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Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Linguists of the Teutonic race > Witzen

We are so little accustomed to connect that title with any thing above the plodding details of the commerce with which it is inseparably associated, that the name of Nicholas Witzen, Burgomaster of Amsterdam, deserves to be specially commemorated, as an exception to an unliterary class. It was in the pursuit of his vocation as a merchant that Witzen acquired the chief part of the languages with which he was acquainted. He made repeated expeditions to Russia between the years 1666 and 1677, in several of which he penetrated far into the interior of the country, and had opportunities of associating with many of the motley races of that vast empire; Slavonians, Tartars, Cossacks, Samoiedes, and the various Siberian tribes ; as well as with natives of Eastern kingdoms not subject to Russia. Besides inquiries into the geography and natural history of those countries which lie upon the north-eastern frontier of Europe and the contiguous provinces of Asia, Witzen used every effort to glean information regarding their languages. He obtained, in most of these languages, not only versions of the Lord's Prayer, but also vocabularies comprising a considerable number of words ; botlh of which he supplied to his friend and correspondent, Leibnitz, for publica- tion in his Collectanea Etymological How far Witzen himself was acquainted with these languages it is difficult to determine; but he is at least entitled to notice as the first collector of materials for this particular branch of the study.

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