Robert Payne Smith’s Thesaurus Syriacus, along with the Supplement to the Thesaurus Syriacus compiled by Jessica Payne Margliouth, together represents the authoritative reference for the vocabulary and lexicography for Ancient Syriac. Essential for studying the Peshitta, the Syriac version of the New Testament, as well as other writings of the era, Thesaurus Syriacus and its companion volume are worthwhile additions to a scholar’s library.
Both Robert Payne Smith and his daughter Jessica Payne Margliouth sought to make the earliest translations of Scripture, and especially the Syriac Peshitta, more accessible for study by both students and scholars.
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Robert Payne Smith’s Thesaurus Syriacus represents a lifetime of research and continues, to this day, as the authoritative piece of lexicographical study of the Syriac language. Definitions, translation glosses, and references are all provided in Latin which can make the dictionary difficult to use for the English-only speaker. Nevertheless, the copious notes and comprehensive references to word usage make this lexicon invaluable for serious study of the Syriac.
Jessica Payne Margliouth, Robert Payne Smith’s daughter, continued her father research of the Syriac lexicography. Build from her father’s notes, in addition to her own studies, the Supplement to the Thesaurus Syriacus extends the usefulness of the dictionary with more vocabulary and references. Unlike her father’s full dictionary, this supplement is non-Syriac material is entirely in English.
Robert Payne Smith was Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and Canon of Christ Church from 1865 until 1870, when he was appointed Dean of Canterbury by Queen Victoria on the advice of William Ewart Gladstone.
Patrick J. Madden