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AOS 2017: Edward Elbridge Salisbury and the AOS (slides)
American Oriental Society (2017)
  • Roberta L Dougherty, Yale University
This paper discusses the life and legacy of Edward Elbridge Salisbury (1814-1901), focusing on his role as a founding member of the American Oriental Society-in particular his editorial and material support of the JAOS, and how this raised the international profile of American scholarship in Oriental studies.

In August 1841 the Yale Corporation appointed Salisbury as professor of Arabic and Sanskrit languages and literature, the first such position in the Americas. A year later, on September 7, 1842, "a few gentlemen interested in Oriental literature" founded the American Oriental Society in Boston and--given the significance of his academic appointment--elected Salisbury to membership the following day.

Salisbury energetically supported both the organization and its journal from its earliest years and in the most minute of its affairs. Salisbury's money purchased the fonts in Oriental languages that enabled scholarly communication through the JAOS, and subsidized its publication for several decades. He also groomed his most famous student, William Dwight Whitney (eventually president of the AOS), to replace him as AOS librarian and on its publications committee.

Salisbury's brief autobiography was published in the JAOS in 1944. Since then, AOS member Benjamin Foster has written three articles/book chapters that prominently feature Salisbury in Foster's narrative of the development of the study of Near Eastern languages in the United States. In this 175th anniversary year of Salisbury's appointment to Yale, my paper examines Salisbury's specific contributions to the early life and eventual flourishing of the AOS in greater detail. I use materials found in Salisbury's papers (held in the Yale archives), the proceedings of the AOS as published in its journal, and letters and diaries of his contemporaries--published and unpublished--to paint a rich portrait of the life and contributions of this important American Orientalist.
  • Oriental studies,
  • American Oriental Society,
  • Edward Elbridge Salisbury,
  • Yale University,
  • Arabic language study and teaching,
  • Sanskrit language study and teaching,
  • Institutional history,
  • Organizational history,
  • Intellectual history
Publication Date
Spring March 17, 2017
Los Angeles, CA
Citation Information
Roberta L Dougherty. "AOS 2017: Edward Elbridge Salisbury and the AOS (slides)" American Oriental Society (2017)
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