Munlk, Salomon a Jewish writer of great celebrity, one of the most famous Shemitic scholars and Orientalists of our century, was born at Gross-Glogau, in Prussian Silesia, probably in 1802, though some put it 1805 and 1807. When fifteen years of age he left his native place for Berlin, where he studied under the famous philologist Buttmann at the gymnasium of the "Gray Cloister," and then attended lectures at the university. From Berlin he went to Bonn, where the Arabic scholar Freytag lectured, and under his guidance he took up the study of Arabic. In order to complete his studies he went in the autumn of 1829 to Paris, to attend the lectures of Sylvestre de Sacy, Abel Remusat, Eugene Bournouf, and Chezy, who soon became his friends, and by whose assistance he completed his studies in the Arabic, Persian, and Sanscrit. In 1835 he visited England, and spent some time at the University of Oxford, collecting materials for an edition of Maimonides's celebrated work, Moreh Nebuchim (Guide of the Erring).
Some essays which he wrote for the Journal Asiatique and the Dictionnaire des Science philosophiques attracted the attention of the learned world, and in 1840 he was appointed deputy-keeper of the Oriental MSS. in the Royal Library of Paris. In the same year Munk was invited to accompany Sir Moses Montefiore and M. Cremieux to the. East, in behalf of the persecuted Jews of Damascus, to which he gladly consented, and secured while in Egypt many interesting MSS. in Arabic relating to the early literature of the Karaites, and other subjects of early Arabic literature. On his return he devoted himself so assiduously to his Arabic studies that he eventually lost his eyesight, and from 1852 was entirely blind. He had to relinquish his office in the library, and lived in retirement until 1865, when he succeeded M. Renan as professor of Shemitic languages in the College of France. On February 1 he delivered his inaugural address, Cours de langues, Hebraique, Chaldaique, et Syriaque. All scholars of France were elated at the appointment, even those who regretted the deposition of Renan. The clergy also, Protestants as well as Roman Catholics, hailed the choice with joy. The Union, well known for its ultramontane tendencies, which could hardly have been supposed to favor a Jewish incumbent in the chair just made vacant by a Rationalist, thus commented: "A weak, blind man, who only by the sense of touch can build up the world of his thoughts, traverses the centuries of nations, cities, idioms. What a spiritual power! He is an ornament to science, for he teaches the scholar how to love. France possesses in him the greatest philologist, and though a mysterious decision of a kind Providence has robbed him of his physical light, the renown which he has gained, and the greater name which he will yet earn, are sure to shine in splendor for all times, and the light which he has shed into the darkness of Phoenician knowledge will never die out." But he soon after died, February 6, 1867, lamented by all who knew him. Munk was an authority in the field of Oriental languages, and his works will always be highly esteemed. His principal publications are, Reflexions sur le culte des anciens Hebreux, dans ses rapports avec les autres cultes de l'antiquite (Reflections upon the worship of the ancient Hebrews, in its connection with the other worships of antiquity) (Paris, 1833): — Notice sur Rabbi Saadia Gaon et sa version Arabe d'Isaie, etc. (ibid. 1838): — Notice sur Joseph ben-Jehoudah, etc. (ibid. 1842): — Commentaire de R. Tanhoum de Jerusalem sur le livre de Habakkuck, etc. (ibid. 1843): — L'Inscription Phanicienne de Marseille, etc. (ibid. 1847): — Palestine, description geographique, historique, et archeologique (ibid. 1845; Germ. transl. by Prof. M. A. Levy, Leipsic, 1871-72, 2 volumes): — Notice sur
Aboul-walid Merwan ibn Djana'h, etc. (ibid. 1850): — Melanges de philosophie Juive et Arabe (ibid. 1849); a part of which, the Esquisse historique de la philosophie chez les Juifs, has been transl. into German by B. Beer (Leipsic, 1852): — but Munk's chef d'oeuvre is his Moreh Nebuchin of Moses Maimonides (q.v.) in Arabic and French, with critical, literary, and explanatory notes, under the title Le guide des igares, traite de theologie et de philosophic (volume 1-3, Paris, 185 666). See Furst, Bibl. Jud. 2:407; Frankel, Monatsschrift, 1867, pages 120-123, 453-459; Geiger, Jid. Zeitschrift, 1867, pages 1-16; Journal Asiatique, July 1867; Etheridge, Introduct. to Hebr. Literat. page 482 sq.; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 11:538, 540, 545; Jost, Gesch. d. Juden. u.s. Sekten, 3:363, 364; Cassel, Leitfadenfiur Gesch. u. Literat. pages 115, 117; Erentheil, Jidische Chanrakterbilder (Pesth, 1867, 8vo), pages 94-106; Jidisches Athenceum, page 168 sq.; Lewes, Hist. of Philos. volumr 2; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. 1:109 sq., 421. (J.H.W.)