Phoenician, Syriac, Kircher, Prodromus Coptus and the Vatican Press

Because the mosaic I’m about to treat comes from the region of Carthage, a formerly Phoenician site, I thought I should mention that Kircher believed the Phoenician script to have been Syriac, and in a sense it may have been; Syriac was believed by the Arabs and by Muslim scholars of medieval times to be older than the Hebrew script. It was also the language of culture and literature in the eastern Roman empire.

I add a note on the Rashi font, used by the Vatican Press in Kircher’s time.

Sanchuniathon Kircher Phoenician




  1. Postscript on Rashi font.

    In a catalogue to an exhibition entitled, From Written to Printed Text: Transmission of Jewish Tradition, is is noted with regard to a copy of ‘Gersonides’ i.e. Levi ben Gershom, his Perush ‘al ha-Torah, printed in Mantua in 1474, that the original text had been written

    “…between 1329 and 1338 by the Provençal exegete, philosopher and mathematician, Levi ben Gershom (d. 1344), this commentary was printed by Abraham Konat in 1474. Konat used the more rounded cursive letters, common in the Hebrew written manuscript tradition, for the printing of this biblical interpretation. This typeface would later emerge as the characteristic typeface for all commentaries”

    i.e. as ‘Rashi’ script.

    The script is thus at least as old as the Avignon period, and occurs in the same regions that we have Occitan and Judeo-Provencal, those being the most probable dialects for the inscriptions over the central emblems of the month roundels.


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