Of Hungarian descent, George Coedès (1886–1969) was born in Paris and educated at the Lycée Carnot and L’École pratique des hautes études. In 1911 he travelled to Indo-China and joined the staff of L’École française de l’Extrême-Orient in Hanoi, which had been founded in 1900. He was appointed Professor of Indochinese Philology in 1914. In 1918 he moved to Bangkok to be Director of the National Library of Siam. He was Secretary-General of the Royal Institute of Siam in 1927–29. Coedès returned to Hanoi in 1929 as Director of L’École française de l’Extrême-Orient, where he remained until 1946. After his return to France, he was Professor of Southeast Asian History at L’École des Langues Orientales and Curator of the Musée d’Ennery in Paris. He was appointed an Officer of the Légion d’Honneur in 1952.
As a young man Coedès transcribed steles and monuments throughout South-East Asia and his later writings drew on thousands of inscriptions in Sanskrit, Pali, Old Khmer, Old Malay, Mon, Thai, Cham and other languages. In his books and numerous articles he dealt with the pre-history and ancient history of the peoples of South-East Asia and their contacts with Indian and Chinese civilisations. His best-known books were Inscriptions du Cambodge (8 vols, 1937–66), Histoire ancienne des états hindouises d’Extrême Orient (1944, published in subsequent editions as Les états hindouisés d’Indochine et d’Indonésie) and Les peuples de la Péninsule Indochinoise (1962). The latter two books were translated into English with the titles The Indianized States of Southeast Asia (1968) and The Making of South East Asia (1966).
- Inscriptions du Cambodge (8 vols, 1937–66)
- Les états hindouisés d’Indochine et d’Indonésie (1948)
- Les peuples de la Péninsule Indochinoise (1962)
- The Indianized States of Southeast Asia (1968)
- The making of South East Asia (1966).
The Coedès Collection was purchased by the Library in 1970 from the Amsterdam booksellers Drijver & Koolemans NV.
The Coedès Collection contains about 2000 books and pamphlets as well as 1022 reprints and 101 single issues of periodicals. The majority of the works are in French, but there are also books in English, Dutch, German, Vietnamese, Thai and other languages of South-East Asia.
The collection relates largely to the ancient history, archaeology and culture of South-East Asia and in particular the influence of Buddhism and Indian civilisation on the peoples of Indo-China and Thailand. There are a large number of works on Buddhism, Buddhist art, Indian philosophy, Sanskrit literature, Hindu iconography, Indian sculpture, and Chinese bronzes and pottery, as well as books on the languages, religion, art, history and government of South-East Asian countries. The collection is especially strong in archaeological surveys and monuments of Cambodia and Vietnam. In addition, there are books on exploration, travel, cartography, iconography and cultural anthropology.
Although the bulk of the works were published in the twentieth century, there are many nineteenth-century books, particularly on Buddhism. The following are examples of rare or early publications in the collection:
Annales du Siam (translated by Camille Notton, 4 vols, 1926–39)
Aymonier, E,. Textes Khmers (1878)
The Burney papers (5 vols, 1910–14)
Crawfurd, John, A descriptive dictionary of the Indian Islands & adjacent countries (1856)
Epigraphia Indica (2 vols, 1892)
Gaspardone, Émile, Les stèles royales de Lam-Son (1935)
Grehan, Amedée, Le royaume de Siam (1868)
Vuong, Hung, Les annales imperiales de l’Annam (1880)
Janse, Olov R.T., Archaeological research in Indo-China (3 vols, 1947–58)
Lagree, Doudart de, Voyage d’exploration en Indo-chine (2 vols, 1873)
Neale, Fred Arthur, Narrative of a residence at the Capital of the Kingdom of Siam (1852)
Parmentier, Henri, Inventaire descriptif des monuments cams de l’Annam (4 vols, 1909–18)
Silvestre, Jules, L’empire d’Annam et le peuple Annamite (1889)
Le Temple d’Angkor Vat (3 vols, 1929–32)
Truong Vinh Ky, Cours d’histoire Annamite à l’usage des écoles de la basse-Cochinchine (2 vols, 1875–77)
Among the writers represented in the collection are Henri Bergson, Leopold Cardière, Maurice Durand, Leon Feer, A. Foucher, René Grousset, Paul Guillement, D.G.E. Hall, Bernhard Karlgren, A. Meillet, Vilfredo Pareto, Henri Parmentier, Jean Przyluski, J.F. Rock and Ngiem Toan.
Manuscripts and Personal Papers
The Coedès Collection contains correspondence, official records, reviews, photographs, newspaper cuttings and manuscripts, typescripts and curricula vitae of various writers and academics. They mostly date from the last 30 years of Coedès’s life. Many of the letters deal with his election to the Academie des Insciptions et Belles-Lettres.
Two maps by Claudius Madrolle, published in Paris in about 1910, were received with the Coedès Collection. One is of Indo-China (3 sheets, 1:250 000) and the other is of Tonkin (1 sheet, 1:500 000).
Nugent, Ann, Asia’s French connection, National Library of Australia news, vol. 6 (4), January 1996, pp. 6–8.
Zigmund-Cerbu, A. and Boisselier, Jean, Travaux de M. George Coedès: essai de bibliographie, Artibus Asiae, vol. 24 (3–4), 1961, pp. 155–86.