J A Shurman ~ Bible Translator ("Benares Version")

Progress made in applying the Roman Letters to the Languages of India up to the Commencement of the Great Mutiniy in 1857

16.1.1858 | Letter | Rev. R. C. Mather, Waterloo Cottage, Tonebridge to Sir Charles Trevelyan.

The following reprint of a letter by Shurman's fellow missionary, R. C. Mather to Sir Charles Trevelyan, documents the extend in transliterating local languages in the Western Roman alphabet.

I am happy to say that our labours have been crowned with a success which, at the beginning, we’ did not dare to anticipate. The Roman character has spread to that extent, that not only those who have learned English prefer to read the vernaculars in it; but, in addition, it is at the present time the Christian character of the North-West Provinces, since it is used by the great majority both of our missionaries and their converts. We have in it a body of general and religious literature of many volumes and of thousands of pages; and the saleableness of works in that character is progressively increasing, and now far exceeds what it was even five years ago, and much more what it was at the commencement of our efforts. …

A still more signal proof, however, of the hold the system now has on the minds of our missionaries in the North-west Provinces of India, who, it should he reınemhered, form a body of 102 persons, is the resolution adopted at a Conference of Missionaries held at Benaras in January of 1857, in respect to the continued use of the character. They say, “While thankful for what has been done towards providing a literature suited to the wants of native Christians and the Hindu and Mussulman population at large, the Conference at the same time feels the importance and need of using the utmost endeavours to enlarge and improve it. The Conference is generally of opinion that it is desirable to continue the use of the Roman character, more especially for native Christians; but at present sees no reason for supplanting the native characters in general use.” It should he noted that in this Conference thirty missionaries and two chaplains of the Hon. East India Company were associated, and, with one exception, all were unanimous in the support of the resolution.

On the day previous to the meeting of the Benares Conference, there were assembled in the same hall 150 native youths, Hindú, Mussulman, aud Christian, who had come from all parts of the Benares division to stand an examination on the Sacred Scriptures, with a view to obtain certain prizes of considerable value, which had been offered to those who should show the most extensive acquaintance with Scripture truth. On that occasion, in a class of 152, 26 prizes were awarded, of the aggregate value of 1,252 rupees. …

The system of Romanising has been applied amongst us only to the Hindustani as current in the North-Western Provinces: or, if to the Hindi at all, only in the case of a Hindi Primer. The library of Urdu-Roman schoolbooks … formed the basis of the school and general library since issued from the press. Before you left India, Henry Martyn’s four Gospels and Acts had been printed in the Roman character by the Bible Society … Since then, two separate translations of the entire New Testament have been Romanised and printed. After these had seen the light, the whole Bible appeared in the Roman character, under the editorial care of the Rev. J. A. Shurman. This edition consisted of 3,000 copies, and has since been exhausted. A second edition of the Old Testament left the press a short time ago, partly under the care of Mr. Shurman, and subsequently under my care. This, too, consists of 3,000 copies.1 ]


Published in:
Letter from the Rev. R. C. Mather to Sir Charles Trevelyan, showing the Progress made in applying the Roman Letters to the Languages of India up to the Commencement of the Great Mutiniy in 1857. In: Monier-Williams, Monier. 1859. Original papers illustrating the history of the application of the Roman alphabet to the languages of India. Edited by M. W. Page(s): 205-207.

Online: Archive.org. Viewed: 19.10.2013.

  1. Sir Charles Trevelyan (2 April 1807 – 19 June 1886) was a British civil servant and colonial administrator. As a young man, he worked with the colonial government in Calcutta, India; in the late 1850s and 1860s he served there in senior-level appointments.  <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Charles_Trevelyan,_1st_Baronet" rel="external">Wikipedia</a>. [ ▲ ]

For reference:

Administrator. J A Shurman ~ Bible Translator ("Benares Version") :: Progress made in applying the Roman Letters to the Languages of India , in: Pirltawardli Research Website. Adelaide 2021.
(Created: 19.01.2015. Last updated: 23.03.2016.)
Direct URL: <www.grweb.org/cpo-pirltawardli/en/detail.php?rubric=other_ShurmanJA_BibleTranslator&nr=746>. Viewed 02.08.2021.