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William Bentley (1759-1819) Middle Eastern Language Manuscripts Collection

William Bentley (1759-1819) Middle Eastern Language Manuscripts Collection

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WILLIAM BENTLEY (1759-1819) MIDDLE EASTERN LANGUAGE MANUSCRIPTS COLLECTION, circa 1692-1806





Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Bentley, William, 1759-1819
Title:William Bentley (1759-1819) Middle Eastern Language Manuscripts Collection
Dates:circa 1692/1806
Quantity:3.5 linear feet (7 boxes)
Abstract:This collection of William Bentley's Middle Eastern language manuscripts is comprised of 26 volumes handwritten primarily in Arabic or Persian, which Bentley acquired via Salem mariners and merchants trading in Arabia and India, beginning in 1805, and stretching to just months before Bentley's death in December 1819.
Collection Number:MSS 488

Series List


Scope and Content Note

This collection of William Bentley's Middle Eastern language manuscripts is comprised of 26 volumes handwritten primarily in Arabic or Persian, which Bentley acquired via Salem mariners and merchants trading in Arabia and India, beginning in 1805, and stretching to just months before Bentley's death in December 1819. One volume is written in Tamil. Each volume has a numerical designation, followed, when available, by Bentley's own numerical designation for the item, which gives an idea of each item's place in the original order of Bentley's library. Immediately following this, you will see the language, the title, and the author, of the item, as well as a few notes for context and reference. Bentley called this collection his "Oriental Manuscripts Collection."


While most of the items have been successfully identified, there are a few that remain obscure. After Bentley himself, an initial attempt to catalogue this collection was made by Edward E. Salisbury, Yale Professor of Arabic and Sanskrit, who published a descriptive list of thirteen of these items in 1851 (see Bibliography below).


Biographical Sketch

Rev. William Bentley was born on June 22, 1759, in Boston, the son of Joshua Bentley and Elizabeth Paine. Rev. Bentley's grandfather, William Paine, was the benefactor of his education at Harvard College which he entered in 1773 at the age of fourteen, studying Middle Eastern languages with Stephen Sewall, Hancock Professor of Hebrew and Other Oriental Languages. After graduating with high honors in 1777, Bentley taught at Boston grammar schools for three years, until he was appointed a tutor in Latin and Greek at Harvard. During this time, he developed a growing reputation as a popular speaker in Boston.


On September 24, 1783, Rev. Bentley was ordained as the pastor of the East Church in Salem. He served as a co-pastor for two years before becoming the sole pastor of East Church in 1785, a position he held until his death.


Rev. Bentley was an accomplished scholar who had a reading knowledge of more than twenty different languages, including a familiarity with Arabic and Persian. He also wrote and spoke most of the popular European languages. Rev. Bentley also had many varied interests including, but not limited to, natural history, coins, and rare books; nothing escaped his notice. His days were filled with writing sermons for the forthcoming Sabbath, writing to his many correspondents both in the United States and abroad, reading books both in English and foreign languages, and recording detailed information in his diaries of the births, baptisms, marriages, illnesses, and deaths that had occurred in the parish, and the arrival and departure of all sailing vessels owned by parishioners. Rev. Bentley also contributed to the town newspapers, The Gazette and The Republic by writing two columns twice a week for close to thirty years.


During the administration of President Thomas Jefferson, he was a candidate for the chaplaincy in Congress, a position he declined. Later, when Jefferson was planning the construction of the University of Virginia, he not only consulted with Bentley, he reportedly extended Bentley the honor of becoming the University's first president, but Bentley declined this position too, citing "he had been so long wedded to the East Church, he could not think of asking a divorce from it."1


Rev. Bentley died unexpectedly from angina pectoris in the Crowninshield home on December 29, 1819.


1William Bentley, "Biographical Sketch of William Bentley" by Joseph G. Waters in the introduction to The Diary of William Bentley, D.D., Volume 1 (Salem: Essex Institute, 1905), xxi.


Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Ibn Ājurrūm, Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad, 1273 or 1274-1323
Arabic language--Grammar--Dictionaries
Khusraw va Shīrīn
Poetry
Prayers
Qurʼan--Quotations

Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.


Administrative Information

Copyright

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

William Bentley (1759-1819) Middle Eastern Language Manuscripts Collection, MSS 488, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.

Provenance

Bentley bequeathed much of his manuscript library to the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, at his death in 1819, including at least 20 Middle Eastern language items. Formerly housed in the library of the AAS, the manuscripts are currently on indefinite loan to the Peabody Essex Museum of Salem, Massachusetts.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Tamara Gaydos and Jeff Einboden, June 2014 and January 2016.


Related Material

Einboden, Jeffrey. The Islamic Lineage of American Literary Culture: Muslim Sources from the Revolution to Reconstruction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.


Johnson, Allen, ed. Dictionary of American Biography, Volume 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1957.


Salisbury, Edward E. "Valuable Arabic Manuscripts, at Worcester, Mass.", Journal of the American Oriental Society 2 (1851), pp. 337-9 (cited below as JAOS [1851]).


Related Collections

William Bentley Papers, 1700, 1784-1819, MH 36


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