Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bernard, Edward

BERNARD, EDWARD (1638–1696), critic and astronomer, was born at Perry St. Paul, near Towcester, in Northamptonshire, 2 May 1638. His father, Joseph Bernard, who was probably curate of the parish (Wood, Athenæ (Bliss), iv. 703), died when ho was scarcely six years old. Placed under the care of an uncle living in London, he entered Merchant Taylors' School in 1648, and left it, on his election to a scholarship at St. John's College, Oxford, in June 1600, a proficient in Greek and Latin, and not altogether ignorant of Hebrew. The studious sobriety of his habits, combined with the wise tutorial guidance of Thomas Wyatt, held him aloof from the civil and religious dissensions then rife at Oxford, and in a few years he accumulated a large stock of varied learning. Besides history, philosophy, and philology, he studied the Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, and Coptic languages, and applied himself to mathematics under the celebrated Dr. Wallis, attracted (for his scientific tastes had at all times an archæological character) by the numerous Arabic treatises on the subject contained in the Bodleian and other libraries. In 1658 he became, in due course, a fellow of his college; in 1667 he was chosen proctor of the university. He took degrees of B.A. and M.A. respectively, 12 Feb. 1669 and 16 April 1662; graduated B.D. 9 June 1668 and D.D. 30 Oct. 1684.

In December 1668 he went to Leyden for the purpose of inspecting the oriental manor scripts bequeathed to that university by Joseph Scaliger and Levin Warner, as well as the Arabic version of the fifth, sixth, and seventh books of the Conics of Apollonius, brought by James Golius from the East and preserved by his heirs. These (of which the Greek was no longer extant) he obtained permission to copy, and proposed to publish with a Latin translation; but the design received little countenance, and was left to Halley to execute in 1710. Two complete Arabic copies of the first seven books of the same work, one with the notes of Eutocius, were afterwards found by Bernard at Oxford; an edition in conjunction with Dr. Barrow, talked of in 1671–2, came, however, to nothing (see Correspondence of Scientific Men, i. 196, ii. 217).

His visit to Leyden brought him into contact and correspondence with learned men abroad; and his temper being as obliging as his erudition was extensive, his aid was on all sides asked and obtained by those engaged in bringing to light the literary relics of antiquity. On his return to Oxford in 1669, Wren, having been appointed surveyor-general of the royal works, nominated him his deputy in the Savilian chair of astronomy, and he was sworn in as his successor, 9 April 1673. The acceptance of this post, which, by the institution of its founder, excluded other employments, involved the abandonment of a promising ecclesiastical career. Dr. Peter Mews, president of St. John's College, had, in 1672, presented him to the valuable living of Cheam in Surrey, and in the February following, on his elevation to the see of Bath and Wells, named him one of his chaplains, with a claim to preferment in the diocese. Bernard, however, whose tastes were strictly academic, resigned both the living and the chaplaincy in order to secure the Savilian professorship. He was in the same year (1673) elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

A movement was about this time originated by him at Oxford for re-editing ancient mathematical writers. He ransacked libraries, collected manuscripts and editions, and digested the available works into a schema published by Dr. Smith in 1704 as an appendix to his 'Vita Bernardi,' with the title 'Veterum Mathematicorum Græcorum, Latinorum, et Arabum Synopsis.' The contents of fourteen volumes were to be embraced in it, and a list to be added of some Greek writers preserved, it was believed, only in Syriac of Arabic versions. Beyond the printing of a few specimen sheets of Euclid no art of this comprehensive plan was realized.

Om the recommendation of the Earl of Arlington, Charles II appointed Bernard, in 676, tutor to his sons the Dukes of Grafton and Northumberland, then living in Paris with their mother, the Duchess of Cleveland. The post proved an uncongenial one. His retiring disposition and erudite pursuits rendered him an object of ridicule in gay society and he resumed his antiquarian studies at Oxford after about a year's absence, saddened by his novel experiences, though consoled by the acquisition of many rare books, as well as the friendship of such men as Mabillon, Dacier, and Bouillard.

In the pursuance of a plan earlier concerted with Dr. Fell, bishop of Oxford, he now undertook an edition of Josephus, to be issued at the expense of the university; but divergences of opinion as to the mode of editing occasioned its suspension. Resumed a few years later at the instance of three Oxford booksellers, the design was again interrupted owing to the insufficient of their means to cover the required outlay. Hence the couplet in Clement Barkdale's [q.v.] doggerel verses on 'authors and Books' (Oxford, 1684):

Savilian Bernard's a right learned man;
Josephus he will finish when he can.

Wearied with controversy, he got no further than the first four books and part of the fifth book of the second of the Destruction of Jerusalem, which were printed at the Sheldonian Theatre in 1686-7, and published in folio in 1700. His erudite notes were incorporated, with ample acknowledgment of their value, in Havercamp's complete edition of Josephus (Leyden, 1726).

During the sale of Nicholas Heinsius's library at Leyden in 1683 Bernard competed successfully for some of its choicesd rarities, and on the same occasion applied in vain for a professorship of oriental languages in the university of Leyden. The duties of his post at Oxford had now become positively distasteful to him through the increasing predominance of the critical and linguistic faculties, and he would have gladly have resigned in favour of Halley or Flamstead had any other suitable provision been available. This however, was not found until 1691, when, on his presentation to the rich living of Brightwell in Berkshire, he vacated the Savilian chair after an occupancy of eighteen years, and was succeeded by David Gregory of Edinburgh.

Bernard retained his residence at Oxford, from which his new rectory was not nine miles distant. He married, 6 aug. 1683, Eleanor Howell, a young and beautiful lady descended from a ???? ?????? family in Cardiganshire, with whom he lived happily during the remainder of his life. In 1692 and subsequent years (see Phil. Trans. xviii 160) he was engaged in supervising the preparation of a catalogue of th manuscripts in the United Kingdom, and himself drew up a comprehensive index to is contents. It was published at Oxford in 1697 in two folio volumes entitled 'Catalogi libeorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ in unum collecti cum indice alphabetica,' and is still consulted.

Although suffering form a painful infirmity, Bernard attended, in September 1696, the sale of the Golian manuscripts, purchasing many on behalf of Dr. Barvissus Marsh, archbishop of Dublin. On this, his third visit to Leyden, he was accompanied by his wife. On his return to Oxford in the end of November he fell into a consumption, and closed a blameless life of fifty-eight years, 12 Jan. 1697. He was interred with much state in the chapel of the college, where a monument was erected to his memory bearing the inscription, dictated himself, 'Habmus cor Bernardi.' Wood wrote of him (Ath. Oxon. iv. 702): 'He is a person admirably well read in all hinds of ancient learning, in astronomy and mathematics, a curious critic, an excellent Grecian, Latinist, chronologer, and orientalian.' And Huet, bishop of Avranches, declard in 1718 that 'few of his time equalled him in learning, almost none in modesty' (Commentarius de rebus ad com pertinentibus, p. 315).

Amongst his wiriting are: 1. 'De mensuris et ponderibus antiquis libri tres' (Oxford, 1688), an enlarged and amended version of a letter prefixed to Dr. Pocock's 'Commentary of Hosea' (1685). 2. 'Epistola ad Jac. Gronovium de Fragmento Stephani Byzantini de Dodone' (Lugd. Batay. 1681, 4to). 3. 'Private Devotions' (Oxford, 1689). 4. 'Orbis eruditi literatura à charactere Samaritico deducta.' exhibiting the alphabets of divers ancient peopples, printed on one broad sheet in 1680. 5. 'Etymologicon Britannicum,' appended to Hickes's 'Institutiones Grammaticæ' (Oxford, 1689). 6. 'Chronologiæ Samaritanæ Synopsis,' published by Ludolphus in 'Acta Eruditorum Lipsiensia,' April 1691. 7. 'Veterun testimonia do Versione lxxii Interpretum,' printed with Dr. Aldrich's edition of 'Aristoæ Historia' (Oxford, 1692). 8. 'Inscriptiones Græcæ Palmyrenorum,' a translation and commentary on the inscriptions copied at Palmyra in 1691 by William Halifax (see Phil. Trans, xix. 83). 9. 'The Longitudes, Latitudes, Right Ascensions, and Declinations of the chiefest fixt Stars, according to the best Observers,' Phil. Trans, xiv. 567. 10. 'The Observations of the Ancients concerning the Obliquity of the Zodiac,' ib. p. 721. 11. 'Observations of the Solar Eclipse 2 July 1684 at Oxford,' ib. p. 741 (his sole recorded astronomical observation).

Besides these he left a number of works in manuscript, including a voluminous 'Chronicon omnis ævi' (for details see Smith's Vita Bernardi, p. 63, and Biog. Brit. i. 767). These, with the choicest of his books, many annotated by Scaliger, Heinsius, &c., were purchased for the Bodleian from his widow for 340l. (see Humphrey Wanley's account of the transaction in Ath. Oxon. iv. 707). The rest of his library was sold by auction.

[Vita clarissimi et doctissimi viri Edwardi Bernardi, scriptore Thoma Smitho, London, 1704 (appended to Bishop Huntingdon's Epistles); Ath. Oxon. (ed. Bliss), iv. 701; Biog. Brit.; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; General Dictionary, iii. 247; Rigaud's Correspondence of Scientific Men, passim.]

A. M. C.