Castell, Edmund

, a divine of the seventeenth century, who deserves to be recorded as a remarkable example of literary generosity, joined to literary industry, was born in 1606, at Hatley in Cambridgeshire. After going through a course of grammatical education, he became a member in 1621, of Emanuel college, in Cambridge, in which he continued many years. Afterwards he removed to St. John’s college for the convenience of the library there, which was of great service to him in compiling his grand work, his “Lexicon Heptaglotton.” In due course he took the several degrees of bachelor and master of arts, and of bachelor and doctor in divinity; and the fame of his learning occasioned his being chosen a member of the royal society. His “Lexicon Heptaglotton” cost him the assiduous labour of eighteen years, but his unwearied diligence in this undertaking, injured his health, and impaired his constitution. Besides this, the work was the entire ruin of his fortune; for he spent upon it upwards of twelve thousand pounds. The truth of the fact is positively asserted by Mr. Hearne, whose authority for it was a letter which he had under Dr. Castell’s own hand; and Hearne pathetically and justly complains, that our author should meet with so very poor a reward for his incredible and indeed Herculean labours.*


It is confirmed also by his advertisement in the London Gazette, Nos. 362 and 429, in which Mr. Castell informs the subscribers that they may send for their copies of “that long-­expected, often, and many ways most dismally obstructed and interrupted work, which is now fully finished:—— baring laboured therein eighteen years; expended not so little as 12,000l. besides that which has been brought in either by benefactors or subscribers.” Mr. D’Israeli, who, in his “Curiosities of Literature,” introduces Dr. Castell with the honour and sympathy due to his learning and sufferings, adds that “all the publishers of Polyglotts have been ruined.

The doctor, in 1666, having wasted his patrimony, and incurred heavy debts, was reduced to extreme distress; when, probably in consideration of his learned labours and disinterested generosity, he was in that year made king’s chaplain, and Arabic professor at Cambridge; and in 1668, he obtained a prebend of Canterbury. In the next year he published his “Lexicon Heptaglotton;” but the publication procured him no compensation for his large expences and his indefatigable | diligence. The copies of the book lay almost entirely unsold upon his hands. He received, indeed, some additional preferments; but they were by no means sufficient to recompense him for his great losses. The small vicarage of Hatfield Peverell in Essex was bestowed upon him; and he was afterwards presented to the rectory of Wodeham Walter in the same county. His last preferment, which was towards the close of his life, was the rectory of Higharn Gobion in Bedfordshire.

Dr. Castell’s industry and liberality were not confined to his Lexicon. He was eminently assistant to Dr. Walton, in the celebrated edition of the Polyglott Bible. This is acknowledged by Walton, who, after complimenting our author’s erudition and modesty, mentions the diligence he employed upon the Samaritan, the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Ethiopia versions; his having given a Latin translation of the Canticles, under the last version; and his adding to all of them learned notes. These acknowledgments, however, were by no means equal to Casteli’s merit and services; for he translated several books of the New Testament, and the Syriac version of Job where it differs from the Arabic. Greater justice ought, likewise, to have been done to his generosity. Dr. Walton mentions the gratuities which he bestowed on the learned men who assisted him in his undertaking: But he forgot to mention that Castell not only spent his whole gratuity upon the work, but a thousand pounds besides; partly from his own private fortune, and partly from money which he had solicited from others. We know of nothing farther published by Dr. Castell, excepting a thin quarto pamphlet, in 1660, entitled “Sol Angliae Oriens Auspiciis Carolill. Regum Gloriosissimi,” and adorned with an admirable head of that monarch. From a letter of our author’s, which is still $xtant, and was written in 1674, it appears, that the many discouragements he had met with, had not extinguished his ardour for the promotion of oriental literature. The same letter shews, that in his application to the learned languages, he had forgotten the cultivation of his native tongue; and that even his orthography did not keep pace with the improvements of the time. Dr. Castell died at Higham Gobion, in 1685, being about seventy-nine years of age. All his oriental manuscripts were bequeathed by him to the university of Cambridge, on condition that his | name should be written on every copy in the collection,*


His oriental manuscripts, 38 in number, 19 in Hebrew, 13 in Arabic, and 6 in Æthiopic, to all which the effigies of the doctor were affixed, and his name inscribed in them, were bequeathed by him to the public library of the university of Cambridge. To Emanuel college in the same university, Dr. Castell bequeathed 111 printed books; to St. John’s college a silver tankard, weighing 26 ounces, value 7l., on condition his name should be inscribed on it; and to Dr. Henry Compton, bishop of London (to whom he acknowledges the highest obligations), 100 copies of the Heptaglott Lexicon, with all his Bibles and other oriental parts. of holy scripture, in number 52. The rest of his books were sold by auction at Cambridge in June 1680.

Jt is supposed that about five hundred of his “Lexicons” were unsold at the time of his death. These were placed by Mrs. Crisp, Dr. Casti’lTs niece and executrix, in a room of one of her tenant’s houses at Martin in Surrey, where, for many years they lay at the mercy of the rats; and when they came into the possession of this lady’s executors, scarcely one complete volume could be formed out of the remainder, and the whole load of learned rags sold only for seven pounds. Dr. Castell was buried in the church of Higham Gobion, where, in his life-time, he erected a monument, being a tablet of black marble in a white stone frame, on which there is an inscription, that neither by its Latinity nor by its execution, reflects much honour on his taste. 1

Biog. Brit. Nichols’s Bowyer.