Rost, Reinhold (DNB00)
ROST, REINHOLD (1822–1896), orientalist, was son of Charles F. Rost, a Lutheran minister, who held a position in that church akin to the office of archdeacon in this country. His mother was Eleonore von Glasewald. Born at Eisenburg in Saxen-Altenburg on 2 Feb. 1822, Rost was educated at the gymnasium in his native town, and, after studying under Professors Stickel and Gildemeister, graduated Ph.D. at the university of Jena in 1847. In the same year he came to England, to act as a teacher in German at the King's School, Canterbury. After an interval of four years (7 Feb. 1851) he was appointed oriental lecturer at St. Augustine's Missionary College, Canterbury, an institution founded by royal charter to educate young men for mission work. This post he held until his death (7 Feb. 1896), a period of nearly half a century.
During his residence in London, while pursuing and considerably extending his studies, he was fortunate enough to attract the attention of Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson [q. v.], on whose recommendation Rost was elected, in December 1863, secretary to the Royal Asiatic Society. This post he held for six years. He was thenceforth in close and intimate relations with Rawlinson, who formed so high an opinion of his learning that (1 July 1869) he secured for him the coveted position of librarian at the India office, on the retirement of Dr. FitzEdward Hall. He found the library a scattered mass of priceless but unexamined and unarranged manuscripts, and left it, to a large extent, an organised and catalogued collection, second only to that at the British Museum. Furthermore, Rost secured for students free admission to the library, and gave them full opportunities of consulting the works under his charge. More than one secretary of state for India gave practical proof of appreciation of his zeal and ability by increasing his salary; and in 1893, on his retirement—a step necessitated by a somewhat strained interpretation of the Civil Service Superannuation Act—a special pension was granted him. Many distinctions were conferred on him at home and abroad, including honorary membership of many learned societies, and the companionship of many foreign orders. He was created Hon. LL.D. of Edinburgh in 1877, and a companion of the Indian Empire in 1888.
Rost's power of assimilating oriental tongues has been rarely equalled; and it is perhaps no exaggeration to affirm that he stood second only to Sir William Jones (1746–1794) [q. v.] as a universal linguist. There was scarcely a language spoken in the Eastern Hemisphere with which Rost was not, at least to some extent, familiar. Nor did he confine himself to the widely disseminated oriental tongues. He pursued his researches into unfamiliar, and in many cases almost entirely unknown, dialects which are usually unheeded by philologists. At St. Augustine's College, in addition to his ordinary lectures in Sanscrit, Tamil, Telugu, Arabic, and Urdu, he at times gave lessons in the dialects of Africa, China, and Polynesia. Rost was familiar with some twenty or thirty languages in all. With some of them his acquaintance, although invariably competent, was not profound. But his mastery of Sanskrit was complete, and the breadth of his oriental learning led oriental scholars throughout the world to consult him repeatedly on points of difficulty and doubt. Rost died at Canterbury on 7 Feb. 1896. He married, in 1863, Minna, daughter of Chief-justice J. F. Lane of Magdeburg, and left issue.
His published works are: 1. ‘Treatise on the Indian Sources of the Ancient Burmese Laws,’ 1850. 2. ‘A Descriptive Catalogue of the Palm Leaf MSS. belonging to the Imperial Public Library of St. Petersburg,’ 1852. 3. ‘Revision of Specimens of Sanscrit MSS. published by the Paleographical Society,’ 1875.
He edited Professor H. H. Wilson's ‘Essays on the Religions of the Hindus and on Sanscrit Literature,’ 5 vols. 1861–5; Hodgson's ‘Essays on Indian Subjects,’ 2 vols. 1880; and miscellaneous papers on Indo-China (Trübner's ‘Oriental Series,’ 4 vols. 1886–8). The last three volumes of Trübner's valuable ‘Oriental Record’ were produced under his supervision, and he edited Trübner's series of ‘Simplified Grammars.’ He contributed notices of books to Luzac's ‘Oriental List,’ the articles on ‘Malay Language and Literature,’ ‘Pali,’ ‘Rajah,’ and ‘Thugs’ to the ninth edition of the ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ and he was a contributor to the ‘Athenæum’ and ‘Academy.’[Personal knowledge; Athenæum, 15 Feb. 1896 (by Professor Cecil Bendall); Academy, 15 Feb. 1896; memoir by Mr. Tawney in Asiatic Quarterly of April 1896; information from Dr. Maclear, the warden of St. Augustine's College, Canterbury.]