The Parsi Religion:
as contained in the Zand-Avasta, and propounded and defended by the Zoroastrians of India and Persia, unfolded, refuted, and contrasted with Christianity. Bombay American Mission Press 1843
First edition, pp.610, folding lithographed plate. A very good copy in original blind-stamped cloth, spine faded. Small tear to margin of folding plate, not affecting image.
This work marks the culmination of a concerted campaign in print to vilify and undermine Zoroastrianism by the Scottish missionary in Bombay, John Wilson, 1804-75. Wilson's campaign began in the pages of the Oriental Christian Spectator, the journal which he founded in 1830 as a vehicle for attacking Eastern religions, and continued with his Lecture on the Vendidad Sade of the Parsis (Bombay, 1833). From his arrival at Bombay in 1829, Wilson had chosen to focus especially on the Parsees as "a numerous and very influential portion of its varied community", and therefore "well entitled to a large share of our evangelical efforts which are being made for the instruction and conversion of the natives of India." A phenomenally gifted linguist, Wilson's aggressive tactic was to provoke Parsee religious leaders into a public debate in print in which he would refute their arguments through his superior scholarship. In the preface to this book, Wilson proudly listed the works published by Parsee scholars in response to the points made in his 1833 Lecture, and looked forward defiantly to any publications which would attempt to counter this latest work. But Wilson's attacks on Zoroastrianism backfired, succeeding only in strengthening the Parsees' adherence to their religion: "The scholarly and polemical encounters with Dr. Wilson exposed to the Parsis their own sense of inadequacy as regarded the knowledge of their religion and tradition. Ultimately, while Dr. Wilson pricked the apathy of the Parsis as to their invulnerability from the scrutiny and criticism of other religions, the power of the Parsis' social bonds would work to discount his message and impact. Community solidarity united to turn a deaf ear to the Christian missionaries." (Jesse S. Palsetia, The Parsis of India: preservation of identity in Bombay City Leiden, 2001) The first substantial published account of Zoroastrianism based on personal observation was The religion of the Persees (London, 1630) compiled by Henry Lord, the East India Company's Chaplain at its Surat factory. Thomas Hyde, Professor of Arabic and Hebrew at Oxford University, formed the earliest collection of Zoroastrian manuscripts in Europe, on the basis of which he published Historia religionis veterum Persarum (Oxford 1700). It was the French scholar Anquetil du Perron who, following his visit to Surat in the late 1750s, attempted the first translation of the Avesta, an important source for Wilson's own research. The Rev. Wilson was the first to critically examine the beliefs of Zoroastrianism from a Christian perspective.