Guillaume Postel  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Guillaume Postel (March 25 1510September 6 1581), was a French linguist, astronomer, Cabbalist, diplomat, professor, and religious universalist.

Born in the village of Barenton in Basse-Normandie, Postel made his home in the vicinity of Paris.

Adept at Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac and other Semitic languages, as well as the Classical languages of Ancient Greek and Latin, he soon came to the attention of the French court. In 1536, seeking an alliance with the Ottoman Turks, Francis I sent Postel as the official interpreter of the French embassy to the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in Constantinople. Postel was also apparently assigned to gather interesting Eastern manuscripts for the royal library.

In Linguarum Duodecim Characteribus Differentium Alphabetum Introductio, An Introduction to the Alphabetic Characters of Twelve Different Languages, published in 1538, Postel became the first scholar to recognize the inscriptions on Judean coins from the period of the Great Jewish Revolt as Hebrew written in the ancient "Samaritan" characters.

In 1544, in De orbis terrae concordia, Concerning the Harmony of the Earth, Postel advocated a universalist world religion. The thesis of the book was that all Jews, Muslims and heathens could be converted to the Christian religion once all of the religions of the world were shown to have common foundations and that Christianity best represented these foundations. He believed these foundations to be the love of God, the praising of God, the love of Mankind, and the helping of Mankind.

Postel was a relentless advocate for the unification of all Christian churches, a common concern during the period of the Reformation, and remarkably tolerant of other faiths during a time when such tolerance was unusual.

Postel is believed to have spent the years 1548 to 1551 on another trip to the East, traveling to the Holy Land and Syria to collect manuscripts. After this trip, Postel earned the appointment of Professor of Mathematics and Oriental Languages at the College Royal. After several years, however, Postel resigned his professorship and traveled all over Central Europe, including Austria and Italy, returning to France after each trip.

Through Postel's efforts at manuscript collection, translation, and publishing, he brought many Greek, Hebrew and Arabic texts into European intellectual discourse in the Late Renaissance and Early Modern periods. Among these texts are:

Working on his translations of the Zohar and the Bahir in Venice (1547-1549) , Postel, recovering from his expulsion from the Company of Jesus in Rome (1543-1547) became the confessor of the blessed and stigmatised Mother Joan who was responsible for the kitchen of the hospital of San Giovanni e Paolo. Her point of view, although illiterate, on his present work inspired him and on his return from a second journey to the East (1549-1551) he dedicated two works to her memory: Les Très Merveilleuses Victoire des Femmes du Nouveau Monde and La Vergine Venetiana . Based on a vision and claiming his own immortality these deepened his conflict with Rome ( To Ignatius de Loyola,like himself a former pupil of the Collège Sainte-Barbe, he had claimed to be the " Evangelical Pope of Universal Concord " ). Subsequently Postel was jailed for this heresy, and shipped off to the Papal prisons in Rome as being insane. He was released when the prison was opened upon the death of Paul IV. After several years in Paris, he was sentenced to house arrest by the parlement of Paris and spent the last eleven years of his life in the monastery of St. Martin des Champs.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Guillaume Postel" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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