Around the end of the 19th century, a philologically and linguistically rather insignificant inscription on a cross, written in Old Georgian script, drew the attention of the Polish linguist Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, who, however, was not able to identify neither the language nor the alphabet. After having drafted in his own hand several copies of the inscription, he submitted them to scholars and orientalists all around Europe, without getting a univocal or satisfying answer; he then consulted in Petersburg the Georgian philologist Nikolay Marr, who provided a transcription of the Georgian text in the modern (civil) alphabet and a Russian translation. The present paper describes and discusses how surprised and disappointed were the linguist Hugo Schuchardt and Nikolay Marr himself about Baudouin de Courtenay’s not impeccable publication of the Old Georgian inscription and, above all, the fact that he had introduced the edition with a detailed enumeration of the many failed attempts at deciphering the mysterious alphabet. In the appendix the short statement by Nikolay Marr, written in Russian, is reprinted with an Italian translation by Margarita Blinova.
Baudouin de Courtenay. Hugo Schuchardt. Nikolay Marr. Inscriptions. Old Georgian alphabet.