RICHARDSON, John. A Dictionary, Persian, Arabic and English; with a Dissertation on the Languages, Literature, and Manners of Eastern Nations ... Revised and Improved by Charles Wilkins ... A New Edition, Considerably Enlarged, by Francis Johnson. London, Printed by J. L. Cox, 1829.
Large 4to. Mid 20th-century half-calf over cloth covered boards, spine with gilt raised bands and red morocco lettering-piece, signed by the binder on rear tun-ins; pp. -9, lxxxvi, 1714, [2, Corrections and Additions], half-title discarded a long time ago (offsetting from title to old initial blank); spine a little sunned; internally, apart from the occasional very light spotting and toning a very good and clean copy; weight just under 6 kilos.
Published as late as 1892 (edited by Francis Joseph Steingass; sixth impression 1977, published in Beirut in 1970 and reprinted 100 years after Steingass' edition in New Delhi), this impressive and very rare trilingual dictionary-cum-cultural reference work was issued for the employees of the East India company (dedicated to the Honourable Court of Directors), published first from 1777 to 1780, in two volumes by the Clarendon Press in Oxford.
John Richardson (1740/41-1795) was an ambitious and talented Scottish orientalist. 'With the growth of British territorial power in India the potential market for a Persian dictionary had aroused the interest of London publishers and by 1770 Jones and Richardson were working on a new version of Franciscus Meninski's Thesaurus linguarum orientalium, first published in 1680–87. Progress was very slow, and Jones withdrew to concentrate on his legal career, leaving the field to Richardson. Thanks to his "ingenuity and perseverance" (memorial of A. Hamilton and G. Nicol to East India Company, 6 Feb 1776, BL OIOC, E/1/60, no. 26), an abridged version of the original project eventually appeared in two volumes in 1777 and 1780 as A Dictionary, Persian, Arabic and English. Fundamentally revised by others, notably by Charles Wilkins in 1806 and 1810, the dictionary was to have a long life, but although the company took 150 sets, there were few other subscribers and Richardson got little reward for the huge effort he had expended on it' (ODNB).
Wilkins, in 1806, had enlarged the dictionary by almost 20,000 words, and this edition was again enlarged by several thousand Arabic words, previously considered not in use in Persia, 'as well as a variety of allusions connected with geography, biography, and history. Willmet's Arabic Lexicon has been wholly incorporated with the present edition ... In addition to this, the Editor has been enabled to enrich the present work by the addition of more than thirty-eight thousand words, Arabic and Persian' (Preface). Francis Johnson, however had to restrain himself in his efforts to produce the most complete dictionary, 'already too likely to swell into an inconvenient size' (ibid).
Provenance: Initial blank inscribed ('C Shakespear Langley Priory') by Charles Shakespear, the son of the Orientalist and author of a Grammar of the Hinustani Language (1813), John Shakespear, who bought Langley Priory in 1847. John taught at the East India College in Haileybury, Herts., where Francis Johnson wrote the preface to this edition. When the first owner, professor of oriental languages for the East India Company retired in 1856 'Shakespear gave £2500 to the trustees of the fund for preserving William Shakespeare's house at Stratford upon Avon, prompted apparently by the idea that he might have been descended from a branch of the dramatist's family' (Oxford DNB).