Étienne Fourmont (23 June 1683 – 8 December 1745) was a French orientalist who published early studies of Chinese and Arabic languages.
Born at Herblay near Argenteuil, he studied at the Collège Mazarin in Paris and afterwards in the Collège Montaigu where his attention was attracted to Oriental languages. Shortly after leaving the college he published a Traduction du commentaire du Rabbin Abraham A ben Esra sur l'Ecclésiaste.
Fourmont and the origins of French Oriental studies
In 1711 Louis XIV appointed Fourmont to assist a young Chinese (Arcadio Huang), in cataloging the French royal collection of works in Chinese and compiling a Chinese grammar. One day, Fourmont was surprised copying Huang's work, and after Huang's death there was suspicion that Fourmont had not given Huang adequate credit. Huang died in 1716 and it was not until 1737 that Fourmont published Meditationes Sinicae and in 1742 Grammatica Sinica. He also wrote Réflexions critiques sur les histoires des anciens peuples (1735), and several dissertations printed in the Memoires of the Academy of Inscriptions.
He became professor of Arabic in the Collège de France in 1715. In 1713 he was elected a member of the Academy of Inscriptions, in 1738 a member of the Royal Society of London, and in 1742 a member of that of Berlin. He died at Paris on 8 December 1745.
His brother, Michel Fourmont (1690–1746), was also a member of the Academy of Inscriptions, and professor of the Syriac language in the Royal College, and was sent by the government to copy inscriptions in Greece. Michel Fourmont is remembered for the destruction of ancient Sparta.
Fourmont records in 1730:
For a month now, despite illness, I have been engaged with thirty workmen in the entire destruction of Sparta; not a day passes but I find something, and on some I have found up to twenty inscriptions. You understand, Monsieur, with what great joy, and with what fatigue, I have recovered such a great quantity of marbles. . ..
If by overturning its walls and temples, if by not leaving one stone on another in the smallest of its sacella, its place will be unknown in the future, 1 at least have something by which to recognise it, and that is something. I have only this means to render my voyage in the Morea illustrious, which otherwise would have been entirely useless, which would have suited neither France, nor me.
I am becoming a barbarian in the midst of Greece; this place is not the abode of the Muses, ignorance has driven them out, and it is that which makes me regret France, whither they have retreated. I should have liked to have more time to bring them at least more than bare nourishment, but the orders 1 have just received oblige me to finish.
Edward Dodwell on his later visit to Sparta in 1801 reported that Fourmont was still remembered as ordering the defacement of inscriptions he had just recorded."
Selected Major works
- --, Les Racines De La Langue Latine, Mises En Vers François (Paris: Chez Pierre-Augustin Le Mercier, 1706)
- --, Examen Pacifique De La Querelle De Madame Dacier Et De Monsieur De La Motte Sur Homere. (Paris: Chez Jacques Rollin, 1716). Reprinted: Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1971.
- --, Meditationes Sinicae: In Quibus 1. Consideratur Linguae Philosophicae Atque Universalis Natura Qualis Esse, Aut Debeat, Aut Possit. : 2. Lingua Sinarum Mandarinica Tum in Hieroglyphis Tum in Monosyllabis Suis ... Ostenditur : 3. Datur Eorumdem Hieroglyphorum Ac Monosyllaborum Atque Inde Characterum Linguae Sinicae Omnium ... Lectio & Intellectio ... : 4. Idque Omne, Progressu a Libris Mere Europaeis (De Sinica Tamen) Ad Libros Mere Sinicos, Facto (Lutetiae Parisiorum: Chez Musier le Père ... Jombert ... Briasson ... Bullot ; ex typographia Bullot, 1737). GOOGLE BOOK
- --, Lingua Sinarum Mandarinicae Hieroglyphicae Grammatica Duplex, Latine Et Cum Characteribus Sinensium. Item Sinicorum Regiae Bibliothecae Librorum Catalogus (Lutetia Parisorum, 1742). Download or view: Bayerische StaatsBibliotek digital
- --, Joseph de Guignes, Michel-Ange-André Le Roux Deshauterayes, Jean Debure, Reflexions Sur L'origine, L'histoire Et La Succession Des Anciens Peuples, Chaldeens, Hebreux, Pheniciens, Egyptiens, Grecs, &C., Jusqu'au Tems De Cyrus Nouvelle Edition, Augmentée De La Vie De L'auteur, & D'une Table Alphabétique Des Matieres (A Paris, chez De Bure l'aîné, quai des Augustins, à l'Image S. Paul. M. DCC. XLVII., 1747).
- "Étienne Fourmont," Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)
- Danielle Elisseeff , Moi Arcade, interprète du roi-soleil , édition Arthaud, Paris, 1985.
- Cécile Leung. Etienne Fourmont, 1683-1745 : Oriental and Chinese Languages in Eighteenth-Century France. (Leuven: Leuven University Press; Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, Leuven Chinese Studies, 2002). ISBN 9058672484. 
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Cécile Leung. Etienne Fourmont, 1683-1745 : Oriental and Chinese Languages in Eighteenth-Century France. (Leuven: Leuven University Press; Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, Leuven Chinese Studies, 2002). ISBN 9058672484. GOOGLEBOOK
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