Giuseppe Simone Assemani

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Giuseppe Simone Assemani
Titular Archbishop of Tyre
Giuseppe Simone Assemani1.jpg
Church Maronite Church (to 1711)
Latin Church (from 1711)
Consecration7 December 1766
Personal details
Born27 July 1687
Died13 January 1768

Giuseppe Simone Assemani (Classical Syriac  : ܝܵܘܣܸܦ ܒܲܪ ܫܸܡܥܘܿܢ , (Arabic : يوسف بن سمعان السمعانيYusuf ibn Siman as-Simani, English: Joseph Simon Assemani, Latin : Ioseph Simonius Assemanus; July 27, 1687–January 13, 1768) was a librarian, Lebanese Maronite orientalist, and Catholic bishop. For his efforts, and his encyclopedic knowledge, he earned the nickname "The Great Assemani".



Giuseppe Simone Assemani was born on 27 July 1687 in Hasroun, Mount Lebanon into the Assemani family. [1] His surname is related to several distinguished Orientalists and clergy. "Assemani" is an Arabic patronymic which means son of Simeon, but this did not prevent him from being called Simon. [2] When very young, in 1703, he was sent to the Maronite College in Rome, and was transferred thence to the Vatican library. [3] Assemani graduated in 1709. A talented graduate (at that time he had written three essays on the Syrian grammar and theology), he was spotted by Pope Clement XI, who kept him in Rome and ordered him to catalogue early Christian manuscripts that were brought in 1707 from Egypt by his brother Elias. In 1710, Giuseppe worked as scribe of Oriental manuscripts (scriptor Orientalis), translator from Arabic and Syriac languages, and advisor to the Congregation for the review and reform of the liturgical books of the Eastern rites. He was ordained priest on 21 September 1710. [4] In 1711 Assemani received papal authorization to pass from the Maronite Church to the Latin Church. From 1715 to 1717 he was sent to Wadi El Natrun, Cairo, Damascus and Lebanon to search for valuable manuscripts, and returned with about 150, [3] which formed a collection in the Vatican Library. In 1735 Pope Clement XII sent him again to the East where he presided the 1736 Maronite Synod of Mount-Lebanon, which laid the foundations for the modern Maronite Church. He returned with a still more valuable collection, because he found the opportunity to collect even more ancient works. This time he brought about 2,000 works, and the most important of them was the Codex Assemanius, an evangeliary which he had brought from Jerusalem in 1736. He later played a significant role in mediating several crises in the Maronite Church hierarchy, by virtue of his influence in Rome and his knowledge of the Maronite Church.[ citation needed ]

In 1738, Assemani was back in Lebanon, and a year later was made First Librarian of the Vatican library. He was also appointed by Carlo di Borbone as an official chronicler of the Kingdom of Naples.

In Rome he began elaborating plans to publish the most valuable of his collected works. His translation of Ephrem the Syrian's writings, his bibliography of Syriac writers from the Clementino-Vaticana Library, and his classification of Byzantine writings, are all worthy of mention.

In recognition of his achievements, he was appointed bishop on December 1, 1766 and consecrated titular archbishop of Tyre on December 7, 1766 [1] by Cardinal Henry Benedict Stuart Duke of York and Titular bishop of Frascati; his co-consecrators were his nephew Stefano Evodio Assemani, Titular bishop of Apamea in Bithynia, and Nicholas-Xavier Santamarie, Titular bishop of Cyrene. He died in Rome on 13 January 1768. [5] Part of his work was lost in his apartment during a fire on August 30, 1768. [6]

His brother and nephew were also notable orientalists.


When appointed librarian of the Vatican Library, he instantly began to carry into execution most extensive plans for editing and publishing the most valuable manuscript treasures of the Vatican. [3] His main work was Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-Vaticana in qua manuscriptos codices Syriacos, Arabicos, Persicos, Turcicos, Hebraicos, Samaritanos, Armenicos, Aethiopicos, Graecos, Aegyptiacos, Ibericos, et Malabaricos, jussu et munificentia Clementis XI Pontificis Maximi ex Oriente conquisitos, comparatos, et Bibliotecae Vaticanae addictos Recensuit, digessit, et genuina scripta a spuriis secrevit, addita singulorum auctorum vita, Joseph Simonius Assemanus, Syrus Maronita (Rome, 1719–1728), 9 vols folio.

Of the Bibliotheca the first three vols only were completed. The work was to have been in four parts:

  1. Syrian and allied manuscripts, orthodox, Nestorian and Jacobite
  2. Arabian manuscripts, Christian and Islam
  3. Coptic, Aethiopic, Persian and Turkish manuscripts
  4. Syrian and Arabian manuscripts not distinctively theological [7]

Only the first part was completed, but extensive preparations were made for the others. There is a German abridgment by August Friedrich Pfeiffer (Erlangen 1770-77) [8] and a Reprint (Hildesheim, New York: Olms o.J. ca. 1990).

Other works are:

Unpublished works



  1. 1 2 Graf, Georg (1960). "104". Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, Volume 3. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. pp. 444–445.
  2. [Simon is the name he was called in Italian, even though the name in Arabic is actually Shim'ūn.]
  3. 1 2 3 Chisholm 1911.
  4. "Archbishop Josephus Simon Assemani". . David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
  6. [Luzzatto, David Samuel. Samuel David Luzzatto, History of the Hebrew Language. [sl]: Gorgias Press LLC, 2005 S. 181 (English)]
  7. Oussani 1907.
  8. Assemani, Giuseppe Simone (1776). Joseph Simonius Assemanns orientalische Bibliothek oder Nachrichten von.

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