The first Sanskrit grammar published in Britain
A Grammar of the Sanskrita language.
London printed for the author by W. Bulmer and Co 1808
First edition. 4to, 29 x 23 cm; pp.xx, 662; 5 engraved plates. A very good copy bound in modern half calf over marbled boards; half-title toned. April 1839 catalogue of "Valuable Works relating to India" issued by Wm. H. Allen & Co. tipped in at rear.
The first grammar of Sanskrit printed in Britain. Wilkins began work on the text at Benares in 1783, but the bulk was compiled after his return to England in 1786, owing to ill-health. In 1795 he prepared a new font of devanagari types to print the text, and had produced proofs of the first sixteen pages, when his home burnt to the ground, and he abandoned the idea of producing a Sanskrit grammar. Subsequently, Wilkins was persuaded to resume the project to meet the demands of students at the newly opened East India College. Wilkins, like Nathaniel Halhed, was a protégé of the Governor-General Warren Hastings, and benefited from Hastings' drive to promote the study of Indian languages amongst Company men. He recognized the advantage of Sanskrit in studying modern Indian languages: "He who knows Sanskrit has already acquired a knowledge of one half of almost every vernacular language of India; while he who remains ignorant of it, can never possess a perfect and critical understanding of any, though he may attain a certain proficiency in the practical use of them." A pioneer in European Sanskrit study, he was the first Englishman to acquire a comprehensive knowledge of Sanskrit. In a career of some sixty years, Wilkins demonstrated remarkable versatility as Sanskrit scholar and translator, typographer, superintendent of the Honorable Company's Press at Calcutta, where he worked on Halhed's ground-breaking Bengali grammar, first librarian of the East India Company, and Foreign Visitor to the Company's college. Though his name is perhaps less well-known than those of Colebrooke, Hamilton, or Jones, he ranks with them as a pioneering scholar of great accomplishment.