The first large-scale Syriac grammar

Amira, Georgius Michaelis. [Grammatiqi suraya aw kaldayata (...)]. Grammatica Syriaca, sive Chaldaica.

Rome, Giacomo Luna, Tipografia Medicea Orientale (in Typographia Linguarum externarum), 1596.

4to. (30 [instead of 44]), 480 pp. Contemporary limp vellum with handwritten spine title (wants ties).


First - and likely only - edition. The first large-scale Syriac grammar, the third ever written (following those of Caninius, 1554, and Widmanstetter, 1555). Composed by the Maronite priest Jiris Ibn Mikha'il ibn 'Amira, it was printed by the Maronite scholar Ya'qub ibn Hilal (Giacomo Luna), who worked at the Medicean Press under Raimondi and was responsible for the Arabic and Syriac publications issued between 1590 and 1594. In 1595 he started printing on his own, and possibly took over some of the types of the Vatican Press. The work is listed as a Propaganda Press imprint ("olim typis nostris impressi") in Amadatius's 1773 "Catalogus", which shows the continuity that was felt to exist between the Medicean Press, the intermediate stage of Luna and Stephanus Paulinus, and the Propaganda Press. In the preface Raimondi is mentioned as the instigator of the work.

The 24 pt Syriac "serto" types were cut in 1590 by Jean Cavaillon for the Medicean Press. In the beginning a Syriac alphabet is presented, in three different scripts: "estrangelo" (this word possibly here used for the first time), "serto", and a Nestorian script possibly in type. This Nestorian script, a cursive form of estrangelo, is introduced here for the first time. In 1633 a slightly different typeface was used for Bellarmino's Catechism.

Preliminaries wanting 7 leaves but containing 4 additional interleaved blanks, two of which bearing Syriac annotations in a large, contemporary hand. Occasional light browning, a few leaves misbound. Provenance: Handwritten ownership of the Discalced Carmelites of St. Joseph in Paris on the title-page and lower pastedown. Quite rare. A second edition, supposedly produced in 1645 (cf. Nasrallah, p. 10), is not attested in libraries.


Edit 16, CNCE 1541. Adams A 965. BM-STC Italian 356 (s. v. "Jiris"). IA 104.783. Zenker, p. 132, no. 1534. Smitskamp, PO 184. Vater/Jülg 388. Nestle 13. Duverdier, Impressions, 198. OCLC 7238840. Ebert 513 ("Selten"). Brunet I, 231 ("Ouvrage estimé").