Potken, Johann

Potken, Johann a German Roman Catholic ecclesiastic who flourished in the 16th century, is noted in the literary world as the editor of the first printed edition of the Psalms in the Ethiopic language. In 1511, while at Rome, he betook himself to the study of the Ethiopic language, and two years later, in 1513, he published the Psalms in quarto. The book has no title, but on the first page a likeness of David with the harp is given. On the second page of the book commences the preface in Gothic letters, in which he states the reason for the edition of the Psalter in Ethiopic, or, as he calls it, in the Chaldee language: "Quae res mihi biennio vix elapso Romae accidit. Nam cum nonnullos habitu et colore AEthiopes, qui se Indos appellabant, psallentes, ac Dei genetricem et sanctos quam plures, praesertim Apostolos, per eos inter psallendum nominari advertissem, non sine difficultate ab iis didici, ipsos in eorum sacris Chaldaeis liteis s uti quaerens itaque interpretem, per quem cumeis loqui plenius possem, nec illum in urbe gentium olim domina, etiam neque inter Hebraeos quidem reperiens idoneum, demum ab ipsis erudiri, quoquo mode fieri posset, statui. Nec me mea fefellit spes. Tantum namque me ab eis didicisse mihi persuadeo, ut deo duce Psalterium David in ipsa vera lingua Chaldeca imprimi curare, in eorum qui peregrinas linguas nosse cupiunt, oblectationem valeam." As to the edition itself, the text is printed on a very fine paper, which is very surprising for those times. The superscriptions over each psalm are printed with red color. At the end of the Psalter is printed, "Impressum est opusculum hoc ingenio et impensis Joannis Potken prepositi ecclesiae sancti Georgii Coloniensis; Romse per Marcellunm Silber, alias Franck, et finitum die ultima Junii, anno salutis MDXIII." Then follows the Song of Songs on eight pages, and on four pages the alphabet of the language, together with a short grammar, is given. This edition is now very rare. In 1518 Potken, after having returned from Rome, published a new edition of the Psalter, with the Hebrew text and Greek and Latin translations, under the title Psalterium in quatuor limis, Hebraea, Graeca, Chaldaica, Latina. These two editions form the basis of the Ethiopic version of Walton's Polyglot, published in 1657. See Jicher, Gelehrten-Lexikon, s.v.; Alter,

Bibliographische Nachrichten, p. 79; Le Long-Mash, Bibliotheca Sacra, 2, 146; Rosenmüller, Handbuch, 3, 66 sq.; Winer, Handbuch der theolog. Literatur, p. 714; Furst, Biblith Judaica, 3, 118; Steinschneider, Bibliogr. Handbuch, p. 112; id. Catalogus Librorum Hebr. in Bibl. Bodleiana, p. 8, n. 32 a. (B. P.)

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