KÉGL, SÁNDOR (b. Szúnyog, Hungary, 1 December 1862; d. Áporka, Hungary, 28 December 1920, Figure 1), Hungarian orientalist, polymath, and bibliophile, who devoted a major part of his studies to Persian literature.  

Sources on the life of Sándor (Alexander von) Kégl, a pioneer in Iranian studies in Hungary, are relatively scarce and limited (Gaál).  Kégl was born into a wealthy Catholic landowner family in the suburbs of Pest (from 1873 Budapest) on the Szunyogh farmstead lying between the towns of Kiskunlacháza and Bugyi in Pest-Pilis-Solt-Kiskun county.  Austrian ancestors of Kégl (originally perhaps Kögl) were ennobled in 1762 by the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresia; they became Hungarian subjects and possessed large estates around Kiskunlacháza.  Kégl did his high school studies mainly as a private student in Catholic and Protestant institutions of Budapest (Kelecsényi and Dévényi).  Inspired by the travelogues of Arminius Vámbéry, the famous Hungarian explorer and orientalist, he showed keen interest in linguistics and philology from his early youth (Gaál, pp. 37-38).  After learning various European languages, he devoted his whole life to the study of different Oriental languages and literatures, namely Persian, Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, Tatar, Sanskrit, Urdu, Chuvash, and Mordvin.  To improve his knowledge in Oriental languages, in 1884 (or, according to other sources, in 1885) he enrolled at the university of Budapest (Dévényi and Kelecsényi).  Kégl studied Arabic and other Semitic languages with Ignaz Goldziher and Péter Hatala, and Persian and Turkic languages with Arminius Vámbéry at the Hungarian Royal University of Budapest between 1885 and 1889.  Kégl received his Ph.D. degree with great distinction (summa cum laude) on 20 May 1889.  The subject of his thesis was a scientific analysis of Moḥammad Damiri’s Ḥayāt al-ḥaywān, a para-encyclopedic work on animals (Sárközy, 2005, pp. 134-41; Dévényi and Kelecsényi)

Encouraged and supported by Vámbéry’s letters of recommendation, including one addressed to Nāṣer-al-Din Shah (Dévényi and Kelecsényi; Sárközy, 2010), Kégl traveled on a study trip to Iran in October 1889 in order to collect books and to enhance his practical knowledge of Persian and thus prepare for the teaching career of his choice.  After a long and exhausting journey, Kégl arrived in Tehran at the end of November 1889.  He did not leave Tehran for nearly three months, although Vámbéry’s letter to Nāṣer-al-Din Shah suggested other cities such as Isfahan and Shiraz.  His main interest in Tehran was collecting Persian manuscripts and lithographs, which probably provided him with sources for his later publications on poets (e.g., Weṣāl Širāzi) and men of letters (e.g., Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat) of the Qajar period.  Kégl later published many articles in Hungarian newspapers that give a vivid picture of the daily life in the Persian capital (Sárközy, 2005, pp. 125-27; idem, 2010)

Academic career. Kégl started his academic career in 1893 when he was appointed instructor of Persian language and literature at the Department of Oriental Philology of the Hungarian Royal University.  In 1907 he became extraordinary titular professor at the same department.  According to his brother, Kégl always taught pro bono (Dévényi and Kelecsényi).  He taught mainly Classical Persian grammar and literature, including the works of Saʿdi, Rumi, Ferdowsi, ʿOmar Ḵayyām, and occasionally works of ʿAṭṭār and Ḥosayn Wāʿeẓ Kāšefi (Sárközy, 2005, pp. 131-35).  In his earlier years he also held Sanskrit classes and, according to the university documents, once he held an “Indo-Persian Epic comparative class,” where he taught both Sanskrit and Persian epics (Kelecsényi, p. 65.).  In 1906, Kégl replaced Goldziher temporarily in the latter’s Arabic classes (Dévényi, pp. 159-60.), and a year later he became extraordinary titular professor at the same department.

Kégl became a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1906 as an expert in Oriental manuscripts and prepared the first catalogue of the Islamic manuscripts in the Oriental Collection of its Library.  In 1914, after the death of Vámbéry, Kégl was appointed a public extraordinary professor (Dévényi and Kelecsényi; Sárközy, 2005).  Despite the fact that Kégl mostly enjoyed the support of the leading colleagues of his field, there are no documents known to the present author that he was appointed as the head of the department of Persian language and literature, which had been suggested in the proposal for his appointment as public extraordinary professor.  The unfavorable conditions generated by World War I and later political events in Hungary had a negative effect, and the plans to found a department of Persian studies were canceled.  Iranian studies as a separate unit were established only in 1958 at the Faculty of Humanities of the same university in Budapest (by then called Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences), within the framework of the Department of General Linguistics, all due to the efforts of János Harmatta and Zsigmond Telegdi.  Noteworthy among Kégl’s students is Rezsö Honti, a polymath like his master, who made the selection and prose translation of the Šāh-nāma of Ferdowsi into Hungarian.

Kégl devoted all his life to Oriental, and especially Iranian, studies. He was  shy in character, never married, and mainly led a withdrawn, private life in his country mansion in Áporka, a tiny village near Budapest.  He died of heart attack in 1920. Due to his untimely death, plans to establish a Department of Iranian Studies in Hungary were suspended until 1958. His remains were laid to rest in the Kégl family crypt in Kiskunlacháza.

Works.  Kégl’s scholarly output reflects his deep knowledge and interest in classical and post-classical Persian literature.  Between 1890 and 1900 his primary interest was poetry during the Qajar period.  He published many articles in Hungarian and German about Persian poetry in the 19th century, including his voluminous essay in Hungarian about Persian literature during that time.  His articles in German about Weṣāl Širāzi and his sons, the satirical poetry of Šāyeq Eṣfahāni, Reżāqoli Khan Hedāyat, and female poets can be perceived as his major contributions (Rypka, pp. 318, 320; see also GERMANY IV).  Also noteworthy is his essay about the Persian folk poetry of Tehran, which contains folksongs collected and written down by him during his stay in the Persian capital.  This article (in Hungarian) is certainly a remarkable collection of the popular culture in the reign of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah (Sárközy, 2012a, pp. 14-15.)

In the second decade of his scholarly activity, Kégl’s pursuit was extended to  Classical Persian literature.  As a collector of medieval manuscripts, his interest was focused on the works of Persian mystics, like Sanāʾi and Rumi (see Bibliography).  His article “Perzsia” (1903) is the first ever detailed and elaborate essay about Persian literary history published in Hungary (Sárközy, 2012a, p. 17).  In his later years Kégl made significant contributions to the field of Indo-Persian literature.  The fact that he was well-versed both in Sanskrit and Hindustani literature induced him to make further steps in the field of Indo-Persian literature. His two studies about Amir Ḵosrow Dehlavi in 1910-11 are particularly noteworthy (Kovács).  Kégl also dealt with the questions of Persian poetry in the Ottoman empire.  His article about the Persian poems of Sultan Selim I was published in 1910 in a volume dedicated to Ignác Goldziher (Kégl, “Szelim szultán”; Péri, pp. 21-22).  A selection of Kégl’s works on Persian literature was recently published by the Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Dévényi and Kelecsényi).

Kégl in forty-five years collected a personal library of approximately 11,000 volumes of various Oriental manuscripts, lithographs, and other books, which he kept in Áporka, where he lived until his death.  In 1925, in accordance with Kégl’s bequest, his brother donated it to the library of the Hungarian Academy.  The Kégl library was the second largest donation in the history of the Library of the Hungarian Academy (Dévényi and Kelecsényi, Szántó, 2010a) and the largest such collection concerning Iranian studies.  Out of the total 120 Classical Persian manuscripts preserved in Hungary, 59 belong to the Kégl collection; among them, a Kalila wa Demna manuscript (dated 719/1319) is the oldest Persian manuscript in Hungary libraries.  The provenances and dedications on some of his books refer to his far-reaching scholarly connections.  For instance, we find the names of Charles Schefer, Paul Horn (qqv.), and Harald Rasmussen, among those of previous owners (Szántó, 2010b, pp. 169-70).


Éva Apor, ”Kégl’s Bequest and the Persian Manuscripts in the Oriental Collection,” in idem, ed, Jubilee Volume of the Oriental Collection 1951–1976, Budapest, 1978. pp. 35–42.

Kinga Dévényi, “Kégl Sándor levelei Goldziher Ignáchoz” (The correspondence of Sándor Kégl with Ignaz Goldziher), in idem, ed., pp. 145-64.

Idem, ed., Varietas Delectat: Tanulmányok Kégl Sándor emlékére, (Varietas Delectat: Studies in memory of Sándor Kégl), Budapest, 2010.

Kinga Dévényi and Ágnes Kelecsényi eds., “Kégl Sándor (1862-1920) a keletkutatás polihisztora és gyűjteménye” (Sándor Kégl [1862-1920] the polymath of Orientalistics and his collection), online at http://kegl.mtak.hu/index.html (accessed 23 April 2012).

Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma, tr, Gábor Devecseri, as Firdauszi, Királyok Könyve (Ferdowsi, Šāh-nāma), based on Rezső Honti’s selection and prose translation, checked by Zsigmond Telegdi, Budapest, 1959.

László Gaál, ”Kégl Sándor 1862–1920,” Budapesti Szemle, no. 564, April 1924, pp. 37–44.

Sándor (Alexander von) Kégl, A perzsa irodalom vonzásában, válogatott tanulmányok, Kégl Sándor (Attracted by Persian literature: selected articles of Sándor Kégl), ed. Kinga Dévényi, repr. Miklós Sárközy, Budapest Oriental Reprints, Series A, 9, Budapest, 2012.

Ágnes Kelecsényi “Kégl Sándor, az indológus” (Sándor Kégl, the Indologist), in Kinga Dévényi, ed., pp. 63-75.

H. Kovács, “Kégl Sándor tanulmánya Amir Husraw indiai perzsa költőről” (The Study of Sándor Kégl about the Indo-Persian poet Amir Ḵosrow), in Kinga Dévényi, ed., pp. 3-20.

Benedek Péri, “Szelim szultán perzsa gazaljai I: Az első megközelítés” (The Persian ghazals of Sultan Selim I: The first approach), in Kinga Dévényi, ed., pp. 21-45.

Jan Rypka et al., Iranische Literaturgeschichte, Leipzig, 1959.

Milkós Sárközy “Egy Vámbéry tanítvány: Kégl Sándor élete és munkássága (1862-1920)” (A pupil of Vámbéry: the life and works of Sándor Kégl [1862-1920]), in Mihály Dobrovits ed., A kísérlet folytatódik II: Nemzetközi Vámbéry konferencia (Proceedings of the Second International Vámbéry Conference), Dunaszerdahely, 2005, pp. 120-63. 

Idem, “‘Egy telem a persa fővárosban’: megjegyzések Kégl Sándor perzsiai tanulmányútjához” (A winter spent in the Persian capital: Notes on the study tour of Sándor Kégl in Persia), in Kinga Dévényi, ed., pp. 47-60.  

Idem, “Kégl Sándor tanulmányai: tudományos öröksége” (The articles of Sándor Kégl: his scientific heritage), in Kinga Dévényi, ed., A perzsa irodalom vonzásában, válogatott tanulmányok, (Attracted by Persian literature: selected articles of Sándor Kégl), Budapest, 2012a, pp. 9-23.

Idem, “The Legacy of Alexander Kégl (1862-1920)” in K. Dévényi, ed., A perzsa irodalom vonzásában, válogatott tanulmányok (Attracted by Persian literature: Selected articles of Sándor Kégl), Budapest, 2012, 29-30.

Iván Szántó “Kégl Sándor perzsa kéziratai” (The Manuscripts of Sándor Kégl), in Kinga Dévényi, ed., pp. 165-182.

Idem, “New Possibilities in Pictorial Representation” in Béla Kelényi and Iván Szántó, eds., Artisans at the Crossroads Persian Arts of the Qajar Period (1796-1925), Budapest, 2010, pp. 44-50. 

Articles of Sándor Kégl in German and English.

“Šeîbânî, ein moderner persischer Dichter des Pessimismus,” WZKM 6, 1892, pp. 157-65.

“Zur Geschichte der persischen Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts,” ZDMG 47, 1893, pp. 130-42.

“Šājek, der Satyriker des Vagabundenlebens in Irân,” WZKM 7, 1893, pp. 338-44.

“Muhamed Hibelrudî’s Gamiʿ ul-tamtil: Die erste neupersische Sprichwörtersammlung,” ZDMG, 48, 1894, pp. 692-98.

“Die Memoiren eines Prinzen von Persien,” WZKM 9, 1895, pp. 254-66.

“Rizâ Qulî Xân als Dichter,” WZKM 11, 1897, pp. 63-74.

“Visâl und seine Söhne, eine Dichterfamilie des modernen Persiens,” WZKM 12, 1898, pp. 113-26.

“A Poem from the Dîvân of Shams-i Tabrîz,” JRAS, 1900, pp. 140-42.

“θaclabiyeh (Ein türkisches Lehrgedicht aus Persien),” Keleti szemle, no. 6, 1905, pp. 363-70.

“Zu Blochet: Catalogue des Manuscrits Persans (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1905.),” ZDMG 60, 1906, pp. 590-92.

“Hâli, ein Dichter des indischen Islam,” Jung Ungarn, 1911, pp. 64-71.

Selected articles and writings of Sándor Kégl in Hungarian.

“Teheráni emlékek” (Memoirs of Tehran), Magyar Salon 7, April, 1890, pp. 438-42.

“Orvosok, mollák és dervisek Perzsiaban” (Physicians, mullahs, and dervishes in Persia), Magyar Salon 7, August, 1890, pp. 543-47.

“Egy perzsa király háreme” (The harem of a Persian king), Budapesti szemle, no. 173, 1891, pp. 378-92.

“Politikai irányelvek keleten nyolczszáz évvel ezelőtt” (Political ideas in the East eight hundred years ago), Budapesti szemle, no. 188, 1892, pp. 298-307.

“Tanulmányok az újabbkori perzsa irodalom történetéből” (Studies on the history of modern Persian literature), Értekezések a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelv- és Széptudományi osztálya köréből 10, 1892, pp. 577-62.

“Kelet szoczialistái” (The socialists of the East), Magyar Salon, no. 10, October, 1893, pp. 118-26.

“Amânat és a hindusztáni dráma” (Amanat and the hindustani drama), Egyetemes Philológiai Közlöny, no. 18, 1894, pp. 38-42.

“Naszreddin Sah uti naplója 1889-böl” (The diary of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah from 1889), Budapesti szemle, no. 217, 1895, pp. 117-35.

“A Buddhismus” (Buddhism), Budapesti szemle, no. 242, 1896, pp. 314-18.

“A perzsa népdal” (The Persian folksong), Értekezések a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelv- és Széptudományi osztálya köréből, Budapest 17/3, 1899, pp. 112-55.

“Anszári, a heráti öreg” (Anṣāri, the old man of Herat), Egyetemes Philológiai Közlöny, Budapest 24, 1900, pp. 103-5.

“Perzsia” (A literary history of Persia), in Gusztáv Heinrich, ed., Egyetemes Irodalomtörténet, 4 vols., Budapest, 1903-11, I, pp. 329-62.

“Szenáji és a perzsa költészet” (Sanāʾi and the Persian poetry), Értekezések a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelv- és Széptudományi osztálya köréből 18/9, Budapest, 1904, pp. 491-663.

“Dselal ed-Din Rumi négysoros versei” (The quatrains of Jalāl-al-Din Rumi), Értekezések a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelv- és Széptudományi osztálya köréből, 19/10, 1907, pp. 563-634.

“Hindusztáni tanulmányok” (Hindustani studies), Akadémiai Értesítő, 1909, pp. 361-72, 552-62.

“Khoszrev, India legnagyobb perzsa költöje” (Ḵosrow, the greatest Persian poet of India), Akadémiai Értesítő, 1910, pp. 552-62.

“Szelim szultán mint perzsa költö” (Sultan Salim as a Persian poet), in Keleti tanulmányok Goldziher Ignácz: születésének hatvanadik évfordulójára írták tanítványai, Budapest, 1910, pp. 183-203.

“Bhagavadgitâ,” Értekezések a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelvés Széptudományi osztálya köréből 21/10, 1911, pp. 246-79.

“Emir Khoszrev” (Amir Ḵosrow), Értekezések a Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Nyelv- és Széptudományi osztálya köréből, Budapest 21/10, 1911, pp. 575-616.

“A régi török költők és Ahmed pasa” (The ancient Turkish poets and Ahmed Pasha),  Akadémiai Értesítő, 1914, pp. 550-53.

(Miklos Sarkozy)

Originally Published: May 31, 2013

Last Updated: February 5, 2013

This article is available in print.
Vol. XVI, Fasc. 2, pp. 223-225

Cite this entry:

Miklos Sarkozy, “KÉGL, SÁNDOR,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XVI/2, pp. 223-225, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kegl-sandor (accessed on 30 December 2012).