A Pause to Reflect on Dustbins:
Ganjineh Asnad, 3:39/4:40, pages 92-103
Abstract: This article provides information about the records, writings, research sources (including newspaper, statement and report) and private letters of Alfonce L.M. Nicolas (1864-1939), the french translator, politician and orientalist in Iran. On a rainy day in 1998, M.Y. Monteil found and collected these records from a dustbin on the side of Raspail Street, close to Montparnasse Street, in Paris. At present the records are preserved in Iran National Archives Organization. It is hoped the rest of them will be collected and transferred to INAO as well. (From fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Alphonse_Daniel_Nicolas.) The article below, inspired by and partly about these papers, was written by an Iranian professor three years after Monteil's find.
Embedded above is a reduced-size PDF. The original high-quality PDF, generated from high-res
images scanned by Y. Monteil, is here: rouholamini_records_alm_nicolas_original.pdf [PDF, 53MB].
The story begins in Paris, France, on a rainy day in 1998, on Boulevard Raspail, close to the Gare de Montparnasse. It was time for lunch, I was wandering with a sandwich and umbrella in the rainy streets, when suddenly I faced a huge green dustbin into which a man was dropping papers and papers, emptying his own car.
Well, let me tell you, I've been collecting everything my whole life: stamps, letters, old books, old radios, old black and white TVs tools, sewing machines (I have seven). But it was really incredible what happened here, in front of me: books, letters in French and Persian, manuscripts, newspapers of those times between 1900 and 1920 were roughly dropped into the dustibin, one after another! I'm not especially fascinated in religion or any kind of faith, I just collect anything which is interesting, that's why discovering those old papers out on the street, I immediately sensed their historical value.
What could I do; I picked up what I could with my dirty hands and umbrella, probably 5 kilos of various papers. I was busy that day and, not yet knowing the value of this material, was only able to pick up a little part of what was tossed away. I brought them at the office, and then home that evening. It turned out these were some of the personal papers of Louis Alphonse Daniel Nicolas, consul of France in Tauris, Persia (today Tabriz, Iran). I cannot list all the various documents I found, I've forgotten, but they included things like Authorization to be married, political letters to the French Foreign Office, Greetings from the Shah of Iran, testimony of friends of him about the faith in Bab...
On that given day I suppose his flat was cleaned out, definitively emptied, and all the memories of his life have disappeared but what he published during his life (around 10 books about the Bab), plus what I now had at home. More recently I made many searches on Nicolas' life and writings, and when I read them I found his own relations with the Bab story very interesting. I was also so much surprised to learn how this man was so famous in Iran to this day.
What to do with these papers, what value can they have, as all the rest of the papers in the dustbin was incinerated. I did not know, and the internet was not much use at that time (1998). I classified the documents and from time to time I was telling the story of the Bab, from historical point of view, up to A.L.M. Nicolas and up to me to my friends and people I met at work. I met various people, as I was a consultant in Information systems.
One day, a lady replied to me:
You know, Yves, i was married with an Iranian, we had friends there in Téhéran where i lived a long time, my husband would not be interested in that story, but ...Ten days later Sir Rouh-ol-Amini was at home. A 70 year-old man, white hair and mustache, eating olives and drinking french wine Rosé de Provence, because he told me and my spouse he had made many studies south of France in Aix en Provence where it happens we also live part time. As a highly educated professor in Iran he knew much about A.L.M Nicolas, his life and works. I showed him all the papers, and how astonished he was!
But what? I asked, Do you know any diplomatic persons there, I suggested?
No, she answered, but a friend of mine is working in an Iranian university, maybe he will be interested in this.
Fine, let me give you some copies of the Nicolas' papers and send them to him, I said
No, she replied, he is coming to France next week, to visit me and my family, I'll show them to him when he lands.
I found it nice to have an end with the papers in giving them to him. He returned home and stored them in the Iran National Archive Organization and wrote all the above pages you will discover. Six months later another Iranian travelling in France gave me a copy of the report as a gift and remembrance. The report is now posted on the internet by Jonah Winters (personal thanks to him).
Pour témoigner de Notre Bienveillance spéciale à l'égard de Monsieur Nicolas, Dernier interprète de la Légation de France à Téhéran, citoyen Français nous l'avons honoré en lui octroyant la Décoration du Lion et du Soleil de Deuxième Classe, ornée d'étoiles
Que le Ministère des Affaires Etrangères lui reconnaisse ce titre et conformément au rescrit impérial qu'il signe le brevet et fasse parvenir les insignes.
Thanks to the grace and help of God so high We are "Mouzaffer Ed Dine Chah Kadjar" Absolute Emperor of the whole Persia
To testify our special goodwill with respect to monsieur Nicolas, current translator of the French legation in Téhéran, French citizen, we have honored him in granting to him the insignia of the lion and the sun of second class, adorned with stars,
The foreign office ministry to recognize this title and applying the imperial rescript he signs the certificate and delivers him the insignia.
Record N° 87 on 1 march 1909
Provincial Assembly to Mr Nicolas French Consul in Tauris
This morning Mirza Hira Khan, Translator of the General Consulat, arrived at "En - Djouman (?)" and declared the servant of the Consulat require one "Kharzar(?)" of corn.
As a consequence we would be honored in writing this letter to you so that you are informed that the authorities are always ready to welcome [with respect] your friendly requirements.
When you need corn to morrow or any other moment, send to the Provincial Assembly one of the domestic of the Consulat. He will receive a form he will go to the fort and will be delivered in corn.
J'ai avisé hier teheran qu'on m'annoncait le prochain envoi d'unecirculaire dénonçant le télégramme envoyé par les sujets russes au Président de la Douma en ces termes : Le concul Russe ne peut nous protéger faute de cosaques : les biens, la vie des sujets russes sont menacés, les boutiques ont déjà été pillées, nous n'avons plus aucun espoir, demandons du secours. Cette circulaire finira en demandant si un seul sujet ...
Telegram from the russian colony to the President of the Douma
French Consul in Tauris to Sir Minister of the Republic of Iran
Yesterday I notified Teheran that I was informed of the future reception of a circular to the consular body declaring off the telegram sent by the Russian individuals to the president of the Douma as follows: The Russian Consul cannot protect us because of lack of cosaks: goods, life of Russian individuals is threaten, shops have already been plundered, we no more have any hope, ask for help. This circular will end saying if a single individual ...