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First Edition of Hobson Jobson

SKU: 9512

First Edition of Hobson Jobson

Date of publication:

modern quarter calf


  • John Murray
  • Author(s):

  • Arthur Coke Burnell
  • Henry Yule
  • Edition:

    Hobson-Jobson: being a glossary of Anglo-Indian colloquial words and phrases, and of kindred terms; etymological, historical, geographical and discursive.

    This is the first edition of the definitive dictionary of Anglo-Indian English (a second revised and expanded edition was published in 1903). ‘Every one in the East — the book ranges from Constantinople to Japan — should possess himself of Hobson-Jobson and once possessed of it should apply himself diligently thereto’ wrote Kipling, reviewing the first edition in the Civil and Military Gazette.

    Kipling found the title 'uncouth', however. Hobson-Jobson was Anglo-Indian slang for a festival. Yule and Burnell trace the evolution of the phrase from 1618 onward, while suggesting that in its present form it had probably originated with British soliders in India, being an approximation of ritualised lamentations overheard during the Mourning of Muharram: ‘this phrase may be taken as a typical one of the most highly assimilated class of Anglo-Indian ‘argot’, and we have ventured to borrow from it a concise alternative title for this Glossary’. ‘Assimilated’ in this context means heavily Anglicised, rather than a simple phonetic rendering.

    Hobson and Jobson were stock characters in comic stories in Victorian English, and it may have been this which suggested the phrase to soldiers and which Kipling found so distasteful. In his preface Yule suggests that the ‘veiled intimation of dual authorship’ also appealed, adding (with a defensive flippancy): ‘At any rate, there it is; and at this period my feeling has come to be that such is the book’s name, nor could it well have been anything else’.

    Condition & Materials

    First edition. 8vo. pp. xlviii, 869, [i]. Late 20th century functional red quarter calf over brown buckram boards, spine faded, some spotting to edges.