Edmund Castell, early modern lexicography, and the Hebraica collections of the University of Cambridge

Hebraica collections at Cambridge University Library

Hebraica collections at Cambridge University Library

Supervisory team: Judith Olszowy-Schlanger and Kirsten Macfarlane (University of Oxford); Scott Mandelbrote (Cambridge University Library)

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at The University of Oxford, in partnership with the Cambridge University Library.

Books collected by Edmund Castell (1606-86), professor of Arabic at Cambridge and compiler of the great but commercially ill-fated polyglot lexicon (1669), form one of the most important part of the holdings of early modern Hebraica at Cambridge. Materials can be found in the University archives, the University Library, and the library of Sidney Sussex College as well as scattered throughout the collections of the Colleges. In particular, Castell bequeathed his own library of printed Hebraica (numbering hundreds of titles) to Emmanuel College. Castell’s intellectual project (the revision and extension of existing lexica and concordances for biblical languages) remains largely unstudied, despite the fact that it formed a significant part of the most significant intellectual project of mid-seventeenth-century England, the editing and printing of the London polyglot Bible. No sustained biography of Castell exists. None of the treatments of Castell that do exist make substantial use of the materials that he gave to Cambridge collections. Understanding Castell and his approach to oriental languages in general and lexicography in particular will help to interpret substantial but neglected collections of manuscript and printed Hebraica and their creation in the seventeenth century. More generally, work on Castell will revise understandings of the priorities and achievements of early modern biblical and linguistic scholarship.

Appropriate training will be provided to equip the doctoral student with the bibliographical and palaeographical skills necessary to interpret Castell’s materials. The doctoral student should however already have a background in early modern intellectual history or Jewish studies and needs to have competence in at least one and preferably in two or more of classical Hebrew, Latin, and Arabic (and be willing to acquire competence in the remaining language or languages during the course of his or her studies, for which training will be provided).

Castell himself worked on materials in Oxford as well as in Cambridge, and the doctoral student will need to cast the net of research more widely still properly to understand Castell’s place in the intellectual world of the mid-seventeenth century. The doctoral partnership makes use in Cambridge of the resources of the University Library and several College libraries. These institutions are collaborating on a broader project to catalogue early printed Hebraica directed by Scott Mandelbrote (Perne Librarian, Peterhouse), to which the doctoral student will contribute information about Castell’s library. In Oxford, the doctoral partnership benefits from the intellectual environment provided, in particular, by the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

The doctoral student will be developing a major intellectual project as part of an ongoing research programme to enhance resources in collections across the collegiate library holdings of Cambridge as well as at the Cambridge University Library. The student will be able to acquire familiarity with the production of catalogues and databases, and with the description of rare books within a professional library environment. The student may also assist in the preparation of an exhibition focussed wholly or in part on Castell and in the preparation of virtual materials to accompany the broader research agenda in Cambridge.

Applications are welcome via the DPhil in Oriental Studies or the DPhil in Theology and Religion, according to the candidate's specific interests and background. 


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