Guignes, Joseph De

, an eminent oriental scholar in France, was born at Pointoise, Oct. 19, 1721. He studied the oriental languages under the celebrated Stephen Fourinont, and was appointed king’s interpreter in 1741, and a member of the academy of belles lettres in 1753. Having minutely investigated the Chinese characters, and compared them with those of other languages, he fancied he had discovered that they were only monograms formed of three Egyptian letters, and deduced from this that China had been originally peopled by an Egyptian colony. The same notion had been adopted before his time by Huet, Kircher, and Moiran; but other learned men, Deshauteraies, Paw, and the Chinese missionaries, have fully refuted it. De Guignes was for thirty-five years engaged in the “Journal des Sgavans,” which, as well as the Memoirs of the academy of belles lettres, he enriched with a great number of learned papers on the religion, history, and philosophy, of the Egyptians and Chinese Indians, &c. One very important service he rendered his country by discovering the punches and matrices of the oriental types which Savary de Breves, ambassador from Henry IV. at Constantinople, had brought into France, but which were now in such a state that Guignes was the only person who could put them in order, and give instructions for using them. | From them he was enabled to cast fonts of the Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Syriac, Armenian, Hebrew, and Chinese, acquisitions of great consequence to his inquiries. With their aid he passed the greater part of his life among his books, without ambition for more than a competence suited to his literary wants. In his old age, however, the revolution deprived him even of this, but he still preserved his cheerful temper and independent spirit. Some help he derived from a legacy of 3000 livres, which Grosley, his fellow academician, and a distant relation, bequeathed to him. He died at Paris March 22, 1800, and was said at that time to be the only person in Europe perfectly acquainted with the Chinese language. His publications are, 1. “Abrege de la vie d’Etienne Fourmont,Paris, 1747, 4to. 2. “Histoire generale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols, et des antres Tartares occidentaux,1756, 4 vols. 4to, taken from Chinese and oriental manuscripts, and without doubt, his greatest work, and that on which he had bestowed infinite labour, but in which there is a want of taste, and of style suited to the subjects, with frequent repetitions, which make it a book rather to be consulted than read. 3. The “Memoire,” already noticed, in which he attempts to prove that the Chinese were a colony from Egypt, 1759, 12mo. 4. “Chou-King,1770, 4to. Gaubil had published a translation of this sacred book among the Chinese, which de Guignes now reprinted with notes. 5. L’Art militaire de Chinois,“4to. 6.” Essai historiquf* sur la typographic orientate et Grecque,“1787, 4to. 7.” Principes de composition typographique," 1790, 4to, for the use of the compositors who were employed on the oriental types. He wrote also many notices of Arabian manuscripts for the catalogue preserved in the royal library. 1