Buxtorf, Johannes (the Elder), German theologian and Hebrew scholar (1564-1629). Autograph letter signed.

Basel, 8 June 1608.

Folio (202 x 307 mm). 2 pp. on bifolium. In Latin.


Fine and rare letter to a fellow scholar, the Dutch Reformed theologian Conrad Vorstius (von der Vorst, 1569-1622) at the Steinfurt Academy, who would succeed Jacob Arminius as professor in Leiden in 1609, only to be driven from his new office as a Remonstrant by his strictly Calvinist enemies.

By this letter, Buxtorf politely introduces himself to his slightly younger colleague, who had been teaching at the Steinfurt gymnasium since 1596, presenting him with his recently published "Epitome radicum Hebraicarum et chaldaicarum" (1607): "Audacter nimis facere videor, vir reverende et clarissime, qui se nulla arctiori familiaritate mihi hactenus conjunctum, literis meis compellem. Unde et nunc a scribendo repressus fuissem, nisi praeteritis nundinis animum adjecisset mihi amicus meus magnus D. Doctor J. Goddeus, cujus judicio obteni perandum mihi esse duxi. Ac ne omnino vaenus coram te compaream, mitto et offero Epitomen Lexici Hebraici qualicumque mea industria sic concinnati. Mitto autem hoc tantum fine, ut saltuatim eum percurrens, oculisque huc atque illuc perlustrans, cognoscus an studiosis hujus linguae utilis futurus sit [...]".

Buxtorf explains how his "Epitome" supersedes the great Hebrew dictionary of the Renaissance, the "Thesaurus Linguae Sanctae" (1529) of Sante Pagnini, and how he solved grammatical, etymological and lexical problems presented by Pagnini's work and similar earlier efforts. As is typical for the philological debate of the Reformation era, Buxtorf further discusses the special meanings that some Hebrew terms had acquired in the various conflicting doctrines of more recent theology. The numerous great Hebraists and theologians mentioned in his letter include Johann Gödde, Frans van Ravelingen, Joseph Justus Scaliger, Johannes van den Driesche, Johann Jakob Grynaeus, and Amandus Polanus von Polansdorf. Buxtorf, who taught at Basel but was a native of Westfalia, could further recommend himself to Vorstius by mentioning that his "Epitome" was dedicated to the Counts of Bentheim, in whose territory the Steinfurt Academy was situated.

Buxtorf's "Epitome Radicum Hebraicarum", first published in Basel in 1600 but revised and greatly expanded in 1607, is still considered a foundational work of Hebrew studies. Buxtorf corresponded extensively with some of the greatest scholars of his age, many of them Jewish. His letters almost never appear in the trade, as most are today kept at the University Library of Basel. His present missive is a fine example of how Buxtorf systematically cultivated and expanded his circle of scholarly correspondents.


Traces of old sewing; first page numbered "110" and inscribed (possibly by the recipient's hand): "de studiis suis". Acquired from a UK private collection.


Traces of old folds; slight browning and staining; a few small edge and paper flaws. Two large torn-out portions have been rebacked by an early collector without loss to text; also the address is complete.