Guillaume Postel

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
André Thevet's portrait by G. Postel

Guillaume Postel (Latin Guilhelmus Postellus ; born March 25, 1510 in Dolerie near the parish of Barenton , Département Manche , Basse-Normandie ; † September 6, 1581 in Paris ) was a French humanist and polymath (mathematician, cartographer , linguist, Kabbalist , orientalist ). He used the pseudonyms Rorisperge and Elias Pandocheus, among others.

life and work

Guillaume Postel's parents died of the plague when he was eight years old. The precocious Postel was already teaching in Sagy as a 13-year-old to pay for his trip to Paris. However, immediately upon arrival, he was robbed, fell seriously ill and spent 18 months in a hospital. He then worked in agriculture in the Beauce in order to be able to pay for his studies. He enrolled at the Collège Sainte-Barbe in Paris, where he servant of the Spanish scholar Juan Gelida was († in Bordeaux in 1558), of the Organon of Aristotle by Scholastic taught principles of his contemporary Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples were criticized.

Guillaume Postel studied Latin and Greek in Paris . In addition, he also learned Portuguese and Spanish. Parisian Jews taught him the beginnings of Hebrew, which he also studied from 1530 with François Vatable in the newly established Collège de France . Postel later also mastered Italian and Arabic, Syrian and other Semitic languages . His talent was noticed by the French King Francis I and his sister Marguerite of Navarre .

1535 Postel was the king by Konstantin Opel as an interpreter in the service of Jean de La Forêt sent that was there from 1534 to 1537, the first Ambassador of France and Sultan Suleiman for the Franco-Ottoman alliance against the Habsburg Emperor Charles V advertised. Postel returned to Paris with valuable and important manuscripts.


Guillaume Postel was professor of Greek, Hebrew and Arabic at the Collège des trois langues from 1539 to 1543 . His utopian work De orbis terræ concordia , published in Basel in 1544 , with references to similarities between the world religions, was censored by the Sorbonne , whereupon Postel lost the support of Francis I and walked to Rome. He joined the Jesuits there in June 1544 , but the novice could only stay there for eighteen months. He revealed his vision of French world domination to Ignatius von Loyola with a Pope elected in France and had to leave. He was initially able to stay in Rome, after which he led a restless wandering life as a mystic , astrologer and visionary. From the end of 1546 or the beginning of 1547 to 1549 he was in Venice , from there he traveled, supported by his publisher Daniel Bomberg , to Jerusalem , Egypt, the Holy Land and then with the help of the French ambassador d'Aramont to Constantinople, which he did in June Reached 1550. Postel might already be leaving town in autumn. He was in Venice in 1550 or 1551 and returned to Paris, probably via Dijon (1552). He was graciously received, but his patron, King Francis I, died and Postel was not given a position at the Collège de France. He taught at the Collège des Lombards and also preached his religious and political visions very successfully until he was forbidden to do so by King Henry II . In May 1553 he left Paris and went via Dijon and Besançon to Basel, where he met Kaspar Schwenckfeld , Sebastian Castellio and David Joris . Postel published a defense ( Apologia pro Serveto ) of the heretic Michael Servetus burned by John Calvin . Calvin responded with an accusing defense of Defensio contra Servetum and Postel had to leave Basel. He went to Venice to work on Syrian Bible texts. When he heard about a similar project in Vienna, he went there in late 1553. King Ferdinand I appointed him professor, but Postel only stayed for half a year.

His writings were to be indexed in Venice and he returned to Venice in May 1554 to defend himself. In 1555 he was accused and convicted of heresy in Venice, but, classified as amens , that is, a moron, released. Arrested in Ravenna for another book and transferred to Rome, he had been imprisoned in the papal prison Ripetta in Rome , a prison for Jews and heretics, from 1556 . The Ripetta was stormed by the population in 1559 after the death of Pope Paul IV and Postel was able to escape. After a few detours via Basel, Venice, Augsburg and Lyon, he returned to Paris in 1562. Renewed preaching repeatedly got him into trouble and in 1563 he had to retire to the monastery of St-Martin-des-Champs , where he died on September 6, 1581. However, he was not a prisoner in the true sense of the word and could leave the monastery from time to time. He continued to work on his writings there.

De la République des Turcs , Guillaume Postel, Poitiers , 1560

His merit lies in having made numerous Greek, Hebrew and Arabic texts known in European intellectual circles in the early modern period. These texts include:

  • Euclid's elements , in the version of the astronomer Nasīr ad-Dīn at-Tūsī ,
  • A work by the astronomer al-Charaqī from the 12th century: Muntaha al-idrak fī Taqasim al-Aflak ( "The final understanding of the divisions of the spheres"), a commentary on the Almagest of Ptolemy ,
  • More astronomical works by at-Tūsī and other Islamic astronomers who may have influenced Copernicus ' epicyclical theory ,
  • Latin translations of the Zohar , the Sefer Jetzira and the Sefer ha-Bahir , the basic works of the Jewish Kabbalah that were published before the first Hebrew prints of these works,
  • other Kabbalistic texts, including his own commentary on the Kabbalistic meaning of the menorah , published in 1548 in Latin and then in Hebrew.

Works (selection)

  • Linguarum duodecim characteribus differentium Alphabeta, introductio ac legendi modus longe facilimus (1538).
  • De Originibus seu de Hebraicae linguae antiquitate Liber (Paris 1538).
  • Alcorani seu legis Mahometi, et Evangelistarum concordiae liber (Paris 1543).
  • De rationibus Spiritus sancti Lib. II (Paris 1543).
  • De magistratibus Atheniensium liber (Basel 1543).
  • Libro de Magistrati de gli Atheniesi (Venice 1543, co-author: Cornelis Gemma-Frisius).
  • Sacrarum apodixeon, see Euclidis Christiani lib. II (Paris 1543, co-author: Giovanni Tatti).
  • De orbis terrae concoria libri quatuor (Basel 1544).
  • Absconditorvm À Constitutione mundi Clavis, qua mens humana tam in diuinis quàm in humanis per tinget ad interior uelaminis aeternae ueritatis (Basel 1546).
  • De nativitate Mediatoris Ultima, Nunc Futura, Et toti orbi terrarum in singulis ratione praeditis manifestanda, Opus (Basel 1547; digitized version ).
  • Panthenosia, Compositio Omnivm Dissidiorum circa aeternam ueritatem aut uerisimilitudienem uersantium (Basel around 1550, co-author: Johann Friedrich Heckel).
  • De Magistratibus Atheniensium Liber (Basel 1551).
  • De Etruriae regionis, quae prima in orbe Europaeo habitata est, originibus, institutis, religione et moribus ... commentatio (Florence 1551).
  • Abrahami Patriarchae libre Jezirah (Paris 1552).
  • Description & charte de la Terre Sainte , qui est la proprieté de Jesus Christ (?, 1552).
  • Sefer Jezirah. Translated and commented by Guillaume Postel. Reprint of the Paris 1552 edition. Edited, introduced and explained by Wolf Peter Klein. Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1994.
  • De universitate liber (Paris 1552, co-author Joannes Gueullartius).
  • L 'Histoire memorable des expeditions ... faicts par les Gaules ... (Paris 1552).
  • Libre de causis, seu de principiis & originibus naturae utriusque (Paris 1552).
  • La loy salique ... (Paris 1553, co-author: Sebastien Nivelle).
  • Les très-merveilleuses victoires des femmes du nouveau monde ... (Paris 1553, co-author: Jehan Ruelle).
  • La doctrine du siecle doré ou de l'évangelike regne de Jesus (Paris 1553, co-author: Jehan Ruelle).
  • De originibus seu de varia ... Latino incognita historia totius Orientis (Basel 1553).
  • De linguae Phoenicis ... excellentia ... Praefatio (Vienna 1554, co-author: Zimmermann).
  • Regii In Academia Viennensi Lingvarvm Peregrinarvm Et Mathematvm Professoris de Linguae Phoenicis siue Hebraicae excellentia & de necessario illius & Arabicae penes Latinos vsu, Praefatio, aut potius loquutionis humanaeue perfectionis Panegyris (Vienna 1554, co-author: Zimmermann).
  • Le prime nove del altro mondo: cioe ... La Vergine Venetiana (Padua 1555, co-author: Gratiosos Perchacino).
  • Epistola ad C. Schwenckfeldium (Jena 1556, co-author: Christianus Rhodius).
  • De la République de Turcs (1560).
  • Cosmographicae disciplinae compendium, in suum findem, hoc est ad divinae providentiae certissimam demonstrationem conductum (Basel 1561)
  • Discussio divinationis ... (Paris 1571).
  • De peregrine stella ... (Paris 1573, co-author: Gemmae Cornelii).
  • De peregrina stella quae superiore anno primum appaere coepit ([Basel] 1575)
  • Des histoires orientales et principalement des Turkes ou Tourchikes et Schitiques ou Tartaresques et aultres qui en sont descentues (Paris 1575, co-authors: de Marnet and Cauellat).
  • Les premiers élemens d'Euclides chestien (Paris 1579).


Web links

Commons : Guillaume Postel  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Illustrations de Description et charte de la Terre Sainct (French), five maps of Palestine, including the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, Postel, Guillaume, 1552, signature : ark: / 12148 / btv1b20000159, Bibliothèque nationale de France.
  2. Guillaume Postel (1510–1581), overview data, Bibliothèque nationale de France. ISNI : 0000000121364266