Click on image above to enlarge

1802: A complete set of early essays from the College of Fort William

[College of Fort William.] Essays by the students of the College of Fort William in Bengal. To which are added the theses pronounced at the public disputations in the oriental languages on the 6th February, 1802. [with:] Primitiae orientales … containing the theses in the oriental languages; pronounced at the public disputations … by students of the College of Fort William in Bengal. With translations. Volume II. [and:] Primitiae orientales... Volume III. Calcutta, printed at the Honorable Company's Press, 1802-1805.
First editions. Three volumes bound in two. 8vo, 21 x 14 cm; pp.xvi, 228, [6, advertisements]; [ii], 1-2, [iii]-liv, 81, [1, blank]; [ii], 4, xl, 120; [2], 21, [1, blank]. With text in Arabic, Bengali, Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu. A very good set. The first volume bound in contemporary Indian tree calf, gilt; spine discreetly repaired; the second volume in modern half calf over marbled boards. Armorial bookplate of Henry Richard Vassal Fox, 3rd Baron Holland, and the ciphered bookplate of Clive Coates in first volume.

These three volumes document the academic work of the earliest students at the College of Fort William. Established at Calcutta in 1800 by Governor-General Wellesley to train British officials for administration in India, the College provided a cultural crash-course and offered those languages seen as essential: Arabic, Bengali, Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu. The College's faculty was a roll-call of British orientalists – John Gilchrist, William Carey, John Baillie, Henry Thomas Colebrooke, to name but a few of its members. A correspondingly high degree of achievement was expected of the students, whose oral and written work, as presented here, is compelling evidence of a successful program, albeit one whose varied content came with a certain confidence in the superiority of British rule. Hafiz is read and discussed, but the Hindu caste system is cited as preventing progress towards the improvement of their lot; a mixture of intellectual curiosity and colonizing arrogance prevails. The present set provides a comprehensive snapshot of the College. A list of Works in the oriental languages printed in the College of Fort William, or published by its learned members, since the commencement of the institution is appended to the first volume; A full list of all students who have obtained degrees of honor for high proficiency in the oriental languages since the foundation of the College of Fort William is appended to the third volume, concluding with the Fifth Examination held in January 1805. There are several beautiful type specimens in naskh, nasta'liq, Bengali, and Sanskrit. The second and third volumes were issued with a replacement uniform title-page reading Primitiae orientales Vol. I, but the present copy retains the original title.