Grammatica ebraea generalis.

Wittenberg, Impensis Auctoris, Typis Röhner, 1632.


4to. ff. (viii) 134. Roman letter, with Hebrew, little Italic. Right-hand portion of t-p expertly restored to match on old paper, imperceptible repair to lower outer corners of first two ll. (one touching two words), uniform age browning, tiny worm trail to lower outer blank corner of G-L4 and to upper outer margin of L-M4, faint ink mark to lower margin of last 4 ll. A good copy in vellum, C15 ms. leaf over boards, contemporary Latin and Hebrew annotation to recto of ffep and to some margins in two hands in black-brown and red, text partly underlined in red, inscription ‘Ecclesia’ to t-p. In slip box.

Beautifully bound copy of the first German edition of this very scarce C17 Hebrew grammar. Martin Trost (1588-1636) studied theology and languages at German and Danish universities. He published this work four years after his appointment as professor of Hebrew at Wittenberg—a centre of Hebrew studies since the early C16—where he had once been a student of Laurentius Fabricius. Trost’s interests included Syriac, of which he published the ‘Lexicum Syriacum’ (1623). First printed in Copenhagen in 1627, ‘Grammatica ebraea generalis’ was revised and enlarged for publication in Wittenberg. The careful annotation and the fact this edition was printed at the expense of the author suggest it was originally intended as a text for his students. As Trost wrote in the preface, ‘as water to fish so is the knowledge of the Sacred Tongue necessary to theologians’. His teaching method started not from theoretical precepts but from the practice of language itself. The annotators’ marginalia often integrate the text—which moves from the alphabet, pronunciation, diacritics, accents, numbers and verbs to complex syntax and phrases—with additional information, e.g., on consonantic categories, mute sounds and the meaning of numbers according to the Jews’ ‘superstitio’. In a few cases, the annotator made editorial corrections. The marginalia, which provide unique insight into early modern beginners’ Hebrew classes, peter out in the section on the mutation of letters. The work was reprinted by Trost’s pupils and successor. Like other Orientalists of the time, Trost gave an important contribution to Protestant biblical philology. Since they were the original tongues in which the Scriptures were produced, the knowledge of Oriental languages was deemed essential for a true understanding of the meaning of the biblical text and fundamental for faithful editions and translations into the vernacular—an interest shared by Luther himself.

The illuminated gothic ms. leaf onlaid to the covers was probably from a C15 missal; these extracts show passages from Ecclesiastes, St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, the Apocalypse and the letter to the Phylippians. 

No copies recorded in the US.

USTC 2172833; BM STC Ger. C17 (1637 and 1643 ed.); Steinschneider, Bibliographisches Handbuch über die theoretische und praktische Literatur für hebräische, 2022. Not in Haller, The Seventeenth Century Hebrew Book or Steinschneider, Catalogus.

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