Józef Kowalewski and his correspondence with Bernhard Jülg
(60th Meeting of the PIAC, Székesfehérvár 2017)
Kowalewski (1801–1878) is known as the founder of Mongolian Studies as an academic discipline – he was awarded the first chair of this new field at the University of Kazan in 1838. He collected a sizeable East Asian library for the university, published a remarkable two volume chrestomathy, wrote a short Mongol grammar and an outstanding three-volume Mongol dictionary which is still used today. Many of his personal papers and collection perished in a fire that devastated his apartment in Warsaw.
Four letters from Kowalewski are preserved among the papers of Bernhard Jülg (1825–1886) whose career was in classical philology; after teaching at gymnasiums, he became professor at the universities of Cracow and Innsbruck. Jülg wrote his Ph.D. thesis at the University of Kiel on Calmuck grammar (1847) – this seems to be the first doctoral dissertation on the subject. Jülg’s heart remained with Calmuck and Mongol, and in 1866 he published the Calmuck text of Siddhi-kür and in 1868 the Mongol text of Arji-Borji, in both cases with German translation, and the first with a short Calmuck dictionary. Calmuck/Mongol fonts were not available then in Austria, and they had to be cut for this enterprise. Jülg’s efforts which were applauded by Kowalewski gave a new impetus to Mongolian Studies and won the attention of scholars in literary history and folklore, who recognized the Indian origin of these tales but had to admit the Mongol recensions were not just translations but new versions in their own rights.