Darmesteter, Arsène

views updated


DARMESTETER, ARSÈNE (1846–1888), French philologist and authority in Romance languages. Darmesteter, who was born at Château-Salins (Lorraine), was appointed lecturer in Romance languages at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris in 1872. In 1877 he was appointed lecturer in French language and literature at the Sorbonne. He collaborated with Adolphe Hatzfeld in one of the most important modern dictionaries of the French language. He also taught at the Ecole Rabbinique, co-founded the Société des Etudes Juives, and the *Revue des Etudes Juives (1879), to which he contributed several articles.

Darmesteter's first contribution to Jewish scholarship was his Le Talmud, written in 1866 and published in Reliques Scientifiques (1890). He soon concentrated on the French words used by medieval Bible and Talmud commentators, *Rashi in particular. His Glosses et Glossaires hebreux-français du moyenâge (in Romania, 1, 1872), was the first attempt to compile a dictionary of 11th-century French, based on these commentators. His most important work in this field is the dictionary of Rashi's *la'azim in the Bible (Les gloses françaises de Rashi dans la Bible, 1909), and in his Talmud commentary Les gloses françaises dans les commentaires talmudiques de Rashi (1929). This was edited by D.S. *Blondheim, who published on his own a second volume of the work (1937). Darmesteter published the so-called Deux élégies du Vatican, commemorating the 13 Jewish martyrs of Troyes (1288), with a commentary (in Romania, 3, 1874). In 1890 his brother James published a three-part collection of Arsène's writings (Reliques Scientifiques), consisting of his general Jewish studies, his Judeo-French ones, and a memoir and bibliography.

His brother james darmesteter (1849–1894), an Orientalist, was born at Château-Salins. He studied Oriental languages in Paris specializing in Indo-Iranian studies, and became professor at the Collège de France in 1886. Apart from many publications in this field, such as the translation of the Zend-Avesta (the sacred Books of the Zoroastrian religion) into French (1842) and English (1880), he published material on the relationship between Zoroastrianism and Judaism and a series of essays Les Prophètes d'Israel (1892), which was his credo. Darmesteter also prepared French editions of Shakespeare and Byron and wrote essays on English literature (1883).


Annuaire de l'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes (1895), 17–40 (with James' bibliography); G. Paris, Penseurs et Poètes (1896), 1–6; A. France, in: Vie Litteraire, 4 (1888); A. Spire, Quelques Juifs et demi-Juifs (1913), 199–272.