Erpenius, Thomas

, or, as he was called in Dutch, Thomas van Erpe, a very learned writer, and eminently skilled in the oriental tongues, was descended, both by his father and mother’s side, from noble families at Boisleduc in Brabant, which place his parents had quitted on account of their adherence to the protestant religion, and was born, at Gorcum in Holland, Sept. 11, 1584. Prom his earliest years he shewed a peculiar disposition for learning, which induced his father, though no scholar himself, to send him to Leyden, where he began his studies, and prosecuted them with such success, as to excite the admiration of his masters. In 1608, at the age of eighteen, he was admitted into the university of that city, where he took the degree of doctor in philosophy. Vossius informs us, that, soon after he became a student in that place, he grew so diffident of succeeding in his labours, as to have thoughts of laying them entirely aside; but that, being encouraged to persevere, and inspired with fresh courage, be made | himself master of several branches of literature, and particularly metaphysics, in the pursuit of which last, his patience appears to have been invincible. He is said to have read over not only Aristotle, but likewise a great number of his interpreters, with all the commentaries of Suarez; in which he was so conversant, that, several years after he had gone through his course of philosophy, and was engaged in other studies, he could give a distinct account of the contents of almost every page of that vast work.

He had already passed through a course of divinity, and gained a considerable skill in the oriental languages, to which he had applied himself at the persuasion of Joseph Scaligcr, who foresuw his future fame in that important branch of knowledge, and afterwards travelled into England, France, Italy, and Germany; in which countries he contracted an acquaintance with the most learned men. While at London, he became acquainted with Bedell, who was excellently skilled in the oriental tongues. He continued a year in Paris, where he learned Arahic of an Egyptian Jacobine, named Barbalus, and gained the friendship of Isaac Casaubon, among whose letters are several to Erpenius. In one of April the 7th, 1610, he exhorts him to prosecute his studies in the Arabic tongue, urging that “it would be of the greatest importance to learning; that if he looked round the Christian world, he would find no person who had taken the proper method to gain the wished-for point in that kind of literature; that Joseph Scaliger had disappointed their hopes; that Bedell, though a man of great learning, proceeded slowly; that the German who made so great a noise, was not to be depended on; that the Italians, alter raising great expectations, had of a sudden deserted them; in short, that himself was the only person who had laid a solid and firm foundation for a future superstructure.” During his stay at Venice, by the assistance of some learned Jews and Turks, he acquired the knowledge of the Turkish, Persian, and Ethiopic languages; and he distinguished himself in Italy to such advantage, that he was ottered a stipend of 500 ducats a jear, to translate some Arabic hooks into Latin.

After four years spent in his travels, he returned to Leyden in July 1612, about which time there was a design to invite him to England, and to settle a liberal stipend on him; but in the February following, he was chosen by the curators of that university, professor of the Arabic. | and other oriental tongues, except the Hebrew, of which there was already a professor. He filled this chair with, great applause, and soon after set up, at an extraordinary expence, a press for the eastern languages, at which he printed a great many excellent works. October 1616, he married a daughter of a counsellor in the court of Holland, by whom he had seven children, three of whom survived him. In 1619 the curators of the university erected a second chair for the Hebrew language, of which they appointed him professor. In 1620 he was sent by the prince of Orange and the states of Holland into France, to solicit Peter du Moulin, or Andrew Rivet, to undertake the professorship of divinity at Leyden but, not prevailing then, he was sent again the year following, and after six months stay in France, procured Rivet, with the consent of the French churches, to remove to Leyden. Some time after his return the states of Holland appointed him their interpreter, and employed him to translate the letters they received from the several princes of Africa and Asia, and also to write letters in the -oriental languages; and the emperor of Morocco was so pleased with the purity of his Arabic style, that he shewed his letters to his nobles, as a great curiosity, for their elegance and propriety. In the midst, of these employments, he was seized with a contagious disease, then epidemical, of which he died Nov. 13, 1621, aged only forty years. The learned of his time lamented him, and wrote the highest eulogiums upon him, as indeed he well deserved, for he was not only most eminent as a scholar, but as a man of great piety and benevolence. Besides the advantageous ofler made him in Italy, he rejected another from the king of Spain and the archbishop of Seville, who invited him into that kingdom to explain certain Arabic inscriptions. Gerard John Vossius made his funeral oration in Latin, which was printed at Leyden, 1625, in 4to; and the same year were published at the same place, in 4to, Peter Scriverius’s “Manes Erpeniani, cum epicediis variorum.

His works, which have spread his name all over the world, are, l, “Annotationes ad lexicon Arabicum Francisci llaphelengii,Leyden, 1613, 4to, printed with the Lexicon. 2. “Grammatica Arabica,1613, 4to. 3. “Proverbiorum Arabicorum centuriae II. Arabice & Latine, cum s.choliis Josephi Scaligeri & Thomas Erpenii,” 1614, 4 to. having translated and written notes upon part of | the Arabian proverbs, Casaubon engaged Erpenius, Scaliger being dead, to complete that work. 4. “Lockmanni fabulrr & selecta qurcdam Arabum adagia, cum interpretatione Latina & notis,1615, 8vo; Amst. 1636, and 1656, in 4to, with the Arabic grammar just mentioned. 5. “Giarumia grammatica de centum regentibus, sive lingux Arabia; particulis, Arabice & Latine, cum notis,1617, 4to. Giarumia is an Arabic grammar, which takes its name from its author, and is highly esteemed in Asia and Africa. 6. “Novum Testamentum, Arabice,1615, 4to. This is an ancient Arabic version, whose author is not known. 7. “Historia Josephi patriarchs ex Alcorano, Arabice, cum versione Latina & notis,1617, 4to. 8. “Canones de literarum Evi apud Arabes natura & permutatione,” 1618, 4to. 9. “Rudimenta lingute Arabic,1620, 8vo: an improved edition of this was published by Schultens, at Leyden, in 1733, 4to, with a collection of Arabic sentences and a key of dialects. 10. “Versio & notac ad Arabic-am paraphrasin in evangelium Joannis,1620. 11. < Grammatica Hebraea,“1621, 8vo, 12.” Orationes tresdelinguarum Hebretc atque ArabicaB dignitate,“1621, vo. 13.Pentateuch us Mosis, Arabic^“1622, 4to. This version is ancient, and was made by a Christian. 14.” Elmacini historia Saracenica,“&c. 1625, fol. 15.” Psalmi Davidis, Syriace, cum versione Latina,“1625, 4to. 16.” Grammatica' Chaldaa & Syra,“1628, 8vo. 17.” De peregrinatione Gallica utiliter instituenda tractatus,“1631, 12mo. 18.” Prtrcepta de lingua Grsccorum communi,“1662, 8vo. 19.” Arcanum punctationis revelatum,“&c. 1624, 4to. The whole of these were printed at Leyden, and some of them, the reader sees, are posthumous; he had a design to have published an edition of the Koran, with an accurate Latin version and notes, and a confutation of it where it was necessary; a” Thesaurus Grammaticus“for the Arabic tongue: and a lexicon of the same language. But he was prevented by death from executing these designs; as we are informed by Mr. Chappelow, in the preface to his” Elementa linguae Arabicoe ex Erpenii rudimentis, ut plurimum, desumpta. Cujus praxi grammaticie novam legendi praxin addiclit Leonardus Chappelow, linguae Arabicae apud Cantabrigienses professor," Lond. 1730, 8vo. 1


Gen. Dict.—Niceron, vol. V.—Freheri Theatrnm.—Moreri.—Foppen Bibl. Belg.. Curieuse.—Saxii Onomast.