Was it in 1928 that the data about Georgian manuscripts kept at the University of Graz became known in Georgia for the first time?

Graz is the second-largest city in Austria. The University Library of Graz founded in the 16th century holds the ancient Georgian manuscripts. One of them dated to the 7th century - The Georgian Khanmet Lectionary is the pride of the Library as it is the oldest copy of the multilingual scripts placed on the shelves of the Library. These manuscripts have attracted attention of more than one Georgian or foreign scholars. The history of the old Georgian manuscripts is associated with the name of Hugo Schuchardt. Hugo Schuchardt (4.2.1842-21.4.1927) was an eminent Australian linguist, well-known expert in the Romance languages, professor at the University of Graz, full member of the Vienna Academy of Sciences. The recognition of Schuchardt's scientific contribution is evidenced in the list of dignities: honoured with a special degree from the universities of Bologna, Budapest, and Oslo, member of Berlin, Munich, Rome, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Krakow Academies of Sciences member of Jakarta society of arts and science, honourable member of various scientific institutes of San Sebastian, Moscow, Petersburg and other cities. By the way Hugo Schuchardt was a member of Georgian linguistic society too. The number of scholarly works published by, Schuchardt is impressive: over 770 published items. It seems Hugo Schuchardt got interested in Georgian language in the eighties of the 19th century and established business relations with Georgian scholars, public men who supplied him with Georgian scholarly or other kind of literature on regular basis. Among Georgians acquainted with Schuchardt were Ilia Chavchavadze, Petre Melikishvili, Niko Marr, Aleksandre Tsagareli, Aleksandre Khakhanashvili, Filipe Gogichaishvili, David Karichashvili, Noe Zhordania, David Sarajishvili, Niko Ghoghoberidze, etc. They not only carried on a correspondence with Schuchardt but some of them personally met the eminent scholar while being in Europe.

Schuchardt published about 20 research works related to Georgian language. In one of his last letters he indicates that Georgian is a sympathetic and interesting language for him. It is this great sympathy and well expressed scholarly interest to the Georgian language that made Schuchardt save the ageless monuments of Georgian material culture that fell into bad hands of some dealers, and who knows what the future held for these already unbound and thieved book-cover witnesses of diligent activity of our celebrated ancestors in the remote Mount Sinai or Jerusalem, from redesign or in the worst case from the loss and kept them in his save hands. After the long trading twists and turns Schuchardt purchased Georgian manuscripts on his own account and studied them and several months before his death left them in accord with his will to the University of Graz.

In scholarly literature an opinion has been established that Georgian scientific society learned about Georgian manuscripts kept at the University of Graz for the first time in 1929 when Akaki Shanidze published the paper "Georgian Manuscripts at Graz" in the Bulletin of the Tiflis University, IX volume, but a year earlier Hugo Schuchardt's extended work - Mitteilungen aus georgische Handschriften (The Notes from Georgian Manuscripts) in VIII volume of the same periodical was published. However, only few scholars could familiarize with this research written in German language as by that time in the circle of scholars Hugo Schuchardt got in touch with mainly French was spoken. In a private letter (2.9.1895) Arthur Leist gave Schuchardt advice that it would be better for a Graz professor to write in French to the Board of Society for the Spreading Literacy among Georgians because nobody could speak German there. If even in the Society for the Spreading Literacy among Georgians nobody knew German, it is not difficult to imagine how things go elsewhere.

The study of the old Georgian manuscripts kept at the Graz University seems to be started in 1928. In the following years there were published the researches of Akaki Shanidze, Grigol Peradze, Mikel Tarkhnishvili, etc. In the following years, researches of Akaki Shanidze, Grigol Peradze, Mikel Tarkhnishvili, etc. were published and separate texts were issued... Georgian society learned about the existence of Georgian manuscripts kept at the University Library of Graz. According to the widely spread opinion not a word had been said so far about these long-suffering manuscripts.

A.Shanidze was not the first whom Schuchardt told about Georgian manuscripts got into his hands and not only the above mentioned manuscripts were in the Georgian collection of Hugo Schuchardt's archive. There was also a fragment of completely unknown Georgian manuscript about which nobody in Georgia had ever heard from Schuchardt.

Both in Tbilisi and, by the way, in Moscow too at the end of the 19th century, i.e. 30 years before the Tbilisi readers familiarized with these manuscripts, it had already been known that Schuchardt possessed some old Georgian manuscripts. The history of these manuscripts is of particular interest.

Professor of the Petersburg University Aleksandre Tsagareli saw and described the old Georgian manuscripts now kept at Graz at the Sinai Monastery in 1883 and five years later he even published their description in the Catalogue of Sinai manuscripts [A.Tsagareli: 1888]. In 1902 Niko Marr and Ivane Javakhishvili could not find the manuscripts at this very place.  Now it is hard to say with certainty as to when and by whom these manuscripts were taken from the monastery depository. Approximately by the end of 1894 a real war was broken for possession of these manuscripts, - writes an Austrian artist Alfonse Leopold Milikh, who seems to be one of the participants of this "war" and finally laid hands on Georgian manuscripts. In spite of the fact that he knew neither their content nor their real value, by his own words, only due to their outer attraction he ventured and snatched precious folios out of competitors' hands - it is very likely that he used to visit Egypt for years to purchase the antiques with the aim to make fortune through their selling (Beirut is also mentioned  as one of the possible places of purchasing the manuscripts, but in my view it is named to cover up one's tracks).  

Milikh was not going to sell the manuscripts immediately; he waited for two years and only in October of 1896 took the first steps for their selling. With this aim, he offered his collection, which included not only Georgian but also Slavic manuscripts, to the Court Library in Vienna. The director of the Library Heinrich von Zeisberg was an extremely cautious and honest man, and before purchasing the manuscripts, which he liked at a glance, decided to examine the contents of the MSS and establish their estimated value in the first place. At that time in Vienna the only expert of the Georgian language he was familiar with was Friedrich Müller, professor at the Vienna University and member of the Academy of Sciences who had already published his research related to the Georgian (On Conjugation of the Georgian Verb, 1868/69), and was planning to write a paper on the origination of the Georgian alphabet but for some reason he refrained from doing it and recommended Zeisberg to address Hugo Schuchardt residing in Graz who by that time had already published his first works about the Georgian language. Zeisberg took Müller's advice and asked Schuchardt to render assistance and after agreement he sent Schuchardt these four manuscripts held by him to Graz (current ##2058/1,2,3,4 MSS of the Library catalogue).

With the help of A.Tsagareli's catalogue Schuchardt established that the manuscripts got into his hands had been the legal property of St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai. When Zeisberg learned about this fact he asked Milikh to show him a document confirming the legality of possessing these manuscripts which Milikh certainly did not have. After this Zeisberg refused to purchase the manuscripts saying that he could not place the stolen manuscripts on the shelves of his library, for which the director was sharply criticized by a professor of the Vienna University Vatroslav Jagić who was running the faculty of Slavistics at the University. Jagić immediately appreciated the value of these manuscripts and without bargaining on price he purchased the Slavic manuscripts and added: "I can't comprehend the attitude of the director of the Court Library who refuses to purchase the manuscripts until he receives the document confirming their origin. Very few European libraries would have had present treasure if they had behaved in a similar way" (The letter addressed to Schuchardt, 26.12.1896). However, Zeisberg is not to be criticized because in his circle honesty and unspotted reputation were of high value.

Schuchardt, who kept the manuscripts in hand for a certain time and examined them well, took advantage of the opportunity. As Milikh had been threatened that Austrian ambassador to Egypt would be included to the investigation of the case, he got scared that they might take off the manuscripts and after long bargaining he considerably reduced the initial price and on January 12, 1896 sold the manuscripts for almost half price to Schuchardt and also added 3 separate pages for free (current ## 2058/6, 7). Later, he offered Schuchardt one more manuscript, a scroll, current #2058/5 and after long bargaining this scroll also fell in the hands of Graz professor.

By the way, at that time Hugo Schuchardt and Aleksandre Khakhanashvili planned to write a grammar of the Georgian language in German and carried on a lively correspondence, so they even had some outlines of the intended manual. However, for some reasons this endeavour seized for a long time and only at the beginning of the 20th century Schuchardt started thinking about the realization of this idea again (the idea itself belonged to Khakhanashvili and he intended to print the manual in Vienna). It might be supposed that it was these manuscripts that made Schuchardt postpone the work at grammar. He was very fascinated by the acquired MSS and totally absorbed, researched the monuments from the viewpoint of the palaeography too, and when the need for corresponding sources and literature appeared, he addressed for assistance to Khakhanashvili and the Society for the Spreading Literacy among Georgians. Already on November 7, 1896 he sent a letter to the board of the Society for spreading literacy: "I am in a great hurry especially because I am working on Georgian sources: four Georgian manuscripts written on parchment have been sent to me. The letters are "khutsuri" (in "khutsuri") script. The manuscripts belong to the passed epochs: two of them are liturgical books, one is Davitni and another one the Life of St.Simon. I was asked to examine them and estimate their approximate value because they intend to buy them. It really puts me in an awkward position" (28.2.1897).

Next year, on February 28, he wrote to the board of the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians once more: "I am preparing the data on Georgian manuscripts which are at my disposal (three of them are written in Asomtavruli script). Do you have any liturgical books printed in Khutsuri available for me? You will do me a great favour if you send them to me. I would like to use them in my researches I've just reported about" (28.2.1897).

Prior to this, Schuchardt also informed Aleksandre Khakhanashvili in Moscow about the manuscripts. It is true, in Schuchardt's archive there is only one late letter and an extended fragment of the letter containing the exercises prepared for the intended grammar textbook, but in Tbilisi Schuchardt's letters have been found from which we can suppose what response was given to Schuchardt by Moscow professor: "Right now I am totally focused on Georgian manuscripts. The fact that these four manuscripts are really very old, as I've already written to you, would be evidenced to you when you get my written report. Among the manuscripts three are written in Asomtavruli, the second written in Nuskhuri dates from the 10th century. Later I asked two private persons one thick liturgical book written in "khutsuri" and one long script which from the beginning seemed to me some historical document, but then its barely readable title written in red disappointed me: «s˜oÁ J˜mis w˜rvaÁ w˜isa i˜e oq­ropiris˜Á»  - the mess of John of the Goldenmouth!" (31.1.1897)

From this letter it is seen that Schuchardt had already informed Khakhanashvili about the manuscripts (but this letter can't be found anywhere). From Schuchardt's other letter it becomes obvious that he intended to finish the research on manuscripts by the end of the March 1897: "Currently I am totally focused on Georgian palaeography and hope that the first data from Georgian manuscripts (two photo typical tables) to prepare for publication before my departure to [Gota]." (6.3.1897). Schuchardt planned to visit his mother in Gota by the end of March which is referred to in the same letter: "By the end of this month I'm going to Gota."

Iinformation about these manuscripts was known in Moscow Institute of Oriental Languages (the so called Lazarev Institute). Professor of the Armenian literature Gregor Khalatian wrote to Schuchardt: "From Vienna the Mkhitarists informed me that you have found Georgian Gospel which is the Palimpsest. If it is really dates from the 9th century, it is for sure the Armenian writing must be older, though our professor Khakhanashvili asserts that the Georgian writing cannot be earlier than 11th century the reason for which he finds in the shape of the Khutsesi letters" (VII, 1897). The information that the Georgian-Armenian Palimpsest dated from the 9th century was probably spread by Schuchardt himself. As to the Georgian text it is not the Gospel but the Psalms. Currently it is dated to the first half of the 10th century (A.Shanidze).

The last letters concerning the manuscripts are dated to 1897. It is difficult to say what happened later. The fact is that there is no mentioning about them by Schuchardt anymore. Maybe he thought that he finished his research in March and the issue was settled. However, we should also note that on the text of the research sent by the author several days before his death (16.04.1927) to Akaki Shanidze, it is clearly written by the author - Unfinished!

Let us get acquainted with several fragments from Schuchardt's letter: "I took a vocation this semester because of poor health. Right now I am busy with two proof readings and one article which was designed long time ago (it concerns Romance) and as soon as I finish this work I hope to get at the Georgian language again and then I'd like to deal with my work on Georgian manuscripts which have been almost finished and I wish to have done with it at last" (27.12.1897).

In the same letter he complains: "You can't imagine how my working efficiency has been reduced. I can't do several jobs simultaneously any more and advance forward at a snail's pace".

"My desire is to treat within limits of possibilities, everything that has been published in Georgian or Russian concerning Georgian or Caucasian linguistics. Clearly our journals have no space for this; therefore I can take into account only those which publishing houses have Georgian print...In the middle of December I plan to go to Egypt for several months... After returning from Egypt, I am going to continue the work on Georgian grammar started long time ago if nothing interferes. In this work, the grammar manual that is  held in the Asian Museum of Petersburg would be of great assistance to me" (23.11.1902). Here the manuscript of Georgian grammar by Mose Janashvili is meant (Mose Janashvili intended to publish Georgian grammar in Vienna with Schuchardt's assistance).

The most lovable language to Schuchardt was the Bask language. Besides this, he was fascinated by many other languages and not only languages - the everyday issues of various peoples, psychology, University politics, mystical language, fishing, mathematics, medicine, botany, geology, etymology, language geography, philosophy, lexicography, ethnography, history of culture, folklore... Once he asked Philipe Gogichaishvili about fishing equipment spread in Georgia and generally - the issues associated with fishing. Naturally, he could not be limited only with Georgian. So wide was the range of his research themes. However, from time to time he returned to Georgian.  Last works related to Georgian are mostly reviews dated to 1904. After this, Schuchardt had no publications about Georgian. In 1912 scroll inspector of the Caucasian educational region Lev Lopatinski invited him to the International Congress held in Tbilisi, but it was already hard for Schuchardt to travel so far. In 1920 by the assistance of Richard Mekelain, A.Shanidze sent his doctoral theses to Graz. I have no evidence whether Schuchardt responded him or not, but when A.Shanidze sent him "Umlaut in Svan" and "Conjugation of Georgian verb" the response from Graz came. After this the correspondence between them started, but it was ceased because of Schuchardt's disease. In September of 1926 he lay in bed, but still sent letters to Tbilisi, first by himself and later when the disease progressed he dictated the letters. Schuchardt was thinking about his successor, who could continue his work. In the last days of his life he seemed to be thinking of Georgian language again. On April 18, 1927 he sent A.Shanidze his article and next day the last letter: "At last I can write something in detail. I was greatly concerned that I had to leave such sympathetic and interesting language for me as Georgian. Recently I have looked through my papers and found "the data about Georgian MSS" which as an evidence of my interest I mailed in a small registered parcel". 

On 19th April he sent an open letter to Tbilisi needing some explanation related to the manuscripts. In the same day he lost consciousness and never came back to it, and thus he died two days later. This note was one of Schuchardt's last letters if not the last.

From the above mentioned it is obvious that the information on old Georgian manuscripts fell in Schuchardt's hands was known to the Society for the Spreading of Literacy among Georgians, professor A.Khakhanashvili in Moscow and also the scholars from the Lazarev Institute of Oriental languages. Moreover, the latter breaking all kind of scientific or moral ethics asked Schuchardt to borrow them Georgian-Armenian palimpsest saying that they themselves would study old Armenian text (the lower layer). This was rather tactless request. The truth is that Schuchardt was a scholar who could always say something even related to Armenian if the subject was interesting for him. He could speak about thirty languages so that up to the end of the 19th century he wrote letters to his colleagues and acquaintances with various language backgrounds in their native language and he was not going to give up what he had taken such pains to obtain. They are the very people who really knew about the existence of these MSS at the end of the century and I have the reliable documents confirming this. It is possible that Schuchardt could share the information about the existence of these manuscripts, and what's more, he was even proud of being the owner of the ancient manuscripts.

To sum up, Georgian manuscripts once belonged to St.Catherine Monastery on Sinai Mount in 1897 fell in Schuchardt's hands and several months later Graz professor already reported to his colleagues about the content of the texts survived in the manuscripts. Unfortunately, Schuchardt failed to bring the nearly finished research to end and therefore he didn't publish it. Probably we would have had far less information about MSS if 5 days prior to his death bedridden Schuchardt had not happened to find his incomplete research and immediately send to Tbilisi to Akaki Shanidze.

Who knows how many more unknown dusty pages are still kept in the archives of the researchers interested in Georgian that are waiting for caring hand with the patience of Job in order to be finally published.

The data presented in the paper are based on about 200 letters related to Georgia and Georgian language selected from around 1300 personal letters kept at Hugo Schuchardt's archive. I examined carefully this correspondence in depth during my scientific trips to Austria in 1976-76, 1983, 1990, 2000 and 2005-06.

This fact must be specially underlined because on similar occasions when Schuchardt's colleagues used to buy valuable manuscripts for their own use they all were state-paid.

 As we see not everybody mastered French either. In connection with this an amusing incident can be recalled: in 1897 Schuchardt mailed his article (apparently, "On Geography and Statistics of Kartvelian/South Caucasian  languages") in a small parcel from Graz to the Society for the Spreading Literacy among Georgians but it soon came back to him. Then Schuchardt addressed a letter to Tbilisi asking the board of the Society about the reason of this misunderstanding. The secretary of the Society D.Karichashvili apologized for whatever misunderstanding occurred: "Dear Mr. Schuchardt! In response to your letter... I have the honour to inform you the following: at the post office we have inquired about the reason of sending your parcel back and it appeared that the postman did not know French and therefore could not understand. Please, send us it again on this address" (5.11.1897).

Schuchardt's term


Tsagareli A.
Monuments of Georgian Antiquities in the Holy Land and on Sinai: Orthodox Palestinian Collection, vol.IV, issue I, St.Petersburg.