Jacobus Trigland the Younger, 1652-1705, was a highly respected Professor of Theology, and the Hebrew Language at Leiden University. He was particular involved in the field known as “Christian Hebraism,” the study of Hebrew literature from all eras, in parallel with the Humanistic study of Greek and Latin.
As the 17th century drew to a close, he began researching a Jewish sect known as “Karaism.” Because they reject the Talmud, the Karaites were of massive interest to Christian Hebraists, but information on them was difficult to come by. Trigland managed to make inroads into Karaite communities, and, in 1698, began a friendly correspondence with the Karaite religious leader Mordecai ben Nissan. By 1703, this fruitful correspondence had resulted in Trigland’s Diatribe de Secta Karaeorum, a very impressive and thorough discussion, written in very erudite and classicizing Latin, of the history and beliefs of the Karaite sect (I am currently preparing a bilingual, annotated edition of this text for publication by The Karaite Press.)
In contrast to the Diatribe, Trigland’s correspondence with Mordecai was entirely in Hebrew, and shows a surprising degree of mastery not only of the Hebrew language, but also of its epistolary conventions.
Leiden University has in its archives a few letters Trigland wrote in Latin, which have, thus far, remained unpublished.
This paper will discuss Trigland’s extant letters. In particular, how the style of his Latin letters compares to that of his Hebrew letters, and the Latin of the Diatribe.
The World of Neo-Latin: Epistolography