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COLORNI (COLORNO), ABRAHAM:

Italian engineer; born at Mantua about 1530. His great skill in his profession caused him to be much sought after, and in 1578 he held the position of engineer at the court of Alfonso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, who, in 1588 sent him to Prague. Soon after Colorni, with his son Simon, went to Mantua, looking after Alfonso's private affairs; and then returned to the court of Alfonso d'Este, who, at the request of the duke Frederick, sent him to his court at Württemberg in 1597.

Colorni was famous not only as an engineer and mechanician, but also as one of the greatest mathematicians and archeologists of his age, and above all as a man of charming manners and many accomplishments, including dueling, his skill in which he once had occasion to exercise against a slanderer. Tommaso Garzoni, in his work "La Piazza Universale," dedicates a sonnet to Colorni, and in a subsequent letter speaks in very high terms of him. He enumerates his achievements in the field of mechanics and his inventions, and expresses the wish that the man who possesses such high qualities should also become a Christian. Among Colorni's inventions was a kind of ten-chambered revolver, of which, it is said, he made 2,000 at the request of Alfonso.

Colorni was the author of the following works: "Entimetria," rules for the measurement of straight lines (mentioned by Garzoni); "Tavole," mathematical tables (also mentioned by Garzoni); "Clavicula Solomonis," translated into Italian, at the request of the Duke of Mantua, from the Hebrew work on magic, "Mafteaḥ Shelomoh" ("Mantua, 1580 ?). This translation served as a model for the French version (still extant in several manuscripts) entitled "La Clavicule du Très Savant Solomon, dans Laquelle les Secrets des Secrets Sont Ouverts et Découverts." It was probably against this work that Colorni, according to Garzoni, wrote a book in which he derided physiognomy and chiromancy. Colorni was also the author of a treatise upon the art of writing in cipher, entitled "Scotographia o Vere Scienza di Scrivere Oscuro Facilissima et Securissima per Qualsi Voglia Lingua" (Prague, 1593), and dedicated to Rodolph II.

Bibliography:
  • Rossi, Dizionario, p. 93;
  • Tiraboschi, Storia Letteraria. vii. iii. 1319;
  • Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. iv. 769, 976;
  • Ravenna, in Vessillo Israelitico, 1892. pp. 38-41;
  • Mortara, Indice, p. 14;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 2298;
  • idem, in Monatsschrift, 1899, p. 185 et seq.;
  • idem, Hebräische Uebers. p. 938;
  • Giuseppi Jaré, Abramo Colorni, Ingegnere Mantovano ccc., Con Ducumenti Inediti, Mantua, 1874.
J. I. Br.
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