Wakefield, Robert°

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WAKEFIELD, ROBERT ° (Wakfeldus ; d. 1537), English Hebraist and Orientalist. Born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, Wakefield was educated at Cambridge and then served as professor of Hebrew at Louvain (1519) and at Tuebingen (1520–23) before being recalled to England to serve as a chaplain to Henry viii. He taught at Cambridge from 1524 and in 1530 was appointed first professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford, where his students included the future Cardinal Pole. His pioneering work, Oratio de laudibus et utilitate trium linguarum, Arabicae, Chaldaicae, et Hebraicae, atque idiomatibus hebraicis quae in utroque testamento inveniuntur (London, 1524), "On the value of Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew," was the first English publication to contain Hebrew and Arabic type. Dedicated to Henry viii, it displays Wakefield's considerable rabbinic scholarship and his familiarity with medieval Hebrew literature. A supplementary work, Syntagma de Hebraeorum Codicum incorruptione… (London, c. 1530), was published with an address on the study of Hebrew which the author delivered at Oxford in the same year. Both works were printed by Caxton's successor, Wynkyn de Worde. Wakefield also wrote a Paraphrasis in Librum Koheleth (n.d.). Wakefield held the leading Jewish writers of the Middle Ages in high regard and believed that Hebrew was God's own language.

His younger brother, thomas wakefield (d. 1575), was appointed first regius professor of Hebrew at the University of Cambridge in 1540. His temporary replacement in this post by Paulus *Fagius (1549–53) is thought to have been brought about by his loyalty to Catholicism. In 1569 Thomas Wakefield was finally replaced by the convert Immanuel *Tremellius.


R. Loewe, in: V.D. Lipman (ed.), Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History (1961), 138; Steinschneider, Cat Bod, 2713 no. 7357. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman]