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Teseo Ambrosio
Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Italian Linguists > Teseo Ambrosio

Marvellous, however, as is the reputation of Pico della Mirandola, perhaps the science of language owes more to a less brilliant but more practical scholar of the same period, Teseo Ambrosio, of the family of the Albonesi. He was born at Pavia, in 1469. His admirers have not failed to chronicle such precocious indications of genius as his composing Italian, Latin, and even Greek poetry, before he was fifteen; but he himself confesses that his proficiency in these studies dates from a considerably later time. He entered the order of Canons Regular of St. Augustine, and fixed his residence at Rome, where he devoted himself with great assiduity to Oriental studies, and acquired such a reputation, that when, in the Lateran Council of 1512, the united Ethiopic and Maronite Christians solicited the privilege of using their own peculiar liturgies while they maintained the communion of the Roman church, it was to him the task of examining those liturgies, and of ascertaining how far their teaching was in accordance with the doctrines of the Church, wa3 entrusted by the Holy See. Teseo assures us that, at the time when he received this commission, he knew little more than the elements of Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic. He set to work with the assistance of a native Syrian (who, however, was entirely ignorant of Latin); and, carrying on their communication by mutual instruction, he was soon able not only to master the difficulties of these languages, but to set on foot what may be regarded as (at least conjointly with the Cornplutensian Polyglot) one of the earliest systematic schemes for the promotion of Oriental studies. He had types cast expressly for his projects; and he himself prepared the Chaldee Psalter for the press, and repaired to his native city of Pavia for the purpose of having it printed. He died (1539) before it was completed; but his types were turned to account by other scholars. It was with Teseo's types that William Postel printed two out of the five Pater Nosters contained in his collection—-the Chaldee and the Arme-nian. And to him we owe a still greater boon—the first regular attempt at a Polyglot Grammar; which, however imperfectly, comprises the elements of Chaldee, Syriac, Armenian, and ten other languages.

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