BLOCHET (Gabriel Joseph) EDGARD, French orientalist, born at Bourges on December 12, 1870. He attended L’Ecole des Langues Orientales in Paris, where he received a diploma in Arabic; he also received a diploma from L’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and later lectured there (from 1895 to 1901). In 1895 he joined the manuscript department of the Bibliothèque Nationale as an assistant, subsequently becoming deputy librarian and finally, in 1929, adjunct curator. He left the Bibliothèque Nationale in November, 1935, and died on September 5, 1937.
His published works include editions and catalogues of manuscripts in Arabic and Turkish: “L’histoire d’Alep de Kamal al-Din,” which appeared in Revue de l’Orient latin between 1895 and 1898; “Moufazzal ibn Abil-Fazaïl: Histoire des sultans mamlouks,” published and translated in Patrologia Orientalis (XII/3, XIV/3, XX/1); “L’inventaire des manuscrits arabes de la collection Decourdemanche,” Bibliographie moderne (1906/3); Catalogue des manuscrits arabes des nouvelles acquisitions [of the Bibliothèque Nationale] (1884-1924) (Paris, 1925), Catalogue des manuscrits turques (2 vols., Paris, 1932-33). He also published several studies relating to these cultural spheres: “Peintures des mss. arabes à types byzantins,” (Revue archélogique 9, 1907, pp. 193-223); “Les inscriptions turques de l’Orkhon” (Revue archéologique 32, 1898, pp. 356-82); and Le culte d’Aphrodite-Anahita chez les arabes du paganisme (Paris, 1902).
But the main focus of Blochet’s publication is the Iranian world. As a direct result of his studies with James Darmesteter, he published several works on ancient Iran. Darmesteter had given him three Pahlavi volumes, which he later donated to the Bibliothèque Nationale (cotés Suppl. pers. 2043-2045). Starting in 1896 in Revue archéologique, he published “L’Avesta de James Darmesteter et ses critiques”; in the same year “Note sur les pronoms personnels de la 1ère et 3e personne en pehlvi,” appeared (JA 1, pp. 343-46). In 1900 he published at Besançon his Catalogue des manuscrits mazdéens (zends, pehlvis, parsis et persans) de la Bibliothèque Nationale; meanwhile “Textes religieux pehlvis” (1895), as well as several other edited texts (1898) and “Le livre intitulé "l’Oulamā-i Islam"” appeared in Annales du Musée Guimet: Revue de l’histoire des religions. Among his last important contributions in this field was Lexique des fragments de l’Avesta publiés par James Darmesteter (Alençon, 1901), which was followed by Etudes de grammaire pehlvie (Paris, 1905).
Blochet also took an interest in Mongol history and was responsible for an edition of that portion of the Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ extending from the reign of Oktāy (Ögedey) Qāʾān to that of Tīmūr Qāʾān, which appeared in 1911 (GMS XVIII/2). He participated in the editing of Mission d’Ollone, 1906-1909: Recherches sur les musulmans chinois (Paris, 1911) and, with A. Vissière, published “Epigraphie musulmane chinoise” (RMM 5, 1908, pp. 289-93). He had already published “Les inscriptions de Samarkand” (Revue archéologique 30, 1897, pp. 67-77, 202-31), which was devoted to the Timurids, and in the following year a note on an inscription of ʿAbbās II at Ardabīl (Revue sémitique 6, 1898, pp. 152-56).
He was also interested in the history of religious doctrines and published in 1899 “L’ascension au ciel du Prophète Mohammed,” followed in 1901 by an attempt at synthesis, “Les sources orientales de la Divine Comédie” (of Dante), both in Revue archéologique. The problem of the origins of Sufism also occupied him, and he gave to Journal asiatique (1902, 1, pp. 489-531, 2, pp. 49-111) his “Etudes sur l’ésotérisme musulman” (repr. Paris, 1979). In 1903, in “Le méssianisme dans l’hétérodoxie musulmane,” he once again stressed the importance of the role of Iran. His other principal publications in Iranian religious history were Etudes sur l’histoire religieuse de l’Iran (1898-99), “La conquête des états nestoriens de l’Asie centrale par les shiites: Les influences chrétiennes et bouddhiques dans le dogme islamique” (Revue de l’Orient chrétien 25, 1925-26, pp. 4-131), “Christianisme et mazdéisme chez les turcs orientaux” (Revue de l’Orient chrétien 27, 1929-30, pp. 31-125), “La pensée grecque dans le mysticisme orientale,” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 27-29, 1929-34), and “De l’autonomie de l’évolution de la philosophie grecque” (Le Muséon, 1934, pp. 123-66, 1935, pp. 189-226, 323-64).
Blochet’s catalogues of the Persian manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale should not be underestimated: Aside from his Catalogue de la collection de manuscrits orientaux, arabes, persans et turcs formée par M. Charles Schefer (Paris, 1900), Catalogue des manuscrits arabes, persans et turcs offerts à la Bibliothèque Nationale par M. J. A. Decourdemanche (Paris, 1909), Inventaire de la collection de manuscrits musulmans du M. J. A. Decourdemanche (Paris, 1916), and “Notices sur les mss. persans et arabes de la collection Marteau” (Notices et extraits des mss. de la Bibliothèque Nationale 41, 1923, pp. 91-398), there is his great Catalogue des manuscrits persans de la Bibliothèque Nationale, which appeared in four volumes (Paris, 1905-34). Although he can be reproached with occasional lack of rigor or clarity, he nevertheless deserves credit for having made the resources of the Bibliothèque Nationale better known to specialists. He also completed and published the entries that his predecessors M. Reinaud (1795-1867) and E. Fagnan (who was attached to the Bibliothèque Nationale from 1873 to 1884) had left in manuscript form. Ivan Stchoukine’s judgment (expressed in the preface to his Îl-khâns, pp. 13-18) on Blochet’s successive theories about the origins of Persian painting may seem severe, but Stchoukine also emphasized the pioneering role that Blochet had played in this field. He discovered and published an enormous number of works and drew attention to the myriad problems connected with them. He had clearly grasped the need to make available facsimiles of important manuscripts, and his efforts in this area, which appeared under the auspices of the Société Française de Réproductions de Manuscrits à Peintures, have done much to make the history of Persian painting better known.
Blochet nevertheless seems to have been primarily a catalyst. His works often have the character of essays, most fertile in stimulating debate that leads to further research.
Blochet’s works on the history of art and Persian painting have been gathered in K. A. C. Creswell, A Bibliography of the Architecture, Arts and Crafts of Islam, Cairo, 1961, especially cols. 608-09, 993-94; to this listing should be added his coauthorship of The Chester Beatty Library: A Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts and Miniatures, 3 vols., Dublin, 1959-62.
For his other publications, see “Titres scientifiques de M. E. Blocheṭ . . . ,” n.p., n.d. [ca. 1910].
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
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Vol. IV, Fasc. 3, pp. 313-314