I don’t link to Poemas del río Wang as often as I probably should, because I figure everyone goes there as regularly as I do. But sometimes I just can’t resist. His post Man with a cat begins: “As in China with the ascension of each new emperor the years started being counted from zero, so the time of Studiolum is divided by the protagonists of the projects following each other. … The era that began in this March is marked by the name of the greatest Hungarian Iranologist Sándor Kégl (1862-1920).” This guy Kégl makes me feel lazy and stupid:

The knowledge of foreign languages was self-evident in his family whose members spoke and wrote to each other just as often in English or French as in Hungarian. Nevertheless, Sándor surpassed everyone. To the astonishment of his professors, already at high school he read all literature in the original – Latin, Greek, German, English, French, Italian – languages, and in the following four years he perfectly acquired Russian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Spanish and Portuguese. After the main European languages he turned to the Oriental ones, and mastered Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Hebrew, Tatar and Sanskrit. He kept learning languages all along his life: he learned a number of other Iranian and Indian languages, living and dead Scandinavian dialects, and during WWI he even learned Chuvash and Mordvin from the captive soldiers of the Russian army working on his estates.

He studied with Ármin Vámbéry, another amazing polyglot, and went off to Persia to study the language and collect manuscripts, which he later edited and published.

On his return he became a private lecturer of Persian language and literature at the University of Budapest, but he also taught Indology and held comparative courses in Persian and Sanskrit epic poetry – all for passion, without any remuneration. Twice a week he made the equipage harnessed, went to the local railway station, then from the Eastern Railway Station of Budapest he went by droshky to the university. After his lessons he immediately returned to his estates where he spent the largest part of his time by learning languages, reading, writing essays and increasing his library. It is typical of the period that the bookshops of the nearest little town immediately provided him with the most recent scholarly books and reviews from all over the world, from London through Saint-Petersburg to India.

What a life! There are, of course, the numerous images one expects at río Wang, as well as links that could easily eat up a day or more if you explored them as they deserve, and the post ends with a series of photos of “the veritable lords of the estate: the cats.”

The follow-up post, Ways, examines Kégl’s trip to Persia, which took him through Eastern Anatolia (of which there are evocative color photos), Tiflis/Tbilisi (of which there is an even more evocative black-and-white photo, taken between 1891 and 1916), and Baku, where an Azeri bey inscribed a copy of Ivan Goncharov’s book Fregat Pallada for him in Russian. This leads Studiolum to an excursus on albums, in the course of which he links to the Album Amicorum of Ferenc Pápai Páriz, Jr., “that he carried with himself on his one and half decade long European peregrination (1711-1726)”:

The 122 pages of the Album preserve nice mementos written in Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Spanish or Syriac – and in many cases in more than one language – by English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Polish and Swiss personalities: bishops, professors, physicians as well as many students that became celebrities of the next generation. The notes are regularly composed of a quotation, a motto and a recommendation, followed by a signature. You can browse in them by persons, places, dates or the original pages. We have managed to identify almost all the persons who made their notes in the Album: we also include their biographies. Our publication is further enriched with maps, with frontispieces of some important works, as well as portraits of the persons. We cordially recommend it to the attention of every visitor of us.

And I cordially recommend it as well. What treasures the internet holds!


  1. Thank you very much, Language, for this extremely generous recommendation. (What a nice coincidence that you posted it on the national feast of Hungary, the anniversary of the revolution of 1956!)
    Until the opening of the Kégl exhibition and the related website in December, I will gradually publish its pages at the blog and complement them with some extra documents from the Kégl collection that were not included in the site.
    The album amicorum of Pápai belongs to a very rich special collection of similar albums in the library of the Hungarian Academy. We plan to publish them in their entirety in the same way as we did that of Pápai.

  2. Don’t feel stupid or lazy, Hat. Some of us have to work for a living!

  3. But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to work for passion, without any remuneration?

  4. Even though you can’t work for passion, you should still be able to fly into a passion now and then. Ultimately there will be a price to pay, but at least in that way you will be contributing to cash flow. The economy stagnates when too many people engage in unremunerative and thankless activities.

  5. marie-lucie says

    But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to work for passion, without any remuneration?
    Being retired from gainful employment, I am currently enjoying this happy state. But there are tradeoffs to not having a remuneration, now or in the future!

  6. Ремонт и отделка офисов, квартир или дач – это самая распространенная на сегодняшний день проблема большинства людей, решившихся, наконец, привести в порядок свое жилище. Мало того, что ремонт – это занятие трудоемкое и напряженное, еще и найти достойную компанию, занимающуюся отделкой квартир или офисов сегодня практически невозможно. Дело в том, что все меньше и меньше в нашей стране остается фирм, делающих свою работу качественно, эффективно и недорого.
    Однако наша компания является приятным исключением из этого неприятного правила. Мы вот уже долгое время занимается отделкой и ремонтом квартир и в г. Зеленоград и еще ни разу нам не приходило от наших клиентов ни неприятных отзывов, ни каких-либо жалоб. Богатый опыт наших специалистов, а также высокий профессионализм всех без исключения наших работников, поможет сделать хорошо, качественно и – главное – доступно как косметический, так и капитальный ремонт. Современное оборудование, новые технологии планировки и дизайна, а также индивидуальный подход к каждому клиенту и гибкая система скидок сделали нашу компанию самой успешной на сегодня фирмой, оказывающей услуги по ремонту и отделке квартир и офисов в г. Зеленоград.
    Список услуг:
    ремонт квартир

  7. Now I know what ремонт means.

  8. (I have removed the spam links but left the text as an educational aid for those who want to know what ремонт means.)

  9. Languagehat, now I really understand why you refuse to upgrade your blog to a newer version that will block spam – it will block educational Russian spam.

  10. And my thanks to Studiolum for the posts on Sir Aurel Stein and the exhibition on him in Hong Kong.
    And just reading the (beautifully illustrated) index of rio Wang starts off endless wonderful wanderings – I have to restrain myself strongly !

  11. J. W. Brewer says

    Think of how much more I could learn if I only had a more linguistically-interesting group of captives compelled to work on my estates!

  12. The presence of linguistically/anthropologically interesting captives from the Russian Empire was a great blessing to Central European (German and Austro-Hungarian) scholarship during WWI. The whole collection of musicology of the Dahlem Museum in Berlin is based on the materials collected from them, just to say an example. I want to present more interesting cases like this in a later post.

  13. marie-lucie says

    JWB, do you mean that the captives currently working on your estates against their will are not linguistically interesting enough?

  14. J.W. Brewer says

    marie-lucie, I regret to say that my ancestors seem to have committed the obvious blunder of failing to accumulate estates to bequeath to me (and/or intermediate generations failed to preserve them unto my generation).
    Studiolum, due to Austro-Hungarian military reverses in WW1, the Russians also ended up with quite a polyglot mix of prisoners. But perhaps they failed to make good scholarly use of them? Are there Geneva Convention restrictions on using POW’s as subjects of linguistic/anthropological/etc. research?

  15. John Emerson says

    There’s reputed to be an estate in southern Oregon worked by captive refugee Hmong. Supposedly someone sponsored them for immigration and then locked them up.
    WWI brought Jaroslav Hasek and the Mongol hero Sukhbataar together — Hasek taught Sukhbataar Russian. It also brought the insane Baltic German Russian warlord Roman Ungern von Sternberg (with two additional nationalities right there in his name) to Mongolia.

  16. Damdin Sükhbaatar; apparently Ulaanbaatar was named after him. I note with bemusement that on the 1932 postage stamp shown at the Wikipedia article, his name is spelled “Syke-Bator.” (This 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics offers, in the Stamp Collecting ads, “Scarce, complete sets from India, Russia, Bosnia, Roumania plus rare Syke-Bator variety.” As far as Google knows, that form of the name existed only on that stamp.)

  17. John Emerson says

    The story of Hasek and Sukhbaatar rated a footnote in the official history of the Mongolian People’s Republic.

  18. John Emerson says

    Spelled Gashek, as I remember, which is the Russian spelling.

  19. Young Gyula Moravcsik, an eminent classical philologist, spent five years in captivity in Irkutsk between 1915 and 1920. There he learned various Turkic dialects from his lager companions. After he returned to Budapest, he composed his fundamental “Byzantinoturcica: Sprachreste der Türkvölker in den Byzantinischen Quellen”.

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