More than a hint of useless learning
Interest in Arabic and Islam
The difficulties awaiting the student of Arabic in the earlier part of the seventeenth century were considerable. In the first place, there was considerable suspicion attaching to the study of Islam in general in early modern Europe, with the Quran
England, at least in the sixteenth century, was rather a backwater with respect to the study of the Semitic languages, despite several distinguished medieval arabists.11 The story of England’s increasing capacity in this field is much clearer since the work of Gerald Toomer.12 More detail, however, about the Oxford career of the Dutch Orientalist Johannes Van den Driesch
The physical format of the notes in which John Pell’s attempts to learn Arabic were recorded deserves a word, since it complicates considerably the broader argument being made here.19 The trickiest issue is chronology. Pell regularly used little octavo pages for his notetaking activities. The handwriting itself is a model of clarity; what makes the forensic task difficult is the ordering of these notes since they do not always contain a date (in Pell’s own unusual dating system), and the pages have been stuck, sometimes seemingly in no clear order, onto the folios of their current manuscript, British Library Additional 4377. Since the argument presented in the current chapter turns, to some extent, on the issue of chronology, where relevant, these difficulties will be explicitly mentioned.20 The sheer volume and ambition of his projects must bear some of the blame for the often fragmentary and unfinished nature of his output, of which these physical traces are an apposite index. Pell may not have come up with the plan for the first department store, like Leibniz
As far as the current state of the papers allows us to say, it was toward the end of the 1630s that Pell began to learn Arabic.22 In 1629, he had been teaching at Collyer’s School (a Henrician grammar school) in Horsham. Pell had just begun (perhaps in October 1629) to be acquainted with Samuel Hartlib
But about 830 about 200 years after Mahomets death the Arabians fell a studying yt language and translated a multitude of these books into their language which though they be in things erroneous yet some way they are usefull because they are translations
of books not now extant or imperfectly understood or corrupt.
By these Arabians we may supply the 2 former defects & many times the latter preserving by their blundering what was in their coppies.27
Such a translation of intellectual empire had already been hymned in Pell’s chief source, Erpenius, who includes an “Oration on the Arabic Language” which praises the tongue in precisely these terms. Pell’s Arabic notes, however, are more prone (as one would expect) to comment on more technical issues of the relation of script, sense and sound. But quite how much understanding of the Arabic script did Pell posses?
Certainly, he had access also to examples of it in manuscript, for there are four leaves of a Koran
As mentioned earlier, Pell’s main guide in learning Arabic in the 1630s was the Rudimenta of Thomas Erpenius.29 Pell follows his source closely but not slavishly, sometimes making notable improvements in phraseology or precision. For example, his notes on the first page of the Quran
place of the accent [...] never in ultima, therefore in penultima in all disyllables as onsur, never higher than the antepenult, and there always in polysyllables as nasara, nasarta unlwaaw [y]e penult be made long by quiescent by אוי as tansoranias tansoriיna tansoraיna.33
There is a practical reason why such a reality would be evident to the seventeenth-century student of Arabic. The grammatical inflections and conjugations of both Latin
There was no universally agreed transliteration system for Arabic in early modern Europe. The encounter with the gutturals produced a number of scholarly attempts to clear the lexicographical throat.
There is, furthermore, an interesting intellectual hinterland to this fact, and that revolves around Pell’s curiosity (and that of those around him) about theories of a universal language or writing system
In the light of this, the issue of Pell’s particularly careful transliteration system for Arabic becomes relevant. At one level, the transliteration system is explained by the (possible) early date of these pages of the manuscript. And yet, learning the Arabic alphabet is not so hard that Pell’s attachment to his system is not capable of alternative explanation. If the parallels with Greek linguistic usage are to be taken seriously (and are not simply aides-memoire or causa illustrationis), then we must consider that the transliteration
|GZWNא||GZWTM GZWTN||GZWWא GZWN|
A second issue, and one which connects Pell’s notes less to an ideal language than to a real one, was the proximity or otherwise of Hebrew to Arabic, and whether or not, one was in fact just a dialect
The curious expression “shevated” may cause the uninitiated to pause. It derives from Hebrew grammar
However, I hope you will consider my worthinesse, and place me as your substitute, during the time that your Eagleship shall be absent in the Desart of Arabia. And so ends Iackdaw, praying for your long life, and to give you a taste of my Languages.50
Thanks to Arne Böge for a pleasant afternoon in Dresden back in 2006 spent in a bookshop where I picked up a copy of Johann Fück’s seminal Die Arabischen Studien in Europa. Noel Malcolm and Sam Wilder commented with their characteristic acuity and generosity. This is for Peter Chadwick, who shared my enthusiasm for finding other beginners in Arabic
Ax, W. (2000). “Sprache Als Gegenstand Der Alexandrinischen Und Pergamanischen Philologie.” In Logos Und Lexis, edited by W. Ax and F. Grewing, 91–115. Stuttgart: Steiner.
Balagna-Coustod, J. (1989). Arabe et Humanisme Dans Le Temps Des Valois. Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose.
Barnes, B. (1606). Foure Bookes of Offices. London: T. Adams; C. Burbie.
Basse, W. (1619). A Helpe to Discourse, or a Miscelany of Merriment. London: Becket.
Beurle, A. (2010). Sprachdenken Im Mittelalter: Ein Vergleich Mit Der Moderne. Studia Linguistica Germanica 99. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Bisaha, N. (2007). Creating East and West: Renaissance Humanism and the Ottoman Turks. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Boutcher, W. (2000). “‘Who Taught Thee Rhetoricke to Deceive a Maid?’: Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander, Juan Boscán’s Leandro, and Renaissance Vernacular Humanism.” Comparative Literature 52 (1): 11–52.
Brown, V. (1980). “Varro, Marcus Terentius.” In Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum: Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin Translations and Commentaries: Annotated Lists and GuidesVol. 5, edited by F. E. Cranz and P. O. Kristeller, 451–500. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press.
Bullokar, W. (1580). Booke at Large for the Amendment of Orthographie for Englishe Speech. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Burman, T. E. (2007). Reading the Qur’an in Latin Christendom, 1140–1560. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Burnett, C. (1999). The Introduction of Arabic Learning into England. London: British Library.
Cupaiuolo, T. (1925). La Teoria Della Derivazaione Della Lingua Latina Dall’ Eolico. Palermo: Boccone del povero.
de Nave, F., ed. (1986). Philologia Arabica: Arabische Studiën En Drukken in de Nederlanden in de 16de En 17de Eeuw. Antwerpen: Museum Plantin-Moretus.
Dickey, E. (2007). Ancient Greek Scholarship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Drusius, J. (1632). Historia Ruth Ex Ebraeo Latine Conversa, & Commentario Explicata. Amsterdam: Jansson.
Feingold, M. (2006). “Parallel Lives: The Mathematical Careers of John Pell and John Wallis.” Huntington Library Quarterly, 451–68.
Feingold, Mordechai (2017). “Learning Arabic in Early-Modern England.” In The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe, edited by Jan Loop, Alastair Hamilton, and Charles Burnett. Leiden: Brill.
Fuks, L., ed. (1984). Hebrew Typography in the Northern Netherlands 1585–1815. Leiden: Brill.
Fück, J. (1955). Die Arabischen Studien in Europa von 12. Bis Den Anfang Des 20. Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Gabba, E. (1963). “Il Latino Come Dialetto Greco.” Miscellanea Di Studi Alessandrini Rostagni, 188–94.
Haijji, M. (1976). L’activité Intellectuelle Au Maroc a L’epoque Sa’dide. Vol. 2 vols. Rabat: Dar El Magrehes.
Hamilton, A. (2001). “The Study of Islam in Early Modern Europe.” Archiv Für Religionsgeschichte, 169–82.
——— (2009). “Isaac Casaubon the Arabist: Video Longum Esse Iter.” JWCI, 35–54.
Holt, P. M. (1972). A Seventeenth-Century Defender of Islam: Henry Stubbe (1632–1676) and His Book. London: Dr Williams Trust.
Jones, J. R. (1991). “Learning Arabic in Renaissance Europe.” PhD thesis, London: University of London.
Jones, R. (1981). “The Arabic and Persian Studies of Giovan Battista Raimondi (c. 1536–1614).” PhD thesis, London: The Warburg Institute.
Keul, I. (2009). Early Modern Religious Communities in East Central Europe. Leiden: Brill.
Lallot, J. (1998). La Grammaire de Denys Le Thrace: Trdauite et Annotée. 2nd ed. Paris: CNRS Éd.
Lewis, R. (2007). Language, Mind and Logic: Artifical Language Schemes from Bacon to Locke. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Loop, Jan (2013). Johann Heinrich Hottinger: Arabic and Islamic Studies in the Seventeenth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Loop, Jan, Alastair Hamilton, and Charles Burnett, eds. (2017). The Teaching and Learning of Arabic in Early Modern Europe. Leiden: Brill.
Malcolm, N., and J. Stedall, eds. (2005). John Pell (1611–1685) and His Correspondence with Sir Charles Cavendish: The Mental World of an Early Modern Mathematician. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Matar, N. I. (1998). Islam in Britain, 1558–1685. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Meserve, M. (2008). Empires of Islam. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Ramus, P. (1578). Rudimenta Grammaticae Latinae. Frankfurt: Wechel.
Rousseau, J. (1984). “La Racine Arabe et Son Traitement Par Les Grammariens Europeens.” Bulletin de La Societé Linguistique de Paris, 285–321.
Segesvary, J. (1985). Islam et La Reforme. Paris: Éditions L’Age d’homme cop.
Smitskamp, R. (1992). Philologia Orientalis: A Description of Books Illustrating the Study and Printing of Oriental Languages in 16th- and 17th-Century Europe. Leiden: Brill.
The Pleasant History of Cawwood the Rooke or, the Assembly of Birds (1640). London.
Toomer, G. J. (1996). Eastern Wisedome and Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wilkinson, J. (2007). “Tremellius: 1569 Edition of the Syriac New Testamanet.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 9–25.
Wolfson, H. A. (1961). “The Twice-Revealed Averroes.” Speculum, 373–92.
Woolfson, J. (1999). Padua and the Tudors: English Students in Italy 1485–1603. Basingstoke: University of Toronto Press.
ΜΕΓΑ ετυμολογικον. Etymologicum Magnum. Magnum Etymologicum Graecae Linguae, Nunc Recens Summa Adhibita Diligentia Excusum, & Innumerabilibus Pene Dictionibus Locupletatum (1549). Venice: Federicus Tarrisanus.
Pleasant History of Cawwood the Rooke (The Pleasant History of Cawwood the Rooke or, the Assembly of Birds 1640, sig. B4v).
See the otherwise excellent studies of Segesvary (1985); Bisaha (2007); Meserve (2008); Holt (1972). See also Balagna-Coustod (1989), esp. pp. 31 (on Nicholas Clenard’s now lost sixteenth-century Arabic grammar, which he wrote when in Salamanca, which was the only place by 1639 where Hebrew was taught anymore, following the closure of the Spanish mind) and 69–70 (on grammar, and the figures Arnoult de l’Isle, Etienne Hubert and Pierre-Victor Calma Cayet).
Honorable exceptions include Burman (2007), though some will find the style of this work rather plodding; Jones (1991). We now benefit from Loop, Hamilton and Burnett (2017) and Loop (2013), though these appeared far too late for me to take proper account of.
The phrase quotes, with due piety, Wolfson (1961, 373–392).
Some of these connections are illuminated in the sprawling work of Haijji (1976).
See now ODNB, sub nomine, for a recent sketch, to be supplemented by Malcolm and Stedall (2005).
See, e.g., Boutcher (2000). The traditional explanation that diglossia functions between two varieties of the same language whereas bilingualism refers to two separate languages already presupposes issues and definitions that require historicization.
See Hamilton (2001, 169, n. 3).
There is as yet no study for Arabic typography in Europe to set beside the magisterial Hebrew Typography in the Northern Nethelands, 1585–1815, Fuks (1984). See now also for another semitic language, Wilkinson (2007). The first book to contain Arabic characters was Breidenbach’s Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam, though it was a lone outlier. The influence of the famous late Medici press of the 1590s must not be accorded undue influence given that its output was for the Ottoman market, and not a domestic European one. See Jones (1981). A better step change date is 1585, when Plantin’s son-in-law, Raphelengius, had Arabic types cut. For Holland, see de Nave (1986), for a lucid summary of the sixteenth-century material. Postel’s considerable library of Syriac and Arabic mss was left in the hands of the librarian (Franciscus Junius) of the Elector Palatine in Heidelberg.
See now Hamilton (2009).
See Burnett (1999).
Drusius (1632, sig. A3r). The issue for further research to determine is quite how much time Drusius spent in the 1570s at Oxford and how much at Lambeth (see also A2r: “Accessit ad haec mala perigrinatio, quae animum meum a libris sic abalienavit, ut vix cum iis in gratiam redire potuerim”).
British Library, London, Cotton MS, Galba IX and X; and British Library, London, Lansdowne MS 694.
It would be good to know who was teaching Sir Kenelm Digby (according to a scrap of evidence from Hartlib in 1634) was a great student of Arabic, which would place him at just the right time and place. See Matar (1998, 83–4).
See Feingold (2017). Feingold’s story is one, strictly speaking, of the history of universities, to which Pell stands in some way oblique.
See ODNB sub nomine “Matthias Pasor.” I have found little evidence of Arabic philology in his Groningen archive papers.
See Fück (1955, 59–71). We await a full study of Erpenius.
British Library, London, Additional MS 4377.
Noel Malcolm suggests that, given how studious a person Pell was, it would be unwise to assume too much from this chronology.
On the relationship between publication and reputation, see the acute comments of Feingold (2006, 451–468).
These notes allow us to nuance Toomer’s statement (1996, 198) that we do not know how much Arabic Pell knew.
For Hartlib’s career(s), see Malcolm and Stedall’s judicious summary of the evidence (2005, 26–28, esp. n. 8), where Malcolm makes references to Polish secondary literature that I cannot read.
For the Utopian (or pre-lapsarian) character of much of the universal language schemes, see now Lewis (2007). For the importance of Transylvania as a confessional buffer state, see now Keul (2009).
Additional MS, 4377, f.147 (dated 14 May 1631).
Additional MS, 4377, f.25.
Additional MS 4377, f.19.
British Library, London, Additional MS 4377, f.15xx.
The edition that he was using was that of 1628.
On Kirstenius, see Smitskamp (1992, 118–21) (thanks to Noel Malcolm for this reference).
So f.7: “Arabicarum vocum analysis sive Radicis arabicae investigatio. Abjice initio quarumlibet praefixas.” For a survey of the different ways in which the root was analyzed in premodern grammars, see Rousseau (1984).
The relevant passages are Erpenius, Rudimenta, 1628, sigs. B5v–B6r and, in Pell, f.24.
Additional MS 4377, f.1r.
See, e.g., ΜΕΓΑ ΕΤΥΜΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΝ. Etymologicum magnum..., ΜΕΓΑ ετυμολογικον. Etymologicum Magnum. Magnum Etymologicum Graecae Linguae, Nunc Recens Summa Adhibita Diligentia Excusum, & Innumerabilibus Pene Dictionibus Locupletatum 1549, sub verbo “βιος.” We shall know more about the diffusion of this kind of exercise when Paul Botley finishes his work on learning Greek in Renaissance Europe.
See, e.g., Ramus (1578, sigs. A2v–sA3r), where the brief discussion of sound is never linked to any syntactic features, but rather provides simple definitions of terms such as liquid and vowel (e.g.: “D[iscipulus]: Quid est syllaba unius literae? P[raeceptor ] est vocalis quaelibet; ut a e i o u y.”
The works that are regularly cited are the De voce, the De loquela brutorum and the De locutione et eius instrumentis. On the reception of Paduan medical ideas in England, see now Woolfson (1999, 73–102). To Woolfson, add the early seventeenth-century notes in an English hand found in the margins of the De visione, voce, auditu...at British Library, London, shelfmark, 536 m4.
Stemming from Aristotle, Poetics, II.1.
Bullokar (1580). On Bullokar (c. 1531–1609), see now ODNB sub nomine.
For sixteenth-century knowledge of non-European languages and scripts, see Gesner’s Mithridates (1555), consisting of a range of Lord’s Prayers.
On this, see now Alistair Hamilton, “Nam Tirones Sumus.” The work was based on a manuscript that had once been in the hands of Raphelengius’s teachers, Guillaume Postel (so Hamilton).
At f.19x he copies out the transliteration system adopted by the Lexicon Pentaglotton, Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, Thalmudico-Rabbinicum & Arabicum. In quo omnes voces Hebreae [...] opus novum nunc post Authoris obitum.
Additional MS, 4377, f.4r.
Additional MS, 4377, f.18x.
For “analogia” in Greek in the sense of grammatical regularity, see now Lallot (1998, 80–81). For the so-called dispute between the followers of “analogy” (those of Aristarchus the grammarian) and those of “anomaly” (those of Crates), see now the sources marshalled in Dickey (2007, 6 n. 15). As to the reality of the debate, the jury is out, but for an up-to-date summary of the positions adopted in the secondary literature, see Ax (2000).
See the entry for Varro in Brown (1980). Varro’s work on the De lingua latina had been edited by Antonio Agostin, but had achieved a raised scholarly profile following the emendatory activity of Scaliger (whose coniectanea were in later editions often bound with the original text of Agostin), and then, in 1605, Gaspar Schoppe produced a new edition.
See now Beurle (2010, 105ff).
I register here Sam Wilder’s perceptively baffled comment: “Of che parsing of semitic root patterns does cut rather to the quick of that enticing area of language systems theory and controversy that gets debated along those lines. They really do: one is confronted with a promise of an almost pristine semantic calculus unimaginable in our chaotic Indo-European ‘accidental’ linguistic universe of borrowings and etymological bastardry. This is where Pell seems to be so interestingly stewing. Yet then, when he has analogikos at the top of a column in a verb-parsing table, I am a bit confused.”
See the discussion in Gabba (1963). For the marshaling of the ancient sources, see Cupaiuolo (1925).
Epistulae, 1627, 197 and 203.
The Pleasant History of Cawwood the Rooke The Pleasant History of Cawwood the Rooke or, the Assembly of Birds 1640, sig. B4v).
Table of Contents
Markham J. Geller, Jens Braarvig
Markham J. Geller, Jens Braarvig
Part I: General Reflections
2 Dependent Languages
Part II: Europe
4 Konrad of Megenberg: German Terminologies and Expressions as Created on Latin Models
5 What Language Does God Speak?
Florentina Badalanova Geller
6 Islamic Mystical Poetry and Alevi Rhapsodes From the Village of Sevar, Bulgaria
Florentina Badalanova Geller
7 Learning Arabic and Learned Bilingualism in Early Modern England: The Case of John Pell
Part III: Ancient Near East
8 Sumerian in the Middle Assyrian Period
9 The Concept of the Semitic Root in Akkadian Lexicography
Markham J. Geller
10 Multilingualism in the Elamite Kingdoms and the Achaemenid Empire
12 Some Observations on Multilingualism in Graeco-Roman Egypt
Alexandra von Lieven
Part IV: India and Central Asia
14 Aspects of Multilingualism in Turfan as Seen in Manichaean Texts
Part V: China
15 Multilingualism and Lingua Franca in the Ancient Chinese World
William G. Boltz
Part VI: The Americas
18 Multilingualism and Lingua Francae of Indigenous Civilizations of America
Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo
This publication is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 Germany (cc by-nc-sa 3.0) Licence.