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The de Rossis
Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Italian Linguists > The de Rossis

Our information regarding the two De Rossi's, Ignazio, author of the Etymologicum Copticum, and Giambernardo, of Parma, is more detailed and more satisfactory. Ignazio de Rossi was born at Viterbo in 1740, and entered the Jesuit society at a very early age. In the schools of Macerata, Spoleto, and Florence, he was employed in teaching the Humanities and Rhetoric until the suppression of the order in 1773,; after which event he repaired to Rome, and received an appointment as professor of Hebrew in the University, which he held for thirty years, rejoining his brethren, however, at the first moment of their restoration under Pius "VII. As a general scholar, Father De Rossi was one of the first men of his day. His memory may be ranked among the most prodigious of which any record has been preserved. On one occasion, during the villeggiatura at Frascati, it was tried by a test in some respects the most wonderful which has ever been applied in such cases. A line being selected at pleasure from any part of any one of the four great Italian classics, Dante, Petrarca, Tasso, and Ariosto, De Rossi immediately repeated , the hundred lines which followed next in order after that which had been chosen; and, on his companions expressing their surprise at this extraordinary feat (which he repeated several times), he placed the climax to their amazement by reciting in The reverse order the hundred lines immediately preceding any line taken at random from any one of the above-named poets. His reputation as an Orientalist was founded chiefly upon his familiarity with Hebrew and the cognate languages. But he was also a profound Coptic scholar; and it is a subject of regret to many students of that language that his numerous MSS. connected therewith have been suffered to remain so long unpublished. He died in 1824. Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi was a linguist of wider range. He was born at Castel Nuovo, in Piedmont, in 1742, and in his youth was destined for the ecclesiastical state. He began his collegiate studies at Turin, and manifested very early that taste for Oriental literature which distinguished his after life. Within six months after he commenced his Hebrew studies, he produced a long Hebrew poem. In addition to the Biblical Hebrew, he was soon master of the Rabbinical language, of Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. He learned besides, by private study, most of the languages of modern Europe;—his plan being to draw up in each a compendious grammar for his own use. In this way he prepared grammars of the German, English, and Russian languages. In 1769, he obtained an appointment in the Royal Museum at Turin ; but, being invited at the same time to undertake the much more congenial office of Professor of Oriental Languages in the new University of Parma, he gladly transferred himself to that city, where he continued to reside, as Professor of Oriental Literature, for more than forty years. During the latter half of this period, De Rossi maintained a frequent correspondence with Mezzofanti, upon the subject of their common studies." Prom the terms in which such a scholar as Mezzofanti speaks of De Rossi, and the deference with which he appeals to his judgment, we may infer what his acquirements must have been. On occasion of the marriage of the Infante of Parma, Charles Emanuel, he published a polyglot epithalamiurn,t—a Collection of Hymeneal Odes in various languages—which even still is regarded as the most extraordinary of that class of compositions ever produced by a. single individual. It does not belong to my present plan to allude to the works of De Rossi, or to offer any estimate of his learning; but without entering into any such particulars, or attempting to specify the languages with which he was acquainted, it may safely be said that no Italian linguist from the days of Pico della Mirandola can be compared with him, either in the solidity or the extent of his linguistic attainments. De Rossi died in 1831 The fame of the linguists of Italy during the nineteenth century has been so completely eclipsed by that of Mezzofanti, that I shall not venture upon any enumeration of them, though the list would embrace such names as Rossellini, Luzatto, Molza, Laureani, &c. There are few of whom it can be said with so much truth as of Mezzofanti:— Proegravat artes Infra se positas.

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