Thomas Erpenius

Thomas Erpenius became the first European to publish an accurate book of Arabic grammar. His work provided Europeans with an insight into Arab intellectual life without religious bias.

Erpenius had plenty of evidence proving he cast and eut his own types, owned matrixes as well as punches – thus it is only natural that he opened an oriental press in Leyden.

Early Life and Education

Scaliger inspired Erpenius (or Van Erpe) to study Oriental languages, which led him to become one of Europe’s premier linguists and prolific editors of oriental texts. Additionally, he taught Arabic at Leiden and established his own printing office for Arabic and other ‘oriental’ languages; using Arent Corszz Hogenacker’s new typeface designed specifically for Arabic. For his first edition manual without vowel marks this edition contained Arabic text only!

This fine copy of an expanded edition of an early modern Arabic grammar landmark, considered by Loop to be “by far the most didactically accomplished version to appear until the nineteenth century”, includes accessible sections on orthography and syllabation up through phonology with reading exercises; additionally included are Luqman’s Fables with Latin translation as well as 200 Proverbs as well as texts written by al-Ha ‘Abdallah himself.

Professional Career

Thomas van Erpe was one of the foremost Orientalists of his day, receiving encouragement from Scaliger to study oriental languages at Leiden and graduating in 1605. Following this academic experience he traveled around Europe becoming close with Casaubon – taking lessons in Arabic as well as perfecting his knowledge of Turkish, Persian and Ethiopic in Paris and Venice.

In 1613 he was appointed professor of Arabic and other oriental languages (excluding Hebrew) at Leiden University. There he opened a printing office and published several books including an Arabic grammar that was unsurpassed until 19th Century.

Lukman’s animal fables were published as part of his major works in 1636 and were one of his notable achievements.

Achievement and Honors

Thomas Erpenius was one of the greatest scholars of his day, distinguished for his expertise in Arabic and travels throughout Europe to meet learned men, taking lessons in several languages including Egyptian Copt in London and Arabic in Paris; further developing Turkish, Persian and Ethiopic knowledge while in Venice.

His efforts at reconciling classical Arabic grammatical tradition with Latin had a major influence on European orientalists such as Silvestre de Sacy and Karl Paul Caspari, among many others. Furthermore, due to his academic abilities and audacious spirit he brought the first printed Arabic grammar in Europe to Leiden where he bought types from Ravelingens while producing punches and matrices of his own design which would later be reprinted by Elzeviers.

Personal Life

Erpenius established a printing office for Arabic and other oriental languages at Leiden University as professor. To achieve this end he made use of Arab-type matrices and punches created by Raphelengius brothers for Arabic typography.

As his first trial publication (without vowel points for Arabic type), he produced the first edition of Lukman’s Fables with no vowel points added for Arabic type and annotated his copy extensively; these notes would then be integrated into his second edition printed with vowel points added later that same year.

Erpenius wrote numerous works, such as grammars of several oriental languages. He donated his collection of oriental manuscripts to Cambridge University. Erpenius championed Arabic study and encouraged others to take it seriously, especially among European scholars. His efforts contributed greatly to increasing interest for it among them.

Net Worth

Thomas Erpenius was born in Gorinchem in 1584 and died in Leiden 1624, making him one of the greatest linguists and orientalists of his era. Inspired by Scaliger to study Oriental languages, Erpenius studied Arabic at Leiden before travelling through Europe where he met Casaubon and perfected his Turkish, Persian, and Ethiopic knowledge in Paris and Venice.

He was an prolific author who published several works on Arabic culture and language as well as publishing translations of many of his own works. Additionally, he was also an eminent printer with an impressive collection of oriental types, characters, matrices, and poincons which now reside at Leiden University’s library – making up one of the world’s most valuable collections.

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