Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hyde, Thomas (1636-1703)

HYDE, THOMAS, D.D. (1636–1703), orientalist, was born 29 June 1636 at Billingsley, near Bridgnorth in Shropshire, of which his father, Ralph, was vicar. He received his first instruction in oriental languages from his father. At the age of sixteen he proceeded to King's College, Cambridge, where he became a pupil of Wheelock, the professor of Arabic. He now devoted himself particularly to Persian, and, on Wheelock's recommendation, assisted Walton in the publication of the Persian and Syriac versions of the Polyglott Bible. For this work he transcribed into its proper alphabet the Persian translation of the Pentateuch which had been published in Hebrew characters at Constantinople, and he added a Latin translation. These contributions were sharply criticised by Angelo de la Brosse (Angelus de Sancto Josepho), a Carmelite friar, and Hyde defended them in 1691 in an appendix to his edition of Peritsol's 'Itinera' (see No. 5 infra). In 1658 Hyde migrated to Queen's College, Oxford, where he became reader of Hebrew. He proceeded M.A. by order of the chancellor of the university, Richard Cromwell, after reading one lecture in the schools on oriental languages in April 1659. In the same year he became underkeeper of the Bodleian Library, and on 2 Dec. 1665 was unanimously elected chief librarian. He was made prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral in 1666, archdeacon of Gloucester in 1673, and received the degree of D.D. in 1682. He succeeded Pocock as Laudian professor of Arabic in December 1691, and became regius professor of Hebrew and canon of Christ Church in July 1697. In April 1701 Hyde resigned the librarianship of the Bodleian on the twofold ground that he was tired of the drudgery of daily attendance, and was anxious to complete his work `upon hard places' in Scripture (Macray, 170). For a long period, during the reigns of Charles II, James II, and William III, he held the post of interpreter and secretary in oriental languages to the government. He died on 18 Feb. 1702-3 at his rooms in Christ Church. He was buried in the church of Handborough, near Oxford. According to Hearne, scholars in Holland and Germany had a great opinion of Dr. Hyde's learning, especially in oriental subjects (in which, Hearne states, there is no doubt he was the greatest master in Europe), but scant respect was shown him in Oxford by several men `who after his death spoke well of him' (Collections, ed. Doble, i. 235). `Decessit Hydius, stupor mundi,' were the words used by a Dutch professor, according to Hearne, in announcing Hyde's death (ib. p. 295).

The `Historia religionis vererum Persarum,' Oxford, 1700, 4to, was Hyde's most important and most celebrated work. It was a first attempt to treat the subject in a scholarly fashion, and abounds in oriental learning. A second edition was published by Dr. Thomas Hunt (1696-1774) [q.v.] in 1760. Hyde's conclusions were attacked by the Abbé Foucher in a memoir read before the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1761. Anquetil Duperron, while admiring Hyde's zeal as a student in a field then practically untouched by scholars and acknowledging much indebtedness, also censured him for having his information from late Muhammedan writers, while neglecting the early Pehlevi sources (cf. Gent. Mag. 1763, p. 373).

Among other important works published by Hyde are: 1. Text and Latin translation of a Persian version of an astronomical treatise (originally written in Arabic) by Ulugh Beig ibn Shāhrukh on the latitude and longitude of the fixed stars, Oxford, 1665, 4to. 2. ‘Catalogus impressorum librorum Bibliothecæ Bodleianæ,’ Oxford, 1674, fol. This was the third published catalogue of the Bodleian. 3. An account of the system of weights and measures of the Chinese in a treatise on the weights and measures of the ancients by Edward Bernard, 1688. 4. ‘De Historia Shahiludii,’ two instalments, published in 1689 and 1694, of a treatise on oriental games, together with Persian texts and translations. 5. 'Itinera Mundi,' a Latin translation, with notes, of a work by Abraham Peritsol, son of Mordecai Peritsol, 1691. The object of this work, in which Hyde received assistance from Dr. Abendana, was to supplement Abulfeda's ‘Geography,’ on an edition of which Hyde was for a time engaged by the advice and with the support of Dr. Fell, bishop of Oxford (cf. Hearne, Collections, ed. Doble, iii. 76), but on Fell's death the project of republishing Abulfeda was abandoned. 6. ‘An Account of the famous Prince Giolo,’ 1692. 7. 'Abdollatiphi (Abd Al Latif) historiæ Ægypti compendium,' 1702 (?). 8. A treatise of Bobovius on the liturgy, &c., of the Turks, published after Hyde's death, in 1712.

In 1677 Hyde superintended the printing of a Malayan translation of the four Gospels, published at the expense of the Hon. Robert Boyle. A second edition of this version was published in 1704.

In 1694 Wood supplied a list of thirty-one works in addition to those mentioned here, which (Wood said) Hyde designed for the press if he lived to finish them, ‘he having already done something towards all of them.’ In 1767 Dr. Gregory Sharpe, master of the Temple, collected and published some of the numerous works which Hyde left unpublished at his death, under the title, ‘Syntagma Dissertationum et Opuscula,’ 2 vols. 4to.

[Prolegomena to Sharpe's Syntagma; Macray's Annals of the Bodleian; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iv. 522-7; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

E. J. R.