BnF INDIEN 188: On Tamil Language

A blogpost by Emmanuel Francis & Cristina Muru

The source of all the pictures of INDIEN 188 is BnF

BnF INDIEN 188 (ex- Tamoul 188) consists in 59 paper leaves bound in one volume (330 x 210 mm). The folios were foliated in the library (57 ff. foliated in black in the upper right corner, followed by 2 ff. blank, left unfoliated).

Cabaton in his Catalogue sommaire (1912, p. 31) based on Vinson (1867, p. 46) describes it as follows: “Recueil de trois ouvrages. 1. Alphabet tamoul-français. ― 2. Syllabaire tamoul. ― 3. Déclinaison, conjugaison et syntaxe tamoules, expliquées en portugais. 1730. Papier. 6, 1 et 48 feuillets, 310 X 200 mm.”1

The bound volume indeed contains 3 items.

  • The Item 1 (6 ff., 200 x 310 mm), in French, is about the “Lettres Malabares” (f1r, Fig. 1), that is, the Tamil aphabet, with different sections: list of consonants with their transcription and pronounciation (f1r), list of vowels with their transcription and pronounciation (f1v), Tamil syllabary (f2r‒f4r,  Fig. 2), examples of declensions (f5r‒5v,  Fig. 3), list of vocabulary (f6r).

Fig. 1 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 1, recto — Courtesy of BnF

Fig. 2 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 2, recto — Courtesy of BnF

Fig. 3 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 5, recto — Courtesy of BnF

  • The Item 2 consists 1 folded folio (220 x 260 mm), bearing two Tamil syllabaries (one on the recto,  Fig. 4,  and the other on the verso, Fig. 5).

Fig. 4 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 7, recto — Courtesy of BnF

Fig. 5 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 7, verso — Courtesy of BnF

  • The Item 3 (ff. 8r‒57v., 195 x 285 mm; some written only on recto + ff. [58‒59] of same size, but blank and unfoliated) is a grammar of Tamil language in Portuguese. First come the declensions (f8r‒f13r, Fig. 6).

Fig. 6 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 8, recto: “1a Declinacaó” — Courtesy of BnF

The nouns chosen for illustrating the declensions are the same as those found in Arte da lingua Malabar composed around 1549 by the Jesuit Henrique Henriques (1546‒1600).2

We find afterwards explanations about nouns and adjectives, e.g.:

“os nomes acabados em ஆ â …” (f14r, Fig. 7)
“dos Nomes adiectiuos” (f15r, Fig. 8)

Fig. 7 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 14, recto — Courtesy of BnF

Fig. 8 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 15, recto — Courtesy of BnF

“dos Comparatiuos” (f16v)
“dos Superlatiuos” (f17r)
“dos nomens de qualidade et gantidade” (f17v)
“pera os nomens de quantidade” (f18rv)
“dos nomens Numerais” (f19r‒20v)
“dos pronomens” (f21r5)

Then comes the book II on verbs (“Livro 2° dos uerbos,” f24r, Fig. 9).

Fig. 9 — BnF INDIEN 188, folio 24, recto — Courtesy of BnF

The following headings are found in this portion of the text:

“primeira Conjugacaó” (f24r)
“2a Conjugacaó” (f30r)
“3a Conjugacaó” (f35r)
“4a Conjugacaó” (f37r)
“5a Conjugacaó” (f39r)
“dos uerbos Compositos” (f41r)
“dos uerbos passiuos” (f41v11)
“Dos uerbos Imperioaes” (f42r1)
“dos uerbos defeitivos” (f43v17)

Finally from f45v, various topics are discussed, e.g.:

“dos participios” (f45v)
“do casu” (f45v)
“do Dativo” (f46v)
“por Accusativo” (f47r)
“por ablatiuo” (f47v)
“dos participios directiuos” (f49v)
“dos participios do Infinito” (f49v)
“dos tempos menos principaes” (f50r)
“da particula, Am” (f52v)
“das proposicoens” (f53v)
“aduerbios de tempo” (f54v)
“de responder” (f55r)
“de afirmar” (f55r)
“de negar” (f55r)
“de quandidade” (f56r)
“modo de former os uerbos” (f56v)

The last folio discuss “de quantitade” (f56r).

The f57v bears a crossed-out word.

Looking at the paper used in the three sections which compose BnF INDIEN 188, one finds different watermarks.

One type is found in Item 1 (ff. 1‒3) and looks like a bunch of grapes along with some letters, which are difficult to read (Fig. 10).

Fig. 10 — BnF INDIEN 188, watermark, type 1 — Courtesy of BnF

Another type, a kind of decorated spear, appears in Item 1 (between ff. 4‒6) (Fig. 11).

Fig. 11 — BnF INDIEN 188, watermark, type 2 — Courtesy of BnF

Still in Item 1 (f7) is found a winged griffon (or unicorn?) (Fig. 12).

Fig. 12 — BnF INDIEN 188, watermark, type 3 — Courtesy of BnF

A fourth type of watermark (Fig. 13) is found on ff. 7‒18, and on even on folios between ff. 20‒42. This symbol (IHS overhung by a cross) is the Christogram of the Society of Jesus.3  The same watermark is also found on ff. 45, 46, 54, 57, and 58.

Fig. 13 — BnF INDIEN 188, watermark, type 4 — Courtesy of BnF

Emmanuel Francis

Chargé de recherche CNRS (CEIAS-UMR 8564, EHESS-CNRS, Paris)

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  1. The manuscript is also mentioned by Fauriel, 1891, f61r. []
  2. For instance, the first declension of Henriques corresponds to the sixth in BnF INDIEN 188; the third to the fourth; the fourth to the first, and the fifth to the third. The second declension is the same in both. []
  3. See e.g. []

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Emmanuel Francis (October 6, 2019). BnF INDIEN 188: On Tamil Language. Texts Surrounding Texts. Retrieved July 18, 2024 from

Emmanuel Francis

Chargé de recherche CNRS (CEIAS-UMR 8564, EHESS-CNRS, Paris)

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