good copy of a rare and important work on the pre-Islamic belief systems of Persia; provenance: 19th-century bookplate of the Catholic University of Ireland, established in 1854 by John Henry Newman, the Catholic Cardinal, early 18th-century ownership inscription Bourdillon to opposite fly-leaf.
First edition. Thomas Hyde (1636-1703) was Shropshire-born orientalist at Oxford. 'His linguistic abilities above all in Persian and also in Arabic were remarkable, but he did little teaching. He proposed or started many projects which he never finished, so that his published work was mostly confined to essays (with many others left unpublished at his death), apart from his magnum opus, the Historia religionis veterum Persarum, published towards the end of his life in 1700. The Historia was an attempt to present for the first time in Europe the beliefs of the ancient Zoroastrians of Persia through material acquired by Hyde from Parsis in western India by the good offices of men in the East India Company's service. Financially the book was a disaster. Hyde was "left in the lurch" by promised subscribers, so that "a great part of the charge fell upon myself" (letter to H. Sloane, 24 Jan 1701, BL, Sloane MS 4038, fol. 292), and he was warned that his book was not to the taste of "the men of phantasy and the young fry of wits and poets" (Hyde, 2.492-3). The book gained in reputation after Hyde's death, however, to the point that a second edition was successfully issued in 1760 … Hyde was an avid collector of languages. The deciphering of ancient Persian was his prime concern, but he sought out grammars or vocabularies of other languages, ancient or modern. He asked his friends in India to get him "the alphabets and languages of all the sorts of Tartars who trade there", including "the Mogul Tartars about Samarcand and Ouzbek" (letter to Bowrey, 13 April 1701, BL OIOC, MS Eur. E 192, no. 15). He spent a great deal of time and money personally cutting plates of characters for printing in Asian languages, including the 'old Persian' for the Historia and Chinese, and supervised the printing of a published version of the gospels in Malay at Oxford that appeared in 1677' (ODNB). The text is litered with printing in Arabic, Suriac, Hebrew, Greek, Perso-Arabic
This book contains as well the first translation of a quatrain of Omar Khayyam into a European language, together with the original Persian text being a translation into Latin; the Persian is to be found on page 499 with the Latin translation on the following page. A further remarkable feature is the illustration of a dodo on plate VII, opposite p. 312. The name of Zoroaster's mother, Doghdu, led him to speculations about the mysterious and extinct bird from Mauritius.