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Galland, Antoine

GALLAND, ANTOINE (1646-1715), French Orientalist and archaeologist, the first European translator of the Arabian Nights, was born on the 4th of April 1646 at Rollot, in the department of Somme. The completion of his school education at Noyon was followed by a brief apprenticeship to a trade, from which, however, he soon escaped, to pursue his linguistic studies at Paris. After having been employed for some time in making a catalogue of the Oriental manuscripts at the Sorbonne, he was, in 1670, attached to the French embassy at Constantinople; and in 1673 he travelled in Syria and the Levant, where he copied a great number of inscriptions, and sketched, and in some cases removed historical monuments. After a brief visit to France, where his collection of ancient coins attracted some attention, Galland returned to the Levant in 1676; and in 1679 he undertook a third voyage, being commissioned by the French East India Company to collect for the cabinet of Colbert; on the expiration of this commission he was instructed by the government to continue his researches, and had the title of "antiquary to the king" conferred upon him. During his prolonged residences abroad he acquired a thorough knowledge of the Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages and literatures, which, on his final return to France, enabled him to render valuable assistance to Thevenot, the keeper of the royal library, and to Barthélemy d'Herbelot. After their deaths he lived for some time at Caen under the roof of Nicolas Foucault (1643-1721), the intendant of Caen, himself no mean archaeologist; and there he began the publication (12 vols., 1704-1717) of Les mille et une nuits, which excited immense interest during the time of its appearance, and is still the standard French translation. It had no pretensions to verbal accuracy, and the coarseness of the language was modified to suit European taste, but the narrative was adequately rendered. In 1701 Galland had been admitted into the Academy of Inscriptions, and in 1709 he was appointed to the chair of Arabic in the Collège de France. He continued to discharge the duties of this post until his death, which took place on the 17th of February 1715.

Besides a number of archaeological works, especially in the department of Numismatics, he published a compilation from the Arabic, Persian and Turkish, entitled Paroles remarquables, bons mots et maximes des orientaux (1694), and a translation from an Arabic manuscript, De l'origine et du progrès du café (1699). The former of these works appeared in an English translation in 1795. His Contes et fables indiennes de Bidpaï et de Lokman was published (1724) after his death. Among his numerous unpublished manuscripts are a translation of the Koran and a Histoire générale des empereurs turcs. His Journal was published by M. Charles Schefer in 1881.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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