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The Quest for the Holiest Alphabet in the Renaissance

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Chapter Summary

The antiquarian passion for oriental alphabets, before and beyond the interest for languages that are written with these letters, peaks in Europe shortly before phase of geographic expansion, which marks the beginning of modernity around conventional date of 1492. The polymath describes then, according to a traditional model, the history of the invention of the alphabet, with the usual reference to classical sources, already collected long before him for a humanistic readership in Polydore Vergili's De inventoribus rerum. Due to a curious but not a seldom phenomenon of serendipity, the quest for a common and therefore unique alphabet, identified by many with the shape of Hebrew letters, brought during Renaissance to the discovery of a stunning plurality of alphabets. The beginning of Miqne Avram considers nature of Hebrew and its constitutive elements and presents a meditation by de Balmes, on the blueprint of Platonic Cratylus, on the superiority of Hebrew.

Keywords: De inventoribus rerum; Hebrew letters; oriental alphabets; Platonic Cratylus; Renaissance; traditional model

10.1163/9789004277052_012
/content/books/b9789004277052_012
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