Hepburn, James (1573-1620) (DNB00)


HEPBURN, JAMES (1573–1620), in religion Bonaventure, linguist, born in 1573 in the shire of East Lothian, Scotland, was fourth son of Thomas Hepburn, rector of Oldhamstocks. He was educated in the university of St. Andrews, where, after completing his studies in humanity and philosophy, he applied himself to the oriental languages. He soon joined the communion of the Roman church, went to France and Italy, and subsequently travelled through Turkey and the East. He mastered so many languages that he was credited with being able to speak to the people of every nation in their own tongue. On returning to Europe he entered the order of Minims at Avignon. Afterwards he lived in retirement at Rome for five years in the French monastery of the Holy Trinity, belonging to his order. He was for six years keeper of the oriental books and manuscripts in the Vatican Library. He died at Venice in October 1620.

Dempster enumerates twenty-nine works by Hepburn, all of which he claims to have seen. They include Hebrew and Chaldaic dictionaries and translations from Hebrew manuscripts, many of which are not known in print. Hepburn published: 1. ‘Alphabetum Arabicum et Exercitatio Lectionis,’ an Arabic grammar, Rome, 1591, 4to. 2. A translation from Hebrew into Latin of the ‘“Kettar Malcuth” of Rabbi Solomon, the son of Tsemach,’ which Dempster entitles ‘Diadema Regni,’ printed at Venice. 3. ‘Virgo Aurea septuaginta duobus encomiis cœlata,’ a large print engraved at Rome in 1616, and dedicated to Paul V. At the top is a representation of the Madonna, beneath are seven columns, in the first and last of which the author explains in Latin and Hebrew his design of eulogising the Blessed Virgin in seventy-two languages, as well as in emblems.

[Dempster's Hist. Ecclesiastica Gentis Scotorum, p. 363; Mackenzie's Writers of the Scots Nation, iii. 513; European Mag. xxvii. 369; Watt's Bibl. Brit.]

T. C.