Friday, January 9, 2015

Zamenhof Not a Spaniard

Not a Spaniard
But we knew that already.

I was not the first person to notice that the New York Sun implied that the creator of Esperanto was a Spaniard in their editorial on January 6, 1907. One of their readers did. No full identification was given, just the correspondent’s initials, H.G.P. The Sun’s typesetters also seemed unfamiliar with the use of Dr as an abbreviation for “Doctor.” Where the writer intended Dr Esperanto, the Sun gave us “D’Esperanto.”  I’ve left it as they typeset it.

In this, it mangled the name of the work by Henry Phillips, Jr., based on the Unua Libro, which should be properly given as “An Attempt Towards an International Language, by Dr. Esperanto, (Warsaw, Russia).” The author’s name is not part of the title.

The Sun published the following in which a reader corrected their earlier error on January 9, 1907.
Dr. Zamenhof Himself Invented Esperanto.
To the Editor of the The SunSir: In an editorial on “Esperanto” in The Sun of January 6 the credit of the invention of that that artificial language is given to a Spaniard. “An Attempt Toward an International Language by D’Esperanto (Warsaw Russia)” was published by Henry Holt & Co. in this city in 1889. It was a translation of Zamenhof’s first essay. It was explained in the preface that “D’Esperanto was the nom de plume at that time adopted by Zamenhof.”
H. G. P.
New York, January 7
The translation by Henry Phillips, Jr. of the Unua Libro wasn’t the first translation into English (it was actually the third). Right on the second page, Phillips gives the real name of “Dr. Esperanto,” using the Samenhof spelling, although this is also given away at the back, as the “promeso” cards are to be sent to Dr Samenhof. An Attempt Towards an International Language can be read online, from a scan of a copy that Phillips gave to Harvard College.

Phillips died in 1895 at the age of fifty-six, which deprived the fledgling Esperanto movement of an early supporter. (He was not the letter writer, as his middle initial was M and by the time the Sun published its editorial, he was dead.) He was born in 1838 to Jonas and Frances Phillips, members of a prominent Jewish family in Philadelphia. He was named his uncle, who was Pennsylvania’s first Jewish congressman.[1] In the March 1908 Amerika Esperantisto, William George Adams dubbed him “la unua Amerika Esperantisto,” the first American Esperantist. Adams wrote
Kiam Henry Phillips, la pioniro de la lingvo en Ameriko, mortis, la movado por Esperanto en la lando recevis forton baton. Se li estus vivanta li sendube per sia influo kaj energia propagandado estus helpinta la lingvon internacian multe kaj nia lando estus farinta centro de tiu granda movado.

When Henry Phillips, the pioneer of the language in America, died, the movement for Esperanto in the country received a heavy blow. If he were living he doubtlessly by his influence and energetic promotion would had helped the international language much and our country would have become the center of this great movement.
That’s a heavy burden to put on poor, dead Henry Phillips, Jr. Oh, the Esperanto movement would have been huge had he not died! Well, maybe, maybe not. Things might have been different with the weight of the American Philosophical Society behind the language. We can’t run that experiment.

  1. I am drawing some biographical details from the Phillips entry at  ↩

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