Herbelot, Bartholomew D'

, an eminent Orientalist of France, was born at Paris Dec. 14, 1625. When he had gone through classical literature and philosophy, he applied himself to the Oriental languages; and especially to the Hebrew, for the sake of understanding the original text of the Old Testament. After a continual application for several years, he took a journey to Rome, thinking that conversing with Armenians, and other eastern people who frequented that city, would make him perfect in the knowledge of their languages.

Here he was particularly esteemed by the cardinals Barberini and Grimaldf, and contracted a firm friendship with Lucas Holstenius and Leo Allatius. Upon his return from this journey, in which he did not spend above a year and a half, Fouquet invited him to his house, and settled on him a pension of 1500 livres. The disgrace of this minister, which happened soon after, did not hinder Herbelot from being preferred to the place of interpreter for the eastern languages; because, in reality, there was nobody else so fit for it: for Voltaire says, “he was the first among the French who understood them.” Some years after he took a second journey into Italy, where he acquired so great a reputation, that persons of the highest distinction for their rank and learning solicited his acquaintance. The grand duke of Tuscany, Ferdinand II. whom he had the honour to see first at Leghorn, gave him extraordinary | marks of his esteem had frequent conversations with him; and made him promise to visit him at Florence. Herbelot arrived there July 2, 1666, and was received by a secretary of state, who conducted him to a house prepared for him, where he was entertained with great magnificence, and had a chariot kept for his use, at the expence of the grand duke. These were very uncommon honours, but one remained much more grateful to a man of literature; a library being at that time exposed to sale at Florence, the duke desired Herbelot to see it, to examine the Mss. in the Oriental languages, and to select and value the best: and when this was done, the generous prince made him a present of them.

The distinction with which he was received by the duke of Tuscany, taught France to know his merit, which had hitherto been but little regarded; and he was afterwards recalled and encouraged by Colbert, who encouraged every thing that might do honour to his country. The grand tluke was very unwilling to let him go, and even refused to consent, till he had seen the express order of the minister for his return. When he came to France, the king often did him the honour to converse with him, and gave him a pension of 1500 livres. During his stay in Italy, he began his “Bibliotheque Orientale, or Universal Dictionary, containing whatever related to the knowledge of the eastern world;” and finished it in France. This work, equally curious and profound, comprises the substance of a great number of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish books which he had read; and informs us of an infinite number of particulars unknown before in Europe. He wrote it at first in Arabic, and Colbert had a design to print it at the Louvre, with a set of types cast on purpose. But after the death of that minister, this resolution was waved; and Herbelot translated his work into French, in order to render it more universally useful. He committed it to the press, but had not the satisfaction to see the impression finished; for he died Dec. 8, 1695, and it was not published till 1697, folio. What could not be inserted in this work was digested by him under the title of “Anthologie:” but this was never published, nor his Turkish, Persian, Arabian, and Latin dictionary, which, as well as other works, he had completed.

He was no less conversant in Greek and Latin than in the Oriental languages and history. He was indeed aa | universal scholar; and, what was very valuable in him, his modesty was equal to his erudition, and his uncommon abilities were accompanied with the utmost probity, piety, charity, and other Christian virtues, which he practised uniformly through the course of a long life.

An improved edition of his “Bibliotheque” was published at Maastricht in 1776 1780, fol, but a superior one has since appeared at the Hague in 4 vols. 4to, 1777 1782. 1


Niccron, vol. IV. Perrault’s Hommes Illustres. Gen. Dict. Clement Bibl. Curieuse.