Posted on: 20 January 2013

He deciphered India’s past.
By Kanwarjit Singh Kang
The Tribune - 2010

Besides unlocking the mystery of the Brahmi and Kharoshti scripts, JAMES PRINSEP deciphered numerous inscriptions, including those used during Emperor Ashoka’s reign, writes Kanwarjit Singh Kang.

WHEN James Prinsep died in 1840, Dr Huge Falconer’s obituary, published in the Colonial Magazine, said, "Of his intellectual character, the most prominent feature was enthusiasm — one of the prime elements of genius; a burning, irrepressible enthusiasm, to which nothing could set bounds. His powers of perception were impressed with genius — they were clear, vigorous and instantaneous. The extent of his capacity was wonderful, and the number and variety of his acquirements no less remarkable."

He got training in assaying and was apprenticed to the assay-master of the Royal Mint, London. On his arrival in India in 1819, he was appointed assistant assay-master at the Kolkata mint and was soon promoted as assay-master of the Benares Mint.

On reaching Benares, James Prinsep reformed the building of the mint. In addition to his official duties, he improved the drainage of the city by constructing an arched tunnel, restored the dilapidating minarets of the mosque built by Aurangzeb, conducted the city’s first census, erected a church there and prepared a balance of extraordinary precision as to indicate the 3/1000th part of a grain. He also made a series of sketches related to Benares in pencil and ink drawings that were later reproduced as lithographs under the title of Views and Illustrations of Benares.

Read more:

James Prinsep
by William Wyon
Bronze medal, 1840 or later
1 7/8 in. (48 mm) diameter

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Thanx for sharing

John Keay's "India Discovered" gives a pithy, but racy, account of Prinsep's most important effort, that of deciphering King Ashoka's edicts engraved on pillars across the Gangetic plain and along the surfaces of expansive rocks in Mid and Southern India. His constant exertions under the unforgiving Bengal sun has been credited for him dying from insanity at age 40.

คนนี้แหล่ะ ที่สามารถแปลจารึกพระเจ้าอโศกได้เป็นคนแรก

Indian Numismatist will ever remain grateful to James Princep, the great assay master

Did so much in such short time...wish he had lived longer...

For a comprehensive look at Prinsep the book by O P Kejariwal is relevant.