MEZZOFANTI, Giuseppe

MEZZOFANTI, Giuseppe Gaspare. Bologna 19.9.1774 — Rome 15.3.1849. Italian Polyglot, Cardinal. Born in a humble family as son of carpenter he showed early his talent in languages. Studied with the Piarists. Ordained priest 1797, he became Professor of Arabic, Hebrew and Greek at Bologna, lost soon his position refusing from giving oath to Cisalpine Republic, but was reinstated c. 1805. The chair was suppressed in 1808, but again reinstated in 1814. In 1831 to Rome as member of Congregatio de Propaganda Fide and 1833 succeeded Angelo Mai as Vatican Librarian. Cardinal 1838. He was reputed to have known 60 languages, including Sanskrit, Hindustani and Gujarati, but there is not much evidence for this. As he is often listed among the pioneers (or precursors) of Italian Indology, his inclusion here seems justified.

Publications: Nothing relevant.

Sources: Five articles on M. by P. Cazzola, G. Uluhogian, L. Laurencich Minelli, G. Sorge and A. Albanese in Franci 1991, 115-197 (but not on Indian languages); Wikipedia with portrait and further references (more in Italian version).

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