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First western scholar to gain a deep understanding of Tibetan language and culture

[Orazio della Penna de Billi, Francesco] Relacion publicada en Roma del principio, y estado presente de la Mission del dilatado Reyno del Gran Tibet, y otros dos Reynos confinantes, recomendada a la vigilancia, y zelo de los Padres Capuchinos de la Provincia de la Marca, en el Estado Eclesiastico. Cervera En la Imprenta de Thomas Senant, vive a la Plaza Mayor. 1743
4to, 19.5 x 14.5 cm., pp.12. Text in Spanish. A very good disbound copy.
Undated Madrid edition at Cordier, BS 2906

An apparently unrecorded edition of the description of the Tibetan mission of Francesco Orazio, Capucin missionary to Tibet who became prefect of the mission, published in the Catalan city of Cervera. Francesco Orazio (1680-1745) was born in Pennabilli, and entered the Capucin monastery of Pietrarubbia in 1700. Three years later while he was undergoing his ecclesiastical training, the Sacra Congregazione di Propaganda Fide decreed the establishment of a mission in Tibet to be undertaken by the fathers from Piceno in the Marches. Excited by the prospect Orazio was one of the first to apply and his petition was granted. The first missionaries left Italy in 1704 reaching Lhasa in June 1707. Father Orazio followed in the autumn of 1712 with the second wave, and reached Lhasa by 1716. He settled in the Sera monastery with the Jesuit father Ippolito Desideri to study the Tibetan language. A learned Lama was assigned to teach them and they had access to the monastery's library. While there Father Orazio began a Tibetan-Italian dictionary, based on literary texts, which, by 1732, contained 33,000 words. It was completed by Giorgi some years later in Rome. He translated a number of literary works, and as a fluent speaker he was on good terms with the Dalai Lama. He returned to Rome in 1736 and with the help of Cardinal Belluga was able to re-organize the mission on a financially sound basis, and to set up a Tibetan language press with fonts engraved to his own design. In October 1738 he set off with a new mission, arriving in Lhasa in January 1741. On their first stay in Lhasa the missionaries had worked with the foreign community, but this time they set out to convert Tibetans, five of whom were flogged in public for neglecting their duties to the Dalai Lama. Although Orazio maintained good relations it became clear the mission had no future, and the last missionaries set out for Nepal in April 1745. Orazio died three months later at Patan, at the age of sixty-five. Orazio della Penna spent half of his life in Tibet where he was the mainstay of the mission. He was perhaps the first western scholar to gain a deep understanding of Tibetan language and culture.