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ROSSI, GIOVANNI BERNARDO DE:

Italian Christian Hebraist; born Oct. 25, 1742, in Castelnuovo; died in Parma March, 1831. He studied in Ivrea and Turin. In Oct., 1769, he was appointed professor of Oriental languages at the University of Parma, where he spent the rest of his life. His inaugural lecture on the causes of the neglect of Hebrew study was published in 1769 at Turin. De Rossi devoted himself to three chief lines of investigation—typographical, bibliographical, and textcritical. Influenced by the example of Kennicott, he determined on the collection of the variant readings of the Old Testament, and for that purpose collected a large number of manuscripts and old prints. In order to determine their bibliographical position he undertook a critical study of the annals of Hebrew typography, beginning with a special preliminary disquisition in 1776, and dealing with the presses of Ferrara (Parma, 1780), Sabbionetta (Erlangen, 1783), and, later, Cremona (Parma, 1808), as preparatory to his two great works, "Annales Hebræo-Typographici" (Parma, 1795, sec. xv.) and "Annales Hebræo-Typographici ab 1501 ad 1540" (Parma, 1799). This formed the foundation of his serious study of the early history of Hebrew printing (see Incunabula). In connection with this work he drew up a "Dizionario Storico degli Autori Ebrei e delle Loro Opere" (Parma, 1802; German translation by Hamberger, Leipsic, 1839), in which he summed up in alphabetical order the bibliographical notices contained in Wolf, and, among other things, fixed the year of Rashi's birth; and he also published a catalogue of his own manuscripts (1803) and books (1812). All these studies were in a measure preparatory and subsidiary to his "Variæ Lectiones Veteris Testamenti" (Parma, 1784-88), still the most complete collection of variants of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. In order to compile it he visited all the chief libraries of Italy, and through its compilation he obtained the knighthood of St. George at the court of Parma and seductive offers from Pavia, Madrid, and Rome. As examples of the use of his work he issue a specimen of the Targum on Esther (Rome, 1782; 2d ed., revised, Tübingen, 1783). He was also interested in the polemics of Judaism and Christianity, and wrote on this subject his "Della Vana Aspettazione degli Ebrei del Loro Re Messia" (Parma, 1773), which he defended in a pamphlet two years later; and he further published a list of antichristian writers, "Bibliotheca Judaica Antichristiana" (Parma, 1800). A select Hebrew lexicon, in which he utilized Parḥon's work (Parma, 1805), and an introduction to Hebrew (ib. 1815) conclude the list of those of his works which are of special Jewish interest.

Bibliography:
  • Nuova Enciclopedia Italiana;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. s.v.
T. J.
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