In hopes of enticing slawkenbergius to share more of his hard-won knowledge, herewith a couple more language-related anecdotes from Benson Bobrick (see yesterday’s post). First, on the Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689:
The talks got under way on August 12, and were conducted through interpreters in Latin, with the Chinese relying on two Jesuit missionaries, Fathers Francis Gerbillon and Thomas Pereyra (both long resident in Peking), and the Russians (for form’s sake) on Andrei Belobotskii, a university-educated Pole, although Golovin was fluent in Latin himself.
(Russian Wikipedia says that Belobocki, as his name would be spelled in Polish, was actually named Jan, but Google says “Your search – Jan Belobocki – did not match any documents.”) It makes sense that Latin was used for an international conference in the seventeenth century, but I’ll bet not many people would have guessed the Russians and Chinese would have so employed it. And here’s a bit on the unfortunate Dembei, a Japanese merchant clerk who was shipwrecked and floated to Kamchatka, where he was rescued from the Kamchadals by Vladimir Atlasov:
Atlasov brought him to Anadyrsk, from where he was conveyed under escort to Moscow in 1701 and presented to Peter the Great. Peter made him the nucleus of a Japanese language school in the capital, but despite a promise to the contrary, never allowed him to return home. Eventually, he was baptized under the name of Gabriel, but lived out his days in profound melancholy in St. Petersburg — the first casualty of Russia’s chronically troubled relations with Japan.
(I imagine slawkenbergius will object to the editorializing about “Russia’s chronically troubled relations with Japan.”)