The Gennadius Library recently acquired from Vergos Auctions another Venetian rare first edition of the 17th century. The Thesauros Tetraglossos (Θησαυρός τῆς ἐγκυκλοπαιδικῆς βάσεως τετράγλωσσος) a work by the Cretan scholar Gerasimos Vlachos, was first printed in Venice in 1659 by Giovanni Pietro Pinelli: «Παρὰ Ἰωάννῃ Πέτρῳ τῷ Πινέλλῳ Δουκικῶ τυπογράφῳ ἐπιμελείᾳ καὶ διορθώσει Ἀρσενίου Ἱερομονάχου Καλούδη τοῦ Κρητός». The quadrilingual dictionary is an important addition to the 17th century Greek publications of the Gennadeion.
Gerasimos Vlachos was born in Candia (Heraklion, Crete) in 1605 or 1607. A scholar with special interest in philology, philosophy and theology, he was a monk, preacher, teacher and author. He became abbot of the Monastery of Agios Georgios Skalotos and had a significant involvement in the Cretan War (1645-1669). Not only did he participate in military operations but he also offered funds to the anti-Ottoman struggle. From 1655 he taught at the school of the Greek parish of Venice, and probably served as a pastor in the Orthodox Church of Saint George ‘of the Greeks.’ In 1662 he moved to Corfu where he became abbot of the monastery of Panagia at Paleopolis. In 1680 he was elected Metropolitan of Philadelphia by the Greek community of Venice, an office he would hold until his death in 1685.
His works consist of philosophical treatises, theological books and a large number of textbooks on grammar, logic and rhetoric. Of particular importance is his twelve-volume theological work Didaches (Διδαχές), which includes his sermons. He had also compiled a very rich library which he donated to the Greek community of Venice.
It is not a coincidence that two of his most important works were published by prominent publishers of Greek books in Venice: Andrea Giuliani published the book Harmonia definitiva entium, (Αρμονία οριστική των όντων, κατά τους Ελλήνων σοφούς), edited by the author’s nephew, Gregory Vlachos (1661), and in 1659 Giovanni Pietro Pinelli, published the dictionary of the modern Greek language, Thesauros Tetraglossos, edited by another nephew of Vlachos, Arsenios Kaloudis.
Dedicated to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand II, this first edition of the Thesauros is, according to Emile Legrand in his Bibliographie hellénique ou, Description raisonnée des ouvrages published par des Grecs au dix-septième siècle, “rarissime.”
The copy acquired by the Gennadeion is of further interest as it preserves its contemporary parchment binding, and is dotted with many notes by different hands that point to an important previous owner.
At the end of the book, on the fly-leaves and the endpaper, there are handwritten notes in Latin, Polish, and Greek. The first leaf bears the signature: “Dimitrius Filius Princepis Moldaviae” and the date “Anno Dominis 1689 (cancelled) Aprili 10.” This probably refers to Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), ruler of Moldavia (1693 and 1710-1711), a principality of the Ottoman Empire. The multitalented Cantemir was a true "homo universalis" of southeastern Europe at the turn of the 18th century. He spent 22 years in Constantinople, in a luxury mansion in Ortakoy, as a hostage of the Sultan, while his father was governor of Moldavia. He probably studied at the Phanar Greek Orthodox College (Megale tou Genous Schole) and joined the leading group of the Phanariots, as well as the dominant Ottoman elite. Cantemir was the first European to write a book on Ottoman history, and a polyglot: in addition to his native Romanian, he knew many languages and read Greek, ancient and modern, which he was taught in Iasi by the Cretan scholar-monk Jeremiah Kakavelas.
His handwritten note and signature probably suggests that the book belonged to the rich library of this famous ruler. His notes in Latin (and in Polish translation) are sayings on life, friendship, virtue, as well as verses from the Psalms of David. The Greek notes are later, perhaps from the 19th century, and refer to ancient Greek history and mythology.
A cute sketch at the beginning of the book depicting a woman in European (probably Venetian) attire dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries also points to a later 19th century owner.