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George William Brown research collection on 19th-century missionary work in India

Ms. Coll. 1033

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Brown, George William, 1870-1932
George William Brown research collection on 19th-century missionary work in India
Date [inclusive]:
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 1033
1.4 linear feet (4 boxes)
Language Note:
Some material contains Baluci, Brahui, Burushaski, Dravidian, Elamite, Etruscan, German, Greek, Hittite, Hurrian, Kurdish, Mitani, Nepali, Persian, Pushto, and Sumerian. Other languages may be present, but they have not been identified.
George William Brown (1870-1932) was a professor of Semitic languages and Indology, a founding member of the Linguistic Society of America, and a missionary in India for sixteen years as a member of the Disciples of Christ. This collection consists of materials documenting Brown's career in research, writing, and teaching about religion, missionary work, and linguistics, dating from 1892 to 1932.
Cite as:
George William Brown research collection on 19th-century missionary work in India, 1882-1932, Ms. Coll. 1033, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
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George William Brown (1870-1932) received his Ph.D. in Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Arabic from Johns Hopkins University. He taught at Central Christian College before going to Harda and Jubbulpore in South India, where he worked as a missionary of the Disciples of Christ for sixteen years. From 1917 to 1921, he was a Professor of Semitic languages at the College of the Bible, Transylvania University, and from 1921 to 1927, he was Dean of the Faculty and a Professor of Indology at the College of Missions in Indianapolis. Brown was a founding member of the Linguistic Society of America. His son, W. Norman Brown (1892-1975), was also a noted Sanskrit scholar.

Scope and Contents

This is a collection of the papers of William George Brown (1870-1932), a missionary to India and professor of Semitic languages and Indology. It consists of materials produced between 1892 and 1932, arranged in four series: I) Typescripts and related notes, II) Lectures, III) Notes and research materials, and IV) Correspondence and records.

Series I comprises two subseries, the first of which contains typescripts of Brown's books and notes related to those books. Titles include: Analysis of Tulsi Das' Ramayana,  Brief History of Missions in India, an unidentified typescript that may be a portion of  Brief History of Missions in India, a descriptive grammar of Burušaskī,  Materials for the History of the Disciples in India, and  Synoptic Gospels. The second subseries includes other typescripts, three of which focus on languages and one of which is a review of  A Comparative and Etymological Dictionary of the Nepali Language, by Ralph Lilley Turner. More detailed analyses of this series' more substantive contents can be found at the series level.

The physical bulk of the collection is located in Series II, which is made up of lecture notes and related materials on China, comparative philology, religion, missionary work, and general linguistics. All lecture materials have been removed from their original binding for preservation purposes. For further information on individual lectures, see content note at the series level.

Series III. Notes and research material is divided into two major categories: a. regarding peoples and languages and b. notes on missionaries. The former consists mainly of notes on South Asian and Near Eastern cultures and languages, with particular emphasis on the Mitanni people, who lived approximately from 1500 BC to 1300 BC in modern-day Syria and south-east Anatolia. Some maps and typescripts used for research are included, as well as one folder of Brown's research regarding the Gospels. The second sub-series comprises Brown's handwritten notes on each of his missionaries as well as some groups that were involved with his missionary work. These notes are generally brief. The final folder in the series holds a small number of notes that could not be categorized.

Series IV includes correspondence to and from Brown, financial records, and baptism records. Much of the correspondence is related to Brown's academic and missionary work; the only exception to this is one letter discussing gynecology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The financial records date from 1882 to 1894 and appear to be related to Brown's work with the Disciples of Christ. There is a single document with information about baptisms which may span the years 1885 to 1895, but the notations on the document are cryptic and the sources and analysis of the statistics are unclear.

This collection may be of use to those studying the history of missionaries, the spread of Christianity throughout the world (particularly India), the religions of Asia and the South Asian subcontinent, or the history of pedagogy in linguistics and religion.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  2014 October 1

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Molly B. Hutt

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Custodial History note

Gift of W. Norman Brown.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

At the South Asian American Digital Archive:

At the University of Pennsylvania: W. Norman (William Norman) Brown Papers, 1912-1975

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Controlled Access Headings

  • Lecture notes
  • Lectures
  • Maps (documents)
  • Research notes
  • Typescripts
Geographic Name(s)
  • India--Church history
  • Authors
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Education
  • Language and languages
  • Linguistics--Research
  • Missionaries
  • Missions--India--History
  • Religion
  • Religion--Study and teaching

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Typescripts and related notes.

Scope and Contents note

Analysis of Tulsi Das' Ramayana is about the Ramayan of Tulsi Das, described by Brown as "the Bible of most of the Hindus of North India." In the first chapter, Brown posits that it "is an illustration of the fact that religious books should be written in vernacular" and uses it to discuss the religion of the common people. He then provides a rough history of Tulsi Das and his writing, covers the contents of the Ramayan, discusses the issue of what Brown sees as conflicting simultaneous monotheistic and polytheistic models of Hinduism, talks about Rama himself and his devotees, and connects and compares the Ramayan to Hindu mythology. Brown also includes discussions of symbolism, social matters in or relating to the Ramayan, worship, astrology, and various other topics related to religion.

Brief History of Missions in India includes a description of the country and its people as well as information on specific missions performed by various groups in India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Box 1 Folders 5 and 6 contain material that may or may not belong to  Brief History of Missions in India; this material is still related to missionary work but takes the form of chapters with separate bibliographies. Several sheets in Box 1 Folder 3 have correspondence on the back, presumably because Brown wished to re-use old papers. The correspondence is described as follows: two pages of a letter to Brown from G. E. Stechert & Co. (1921 May 21), which contains quotes for the purchase of books and articles related to India, Buddhism, China, and Japan; and a one page letter to Brown from Security Trust Company (1926 March 23) regarding tornado insurance

The descriptive grammar of Burušaskī contains linguistic information on the Burušaskī language of the Gilgit-Balistan region of northern Pakistan.

Materials for the History of the Disciples in India details the history of the Disciples of Christ (founded, according to Brown, in 1809), a Christian movement that began focusing heavily on missionary work in the 1850s. The manuscript contains quotations from letters written in 1883 and 1884 by missionaries called Miss Kingsbury, "the young ladies," Miss Mary Graybiel, and Miss Boyd, as well as historical information as far as 1895; though the manuscript is undated, this places it clearly during or after 1895. The  History includes financial information and information about specific missionaries, namely the aforementioned Misses Kingsbury, Graybiel, and Boyd.

Synoptic Gospels contains clippings of or relating to the Synoptic Gospels. Writing on the reverse of some sheets has been identified by previous archivists as an outline for a course or book on India.

The series also holds one excerpt of a typescript with handwritten notes, entitled "Re makara &c." This typescript discusses the name of the sea-creature Makara in Hindu mythology.

The remaining typescripts deal with peoples and languages, covering the Mitanni language of northern Syria and south-east Anatolia, the Dravidian language(s) of India, and a review of Ralph Lilley Turner's dictionary of the Nepali language.

a. Drafts by Brown (unpublished).

Box Folder

Analysis of Tulsi Das' Ramayana with handwritten notes, 1 of 2, undated.

1 1

Analysis of Tulsi Das' Ramayana with handwritten notes, 2 of 2, undated.

1 2

Brief History of Missions in India, draft, chapters 1-7.2, including correspondence on back of pages, 1921, 1926, undated.

1 3

Brief History of Missions in India, carbon copy, chapters 5.22-7.12 (two copies), undated.

1 4

[ Brief History of Missions in India], pages 1-146, undated.

1 5

[ Brief History of Missions in India], carbon copy, pages 67-78, 84-132, undated.

1 6

Descriptive grammar of Burušaskī, pages 37-64, undated.

1 7

Materials for the History of the Disciples in India, pages 1-6, 9-10, 58-161, undated.

1 8

Materials for the History of the Disciples in India, carbon copy, pages 1-161, undated.

1 9

Materials for the History of the Disciples in India, carbon copy, pages 1-5, 7-15, 17-90, 92-93, 116-135, 137-61, undated.

1 10

Materials for the History of the Disciples in India, notes, undated.

2 1

Synoptic Gospels, notes and Bible clippings with outline for course or book on India (contained on verso of sheets), 1 of 2, undated.

2 2

Synoptic Gospels, notes and Bible clippings with outline for course or book on India (contained on verso of sheets), 2 of 2, undated.

2 3

b. Other typescripts and notes.

Box Folder

Connection of Mitanni and Dravidian languages, handwritten notes, and related article on Mitanni (in German), 1930, 1932, undated.

2 4

"Re makara &c.", handwritten notes, undated.

2 5

Relationship between Mitanni and Dravidian peoples, fragment of page [50], pages 51-52, undated.

2 6

Review of A Comparative and Etymological Dictionary of the Nepali Language, by Ralph Lilley Turner, carbon copy and handwritten notes, undated.

2 7

Series II. Lectures.

Scope and Contents note

The lecture entitled "China Introduction" includes a great deal of background information on the geography, climate, flora, and fauna of China, both as a whole and regionally, and then proceeds to a discussion of Chinese history and culture from as far back as the Bronze Age through current events; the lecture notes also contain several maps annotated by Brown and a list of suggested readings.

The lecture on comparative philology covers numerous languages and is divided into two main sections, 1. Vowels and 2. Consonants, and is then further subdivided by what appear to be International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols.

The "Expansion of Christianity" lecture covers Christian expansion from the apostolic age onward and spans every continent other than Antarctica; however, most of the notes within are brief and have little substance, presumably because they were intended to serve as reminders during spoken lectures. There are a few maps and pages of extended notes.

"General Linguistics" includes but is not limited to: information on syntax, morphology, phonetics, language acquisition, writing, grammatical processes, and etymology.

The "Introduction to the Old Testament" lecture includes Bible clippings, theories of inspiration, information on canonical texts, a history of Old Testament criticism, vocabulary lists, outlines of some books of Genesis and Exodus, a lengthy section on the Holiness Code found in Leviticus, and some information on related materials.

"Missions" is primarily composed of bibliographies, handwritten notes, and annotated maps, most regarding missionary work in India, as well as a typescript of a lecture entitled "The Land and the People."

The final lecture, "Religion of the Hebrews Jews & Christians" consists of handwritten notes on articles and books, bibliographies, Bible clippings, lists of passages, historical information, and outlines of religious texts, all of which relate to the topic of Judeo-Christian religion in the Near East.

Box Folder

"China Introduction," lecture notes, 1 of 2, undated.

2 8

"China Introduction," lecture notes, 2 of 2, undated.

2 9

"Comp. Philology," lecture notes, undated.

2 10

"Expansion of Christianity," lecture notes, 1 of 2, undated.

3 1

"Expansion of Christianity," lecture notes, 2 of 2, undated.

3 2

"General Linguistics," lecture notes, undated.

3 3

"Introduction to the Old Testament," lecture notes, undated.

3 4

"Missions," lecture notes, bibliography, and related materials, undated.

3 5

"Religion of the Hebrew Jews & Christians," lecture notes, undated.

3 6

Series III. Notes and research materials.

a. Regarding peoples and languages.

Box Folder

Afghanistan and language of Afghanistan, undated.

3 7

Dravidians, undated.

3 8

Elamites; with references to the Sumerians, the Caucasic language, and the Persian language, undated.

3 9

Gospel of Mark, Four Gospels, includes typescripts of "The Gospel of Mark" by Benjamin Wisner Bacon and "The Four Gospels" by Streeter, 1925, undated.

4 1

Hittites, undated.

4 2

Hurrian language, including some notes dealing with the text of the Mittani Letter (Amarna Letters EA 24), undated.

4 3

Mitanni peoples and language, undated.

4 4

Mitanni with other languages (includes Hurri, Churri, Dravidian, Caucasic, and Elamite), undated.

4 5

Other peoples and languages (Baloci, Baloches, Brahoi, Brahui, Etruscan, Gandharva, Karnāta, Kassites, Khani, Khanigabbou, Kurds, Purn, and Suri), undated.

4 6

b. Regarding missionaries.

Box Folder

Named individuals, alphabetized by surname, 1890, 1893-1896, undated.

4 7

Groups (arranged alphabetically), individuals listed by position, "General," and items that were separated in original arrangement of materials, 1890-1896, undated.

4 8

c. Uncategorized notes, undated.


Series IV. Correspondence and records.

Box Folder

Correspondence with Professor George M. Bolling, Dr. R. P. Dougherty, Roland G. Kent, Mary Kingsbury, and Robert E. Leff, 1924, 1926, 1931-1932.

4 10

Financial records, 1882-1894.

4 11

Baptism records, undated.

4 12