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Professor M. Siotes has recently re-published the famous letter

of Adhamantios Korais, written in 1808, to the British and For­
eign Bible Society. This, he comments, "contains the broad out­
line of the negotiations between Korais and the Society; the de­
tails remain unknown to us. Unfortunately no other letter from
the notorious correspondence between Korais and the Bible Soci­
ety has been preserved, nor has any other information pertinent
to it." 1 Similarly K. Th. Dhimaras has written that "unfortu­
nately the archives (of the Society) have preserved no trace of
this episode, and thus we do not know how it ended, nor do we
know the reason for the breaking off of this first co-operation of
Vamvas with the Protestants in such matters."2 As Mr. Dhimaras
observes, the original correspondence is no longer preserved in
the Bible Society's archives,3 yet a study of the Society's minute
books and of an unpublished manuscript history (written c. 1830)
of the early years of the Society by its first honorary librarian
does throw more light on this episode, and in particular on the
influence which Korais's letter had on the Society's deliberations.
The first re-edition of this letter, with a critical apparatus, was that
of Ph. I. Iliou,4 in which many points arising in the letter were
admirably clarified. It is now possible, however, to give a slightly
fuller version of the letter than that previously known and to
clarify, in points of detail, Mr. Iliou's notes. It can now also be
seen that the incident did not simply peter out, as Mr. Dhimaras

M . Siotes, "Constantine Oikonomos of the House of Oikonomos
and the Operations of the British Bible Society in Greece (1780-1857),"
The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, VI ( I 9 6 0 ) , 10-12. Originally
published in Greek as Ό Κωνσταντίνος Οικονόμος δ έξ Ο'ιχονόμων καΐ αϊ
μεταφράσεις της Άγιας Γραφής είς την νεοελληνικήν, Thessaloniki, 1959.
Κ. Th. Dhimaras, Δυο φίλοι, Κοραής καΐ Βάμβας, Athens, 1953, 18.
Ibid., 69.
Ph. I. Iliou, 'Ανέκδοτα και ξεχασμένα γράμματα από την αλληλογραφία
του Κοραή, in "Ερανος είς Άδαμάντιον Κοραήν, Athens, 1965 (originally
published 1953), 83-6, 118-120.

has remarked, "without seeming to have any ending."5 Rather,

it is clear that Korais's advice was taken very seriously by the
Society, whose early policy in publishing a modern Greek New
Testament was considerably influenced by his comment and advice.
It is regrettable that more complete records of this incident are
not preserved in the Society's archives, but at least it is now pos-
sible to give a somewhat fuller account of this interesting and
sometimes misunderstood incident.
Korais's relations with England and Englishmen were few.
Yet he had a great admiration for England and English institu-
tions. In a letter of 2 September 1793 he wrote to Chardon de la
Rochette that "parmi toutes les nations européennes, il n'y avoit
que les Anglois que le peuple grec estimoit par instinct. J'ai sou-
vent cherché à découvrir les motifs d'une telle prédilection; et je
n'ai pu les trouver que dans la manière dont cette nation s'étoit
toujours comportée vis-à-vis les Turcs: manière qui forçoit les
Turcs mêmes à les respecter, tandis qu'ils couvroient de mépris
tout le reste de l'Europe."6 Yet he later seems to have become dis-
illusioned with England, for in 1805 we find Aristokles, in the
Dialogue between two Greek inhabitants of Venice, when they
heard of the brilliant victories of the Emperor Napoleon, proclaim-
ing the futility of the Greek nation looking to England for aid in
fulfilling its aspirations. "What," he declares, ,fis the attitude
of the English towards other nations . . . ? More selfish, more
addicted to commerce and more miserly than even the ancient
Chalcedonians, they are engaged night and day only in increasing
their own success, even if this entails being nurtured with the
blood of the entire world . . . they conquer India not to liberate
the Indians from the native tyrants but daily to enrich themselves
through the sweat of the Indians . . ,"7 Yet Korais did have con-
tacts with a number of English scholars, and his friendship with
Thomas Burgess, the Bishop, campaigner against slavery and clas-

Op. cit., 69.
«'Αδαμάντιος Κοραής, 'Αλληλογραφία, I (1774-1798), ed. Κ. Th. Dhi.
maras, Athens, 1964, 360. Korais's early interest in English affairs is well
illustrated in his correspondence, e.g. ibid., I, 161-2 and 109, where he
compares Fox with Aeschines and Pitt with Aristeides.
Τί πρέπει νά κάμωσιν οι Γραικοί είς τάς παρούσας περιστάσεις; Διάλο­
γος δυο Γραικών κατοίκων της Βενετίας, όταν ηκουσαν τάς λαμπράς νίκας του
του Αΰτοκράτορος Ναπολέοντος, Venice, 1805, 7.

sical scholar, is well-known.8 Two letters of Korais were pub-

lished by Robert Holmes, for whose edition of the Septuagint
Korais collated manuscripts over a period of some fifteen years,
in his The ninth annual account of the collation of the MSS. of
the Septuagint version,* and Byron's friend John Cam Hobhouse
published a long letter from Korais in the second edition of his
gravels in Albania and other provinces of Turkey in 1809 and
What has not been generally known is that D' Ansse de Villoi-
son, the famous classical scholar and close friend of Korais, wrote
to Burgess, whom he had met during the latter's continental tour
in 1787, asking him to find an academic position for his young
protégé, Korais. This we learn from Burgess's biographer, J. S.
Harford, who, writing in the 1830's, had access to Korais's cor-
respondence with Burgess which apparently began in 1788 and
continued to circa 1803.11 "A young Greek," Harford wrote, "a
native of Smyrna, of the name of CoraT was introduced to Bur-
gess by Villoison who hoped "that some appointment, suited to a

Burgess published Korais's emendations on Hippocrates "ab Auctore
eruditissimo sagacissimoque, hodie medico Parisiensi, V. G. Corayio" in
his Musei Oxoniensis litterarii conspectus: accedunt pro speciminibus Co-
rayii emendationes in Hippocratem . . . , Oxford, 1792, 11- 23, fase II,
London, 1797, 1-11. This episode is described at greater length by I.
Bywater in "A bio-bibliographical note on Coray," The Journal of Hellenic
Studies, I (1880), 305-7. A number of letters, which were apparently un-
known to Bywater, from Korais to Burgess are now in the Bodleian Library,
Oxford. These letters, which indicate that Korais's contacts with English-
men were wider than has been supposed, together with an account of Ko-
rais's relations with Burgess, will be published in a forthcoming volume
of the Jahrbuch der Osterreichischen Byzantinischen Gessellschaft.
»Oxford, 1797, 31-3. Cf. also Iliou, op. cit., 68, 75-7, 105, 110-12,
113 and Korais, 'Αλληλογραφία, I, 123, 368, 451-2, 505. Holmes also
paid tribute to Korais in the first volume of his edition of the Septuagint,
"CI. Corayum ad Parisios progressus nominandum habeo, natu Graecum,
olim ex Academia Montpelliensi, deinde vero Medicum Parisiensem; vi-
rum, in quo sunt literae exquisitae, et facultas ad Criticen Graecam egregia,
quam in Theophrasto et Hippocrate felicissime comprobavit," Vetus Testa-
mentum Graecum cum varus lectionibus, Oxford, 1798.
London, 1855, II 485-9. Cf. Κ. Amantos, Ποιήματα καΐ Αλλά δημο-
βιεύματα τσδ 'Αδαμαντίου Κοραή, Ελληνικά, VI (1933), 178-183.
In a letter, dated 17 November 1808, to Alexandres Vasileiou in
Vienna, Korais wrote that his long correspondence with Burgess had ended
some four or five years previously. Korais, 'Αλληλογραφία, II (1799-1809),
Athens, 1966, 486.

man of learning, might be procured for him in England." Had

such a position been found in England for Korais his subsequent
career might, of course, have been very different. Prevented by
poverty from publishing his critical works "the literary ardour of
this young man comes into touching contrast with his poverty in
the course of his correspondence" with Burgess, who sought to
help the young scholar by publishing in his Museum Oxoniense
"a specimen of his learned lucubrations."12
Harford also published an interesting letter from Villoison,
dated Paris 13 March 1791, thanking Burgess for arranging for
the publication at the university press at Oxford of Korais's mag-
num opus on Hippocrates. This letter was not mentioned by
Charles Joret in his study of D'Ansee de Villoison,13 nor does it
seem to have been subsequently noticed. It is perhaps worth re-
printing here, as it adds further confirmation of the very high re-
gard Villoison had for Korais as a classical scholar.
Je profite avec bien d'empressement du premier moment que
j'ai de libre pour vous témoigtier ma vive et éternelle reconno-
issance du service important que vous avez rendu à la littéra-
ture Grecque, à l'Antiquité, à la Médecine, à moi, Monsieur,
et à M. Corai, en déterminant l'Université d'Oxford à se
charger de l'impression de son ouvrage immortel. Vous en
serez étonné quand vous le verrez, et vous conviendrez qu'il
n'y a point de livre de critique qui renferme tant de décou-
vertes. Il a restitué Hippocrate d'un bout à l'autre, et che-
min faisant, il corrige une foule de passages d'Hérodote,
d'Athénée, Platon, Sophocle, Aristophane, Hésychius, &c.
Il me montre son travail à mesure qu'il avance, et mon admi-
ration va toujours en croissant. Son premier volume sera
prêt et livré à l'impression dans dix mois. Dieu veuille seu-
lement conserver des jours si précieux aux lettres! Sa santé
est très foible, et la position précaire où il se trouve. La pau-
vreté où il est réduit, ses inquiétudes sur l'avenir, aggravent
ses infirmités. De revers ont fait perdre à cet homme une
fortune considérable, dont jouissoient ses parens qui étoient

J. S. Harford, The Life of Thomas Burgess, D.D. . . . , London,
1840, 159-160.
C. Joret, D'Ansse de Villoison et l'Hellénisme en France pendant le
dernier tiers du XVIIIe siècle . . . . , Paris, 1910. For Korais's relations
with Villoison see pp. 344-51, 356-67, 422, 460, 462.

les plus forts négocians de Smyrne. Je vous prie en grâce

d'insérer dans vos deux premiers cahiers de vos "Observa-
tiones Miscellaneae Criticae" toutes les observations qu'il
vous a envoyées, afin d'annoncer son ouvrage à l'Europe
It was to this proposed edition of Hippocrates at the University
press in Oxford that the passage in the register of the "delegate's
proceedings," noted by Bywater, refers: "Mr. Coray having ap-
plied to the Board to know whether they will treat with him for
his Observations on Hippocrates, Mr. Burgess is requested to write
to him for further explanation of his proposals."15 It it clear from
Villoison's letter and from Burgess's preface to the Musei Oxo-
niensis that Korais's edition of Hippocrates was in fact accepted
for publication by the University press although it wasfinallypub-
lished, not in Oxford, but in Paris in 1800, presumably on account
of the breakdown of communications between France and England
consequent on the outbreak of war.16
In view of Korais's friendship with Burgess, who, besides be-
ing a classical scholar, was a bishop of the Church of England,
it is not surprising that it has generally been assumed that it was
Burgess who wrote to Korais on behalf of the Bible Society and
that it was to Burgess that Korais replied. The version of Korais's
letter which was reprinted by Ph. I. Iliou and M. Siotes was origi-
nally published in the fifth annual report of the British and For-
eign Bible Society (1809)17 with no signature, no indication of
to whom it was addressed, and the uninformative heading "Ex-
tract of a letter from a learned native of Greece," as was the So-
ciety's common practice at this time. A passage in a letter from
Korais to Alexandras Vasileiou, written at the same time as his
letter to the Bible Society, understandably led Ph. I. Iliou to the
conclusion that Burgess was the recipient of the letter:
*Τπονοεΐς ότι ή Βιβλική εταιρεία αποβλέπει είς εμέ, καΐ έχεις
Harford, op. cit., 160-1. It is not surprising to find Korais complain­
ing to Protopsaltis in a letter of July 1790 that Villoison tended towards
"des éloges excessifs," Joret, op. cit., 348.
Bywater, op. cit., 306.
'Ιπποκράτους περί Αέρων, 'Τδάτων, Τόπων. Traité d'Hippocrate des
Airs, des Eaux et des Lieux . . . , Paris, 1800, 2 vols. On Korais's difficul-
ties in communicating with English scholars at this time, see Korais, 'Αλλη­
λογραφία, I, 311, 342, 361, 451.

δίκαιον. Δέν το υπονοώ, αλλ' είμαι βέβαιος, δτι έμε έπιϋυμεΐ μετά-
φραστήν, δν και ρητώς να το εϊπη δέν ετόλμησεν. Ό επίσκοπος,
όστις έξέδωκε τας εις τον Ίπποκράτην σημειώσεις μου, με γνω­
ρίζει καλώτατα από μακράν επιστολικήν κοινολογίαν, ήτις ε'παυ-
σεν είναι τέσσαρες ή πέντε χρόνια. . . , 1 8
Moreover, Burgess had played an important part in the founda­
tion of the Bible Society in 1804.
The extant records of the Bible Society, however, make it
clear; that Burgess was not the recipient of the letter. In the min­
utes of a meeting of the Oriental Sub-committee held on 8 Feb­
ruary 1808 it is recorded that,
The attention of this Sub Committee having been called to
the Modern Greek, the Rev. Mr. Usko stated, in connextion
with that subject, that there were at Smyrna between fifty
and sixty thousand Greeks, and the Scriptures were so scarce
that he had never found more than one New Testament in
their own language among them. He further stated that Mr.
Corai, now at Paris, engaged by the Royal Institute in edit­
ing classical writers, is an admirable scholar in the Modern
as well as the Ancient Greek, and that from him valuable
information might be obtained on the best mode of furnish­
ing the Modern Greeks with such a version of the Scriptures
as would likely to be accepted and understood by them: it
was Resolved, That Mr. Usko be requested to correspond
with Mr. Corai on that subject.19
This Usko promptly did, although in a letter to Dr. F. A. Stein-
kopff dated 3 August 1808 and now in the Bible Society's
archives, he wrote that although he had written to Korais by two
different ways, he had had no reply and that he intended to try
once more. "Most likely," he added, "Mr. Corai may feel some
delicacy in answering a letter from me, even though he may have
received it." An interesting figure, the Rev. J. F. Usko was born in

Korais, 'Αλληλογραφία, II, 486. In the latest edition of the collected
letters of Korais the recipient is also given as Burges^ ibid., 491-494.
British and Foreign Bible Society Minutes and Papers of the Ori-
entai Committee commencing 1804, 21. I wish to express my gratitude to
Geraldine Coldham and Kathleen Cann, Deputy Librarian and Archivist
respectively, for their kind assistance and to the Committee of the Bible
Society for permission to publish material from the Society's archives.

Prussia, studied at the University of Königsberg and in 1782 was

elected by the town of Danzig to be Lutheran pastor to the Ger-
man community in Smyrna. In 1789 he was also appointed chap-
lain to the English community in Smyrna by the Levant Company
and in 1792 was given the post of "Professor of Oriental Lan-
guages for the King of Prussia." By his own account he was an
accomplished linguist. Among the languages, he wrote, "which
I have learnt grammatically, are the German, Polish, Latin, Greek
(ancient and modern), Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Gialdaic, Turkish,
Persian, English, Italian, French, Spanish, and Dutch" and that
he had preached at Smyrna "in Italian, French, English, and Ger-
man."20 In 1800 he married a Greek native of Smyrna, "whom,"
he wrote, "I had educated myself," and seems to have had much
contact with the Greek community of that city. It was perhaps
from his Greek friends and relatives that he heard of the reputa-
tion of Smyrna's most famous son.
The matter was next considered at a meeting of the Oriental
Sub-committee on 19 December 1808, when a memorandum on
the subject by Dr. Adam Garke together with Usko's remarks on
it were discussed. Clarke was not at all optimistic that "the pro-
jected edition (of the New Testament in modern Greek) would
be generally if at all received by the modern Greeks," but, despite
the fact that he had "no sanguine hopes of success," he was pre-
pared to co-operate in the Society's projected translation which he
believed should be based on the 1710 Halle edition, accompanied
by the original Greek text.21 The 1710 edition was a revision of
the 1703 London edition, published by the Society for the Propa-
gation of the Gospel, which in turn was an edition of Máximos

A Brief Narrative of the Travels and Literary Life of the Reverend
John F. Usko, Chaplain to the Factory at Smyrna; but driven recently from
thence with the whole English Factory, by apprehension of danger from
the Turkish Government; and now residing in London. Written by him-
self January 1808, 30.
Clarke's memorandum and Usko's comments are published in the
5th Report of the Bible Society (1809), 53-56. The 1710 Halle edition
was entitled, Ή Καινή Διαθήκη του Κυρίου καΐ Σωτήρος ημών Ίησου Χρίστου
δίγλωττος, τοΰτ' εστί, το Θείον Άρχέτυπον καΐ ή αύτοΰ μετάφρασις είς κοινήν
διάλεκτον μετά πάσης επιμελείας διορθωθέντα και νεωστί μετατυποθέντα. Έν
"Αλα της Σαξονίας, έν τφ τυπογραφείφ του 'Ορφανοτροφείου. "Ετει από της
Ένσάρκου Οικονομίας του Κυρίου καΐ Σωτήρος ήμων Ίησοΰ Χρίστου α'ψι'.

Kallioupolitis's edition of 1638 printed in Geneva. The 1703 edi­

tion was criticised for containing too many Turkish words and
was burnt at the patriarchate in Constantinople. Usko's com­
ments on this memorandum are of much greater significance for,
of course, his contact with Greece and Greeks was far more direct
and recent. He was obviously well informed of cultural develop­
ments within the Greek world and his comments are worth quot­
ing at some length:
The modem Greeks having once changed the ancient lan­
guage of their ancestors into a new one, as the Italians the
Latin, they make use of the modem or new language in all
transactions of business, in conversation as well as in carry­
ing on their correspondence; and although they employ the
ancient in their churches for the Divine Service, as the Roman
church the Latin, yet do they preach in the vulgar tongue.
Even their patriarch and the bishops, when they address the
people in the church, do it always in the new language, as
I had myself many opportunities of observing. Besides, they
have several translations made of European books into their
new tongue, as Metastasio,23 Rollin's Ancient History,24

"... Turcica & insipida cachinnoque excipienda Italica vocabula,
quibus haec Londinensis editio maxime est referta . . . in medio aulae
Patriarchalis Constantinopoli . . . post anathema Vulcano traditami Α.
Helladius, Status praesens Ecclesiae Graecae, Altford, Nürnberg? 1714,
238, 247. The Halle edition of 1710 was purged of the Turkish and Italian
words that had disfigured the earlier edition. As the preface put it ''deinde
voces Turckae & Italiese, quibus priores editiones scatent, quaeque Grae-
cis, si harum linguarum expertes fuerint, barbarae & ridiculae videntur,
ejectae κατά δύναμιν sunt, & Graecae aut έλληνικαί aut άπλαΐ in earum locum
Among modem Greek translations of Metastases works were *0
Άχιλλεύς εν Σκίρω (Vienna, 1794), Ό Δημοφόντης (Vienna^ 1794), Ό
Θεμιστοκλής (Vienna, 1796) and Ό Ρουζιέρος είτε ή ήρωϊκή του ευγνωμο­
σύνη (Constantinople, 1807). Cf. Ν. Camariano, "Quelques précisions au
sujet de la traduction du drame L'Olympiade de Metastasio, faite par Rhi«
gas Velestinlis," Revue des Etudes sud-est européennes, III (1965), 291-6.
Παλαιά 'Ιστορία των Αιγυπτίων, Καρχηδονίων, Άσσυρίων, Βαβυλο-
νίων, Μήδων, Περσών, Μακεδόνων, και Ελλήνων . . . είς την άπλήν 'Ρωμα-
ϊκήν διάλεκτον μεταφρασϋεΐσα . . . παρά . . . 'Αλεξάνδρου Καγκελλαρίου,
Venice, 1750, 16 vols.

25 26
Telemachus, Cornelius Nepos, an Extract of Cook's Voy­
ages &c. and a great many publications in prose and poetry
of their own composition, which they sell in public shops,
and they read them with a visible pleasure and fondness,
(though not universally,) because they understand the lan­
guage wherein those books are written. On the contrary, they
do not like the ancient Greek authors, because they are un­
able to understand them: it requires study and application;
and their method in school is perhaps the worst, and the
most absurd, that ever was adopted; viz. to teaze their pupils
with learning Lascar's Greek Grammar of the ancient lan­
guage, without reading and explaining the ancient authors;
so that after having spent the years of their school education
in dry grammatical and unprofitable application, they are as
ignorant as those who never learnt the grammar.
Usko added that he had not seen a copy of the 1710 Halle edition
of the New Testament recommended by Dr. Clarke and that he
was anxious to see one. The Turkish expressions in Maximos's
edition could, he believed, be replaced by "true Greek words."
The outcome of the meeting was that it was resolved to print
an edition of the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles in
modern Greek, along with the original text At the committee's
next meeting on 2 January 1809 part of Korais's letter from Paris
of 19 November was read. An English translation29 of the text

Τύχαι Τηλεμάχου υΙου του 'Οδυσσέως. Ή συνέχεια της τετάρτης βί­
βλου της 'Οδύσσειας του Όμηρου είς βιβλία δέκα είς Γαλλικήν γλώσσαν συν­
θεμένα . . . τώρα πρώτον μεταφρασθέντα ε'ις την άπλουστέραν Έλληνικήν
γλώσσαν παρά Ά(Αανασίου) Σ(κιαδα) . . . Venice, 1742, 2 vols. Another
edition by Dimitrios Panagiotis tou Govdhellas, Buda, 1801, 2 vols.
Κορνηλίου Νέπωτος βίοι τών έξοχων ηγεμόνων μεταγλωττισΦέντες, έκ
της λατινίδος φωνής παρά Σπυρίδωνος Βλαντη . . . , Venice, 1810. Usko ob­
viously referred to an earlier edition of this work.
1 have been unable to trace a copy of this work.
Many editions of this work were published in modern Greek, among
them Γραμματική Κωνσταντίνου Λασκάρεως του Βυζαντίου . . . πλουτισθείσα
μετ' αυξήσεως ετερόκλιτων τινών ονομάτων . . . Venice, 1802.
In his article on Konstantinos Oikonomos, M. Siotes asserted that
the original of Korais's letter "of course, must have been in Greek, as is
indicated by the only Greek phrase included in the translation: οψιμαθής
κ.τ.λ., op. cit., 13. It is clear, however, that Korais's reply to the Society
was written in French. For in a letter written in Greek to Vasileiou, dated
4 October 1808, Korais quoted extracts of the draft of his reply in French,

of Korais's letter, in a rather fuller version than that hitherto

published, is recorded in the minutes as follows:
Dr. Coray to Rev. J. F. Usko
Paris, Nov. 1% 1808
It was not till the 2d of October that I received the Letter
which you did me the honor of writing to me, dated the 7th
of March, together with that of the 29th of April.
I feel very sensibly the interest which your Bible Society
takes in my nation, & the honor which it has done me in
particular in choosing me as the organ of that generous kind­
ness which it desires to confer upon my country.
In order to make a proper return for sentiments so liberal,
I feel myself bound, Sir, to communicate to you frankly my
private opinion upon the business on which you consult me,
& the means which appear to me best calculated to render
the execution of the Society's design equally honorable to
itself & advantageous to my nation.
There exists a version of the New Testament in modern
Greek, first printed in Holland (in 1638), & afterwards re­
printed, with corrections*0 at London (in 1703). All that
is necessary is, to revise this version, correct it afresh, &
give a third edition of it.
There remains, therefore, for consideration the Old
Testament. It is pretended that there exists a version of this
also in modern Greek: but as all those who have spoken of
this version have only quoted it upon the credit of Richard
Simon (in his Critical History of the versions of the Old
Testament), I think there is room for doubting the fact; &
that in this state of doubt we ougjht the rather to undertake
the translation of this book, inasmuch as, should the above-
mentioned version really exist; the revision & correction of
it would cost more trouble than a new translation, since it
is pretended to have been printed at Constantinople in the
16th century. Since that time our language has experienced
many changes & improvements.

Korais, 'Αλληλογραφία, Π, 475. Korais's correspondence with Burgess had

also been in French, ibid., I, 221.
This reading obviously makes more sense than the printed version,
"with correctness."

The question now is, in what sense your Bible Society

would be understood when it speaks of a translation. Does
it wish that such translation should be made from the Greek
version of the Septuagint? I should think not; at least, if
such were its wish, I should beg leave to be of a different
opinion. The actual state of knowledge (which is also be-
ginning to penetrate into Greece) would not justify the meas-
ure of adopting the version of the Septuagint as a standard
text, though, in other respects, it may & ought to be made
use of as a mean of facilitating a new version.
Since thus there remains only the Hebrew from which a
version should be made in modern Greek, it follows that the
future translator ought to possess the Hebrew language, be-
sides that of the ancient and modern Greek. But among us,
Sir, who are only beginning our new career, there are very
few Hebrew scholars. To begin with myself (for I have
paid some attention to the Hebrew), they are too slightly
acquainted with this language to undertake such a trans-
I see but one way of getting the design of the Society
executed, & that would be to send to you two young Greeks,
selected from students of humble circumstances, who, in ad-
dition to their natural language, possess also that of their
ancestors. These students are to employ themselves prin-
cipally in the Hebrew, & other Oriental languages which
facilitate the understanding of the Hebrew, without, how-
ever, neglecting other sciences, particularly so much natural
history as is necessary (or at least useful) for understand-
ing the biblical animals & plants. The subsistence of these
young men, & every thing necessary for their studies, during
their residence with you, will be at the expense of the
Bible Society. They shall, moreover, engage to make the
translation under your eye. I have recommended students
of humble circumstances, because young men of fortune, or
even those above want, would not be very easily induced to
go & study Hebrew among you.
There is only one objection to be made to a version from
the Hebrew itself, & that is, the veneration which our nation
entertains for that of the Septuagint; but, besides that this
prejudice is growing weaker & weaker in proportion as we
are becoming enlightened, it would be easy to prevent these

alarms in feeble minds, by inserting at the bottom of the

page, in the form of variations, all the passages in which
the version of the Septuagint departs from the original &
by consequence from the new Greek version.
Thus, Sir, I have given you what I had to offer upon
the proposed undertaking of your Bible Society. I request
you to communicate to the Members of it the plan which I
recommend; if they should consider it, as I think they will,
worthy of them, you will have the politeness to inform me
of their determination, in order that I may employ myself in
looking out for the proper persons to be intrusted with this
honorable employment.
I take the liberty farther of sending you enclosed (having
no other means of doing so) my Memoir upon the present
state of Gvilization in Greece;31 the knowledge of which
appeared to me to be necessary for you at a time in which
you have kindly turned your attention towards Greece.
Be pleased to accept, Sir, the testimony of my high con-
Coray, M.D.
P.S. Before I had folded up this Letter, it entered into my
mind to sound the inclination of one of my fellow-country-
men, who is now pursuing his studies in this capital, & I
have found him very well disposed to go over to you.32 He
possesses all the qualities requisite for such an undertaking.
He is 32 years of age, a Deacon of the Greek Church, & un-
derstands perfectly both the ancient Greek & that which we
now speak. I can assure you of all his good qualities, &,

This was entitled Mémoire sur Γétat actuel de la civilisation dans la
Grèce, lu à la Société des Observateurs de Vhomme, le 16 Nivôse, an XI
(6 Janvier 1803), par Coray. Docteur en Médecine, et Membre de ladite
Société, Paris. Korais similarly sent a copy of his Mémoire to John Cam
Hobhouse, as the latter recorded in his Travels in Albania . . . , 488.
This was, of course, Neophytos Vamvas, who later became principal
of the famous gymnasion at Chios. In the 1830's Vamvas collaborated
closely with the Bible Society in the preparation of its modem Greek trans-
lation of the Old and New Testament. His association with the Bible So-
ciety provoked much controversy, and in an answer to one of his critics
Vamvas quoted Korais's letter in his own defence, see Άπάντησις προς την
γενομένην διατριβήν παρά του κυρίου Γερμανού κατά της μεταφράσεως των
Ιερών Γραφών καΐ κατά της Βιβλικής Εταιρίας . . . Hermoupolis, 1838, 4.

what is more, I can answer for his moral character. It would

be difficult tofinda person better qualified for the translation
which you desire. To the zeal which he has for his country,
he unites an ardent desire for instruction; a proof of the lat­
ter is the victory which he has gained over poverty by his
perseverance in struggling against it from his earliest in­
fancy to the age at which he is now arrived, choosing rather
to come among us at this age, than to be deprived of the
information of the present times (οψιμαθής μάλλον είναι ή
αμαθής)^ Waiting your answer, I shall make it my business
to look out for a second translator. It rests, however, with
you, either to employ two or to content yourselves with only
one. My object, in proposing two, was to insure the execu­
tion of your projected undertaking, in the event of death
or any other casualty depriving you of the assistance of one.
Whatever may be your determination upon the subject, I
request you to acknowledge the receipt of my Letter.
t Willing "to learn late, rather than never."33
Ph. I. Iliou has convincingly discussed most of the points aris­
ing out of this letter. It is perhaps worth commenting further on
the supposed sixteenth century edition of the Old Testament in
modern Greek. For once Korais's polymathic erudition seems to
have failed him. Richard Simon obviously referred to the famous
Soncino polyglott version of the Pentateuch, published in Con-
tantinople in 1547, ". . . qua ratione Judaei Constantinopolitani
duo Legis Mosaicae exemplaria unguis quatuor concepta edide-
runt, . . . alterum vero praeter contextum Hebraeum & Chaldai-
cam Paraphrasim complectitur translationem sermone Graeco vul-
gari, & alteran lingua Hispánica. . . ."34 This contained transla-
tions of the Pentateuch in Hebrew, Chaldee, Spanish and modern
Greek, all printed in Hebrew characters. Simon published a short
specimen of the modern Greek text, together with the same pas-

Minutes . . . , op. cit., 114-120. The letter was published in the
Bible Society's report without signature, as was common practice, but the
letter was long ago identified as being written by Korais. See, for in-
stance, T. H. Darlow and H. F. Moule, Historical Catalogue of the Printed
Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible
Society, London, 1903-11, II, 684.
Disquisition es criticae de variis per diversa loca & tempora Bibli-
orum editionibus . . . , London, 1684, 213.

sage in Hebrew and Spanish, ,fproferam quoque hoc loco specimen

versionum Graecae vulgaris & Hispanicae, quod illarum exem-
plaria in Europae Bibliothecis vix reperiantur. Istud ex versu sexto
capitis primi Deuteronomii sumetur, mediumque locum Graecam
inter & Hispanicam tenebit Veritas Hebraica.,,35 The text was
transliterated in Greek characters by D. C. Hesseling in Les cinq
livres de la Loi (le Pentateuque) . . . (Leiden, 1897). The trans­
lation is of particular interest as it was made directly from the
Hebrew and not from the Greek Septuagint. Hesseling believed
that the Greeks used reflected the spoken Greek of the time of
Constantinople: it was certainly written in a lively form of Greek
as the following short extract makes clear:
ΕΙς αρχή επλασεν ó Θεός τον ουρανό και την ήγή, . . . καΐ είπεν
ó Θεός· ας είνε φως και ήτον φως. (Genesis i, 1 and 3)
It was presumably to editions such as this that Nicholas Nicholay
referred when he wrote that the "Marañes of late banished and
driven out of Spain & Portugale . . . have also there (i.e. Con-
stantinople) set up printing, not before seene in those countries, by
the which in faire characters they put in light divers books in
divers languages, as Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and the He-
brew tongue, beeing to them natural, but are not permitted to
print the Turkie or Arabian tongue. . . ."3e Greek printing in
Greek characters was not, of course, established in Constantinople
until 1627, when Nikodhimos Metaxas set up his press.37 That
Korais never saw a copy of the Soncino polyglott, which with his
considerable knowledge of Hebrew he would doubtless have
found fascinating, was not surprising as the edition had become
extremely rare by the end of the eighteenth century. I. B. de Rossi,
referring to the 1547 edition, wrote "cum felicissimo eventu Con-
stantinopolitani etiam editionem summae, ac fere extremae rari-
tatis nuperrime acquisierim."38

«5 Ibid., 213-4.
The navigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie . . · ,
London, 1585, 130v.
Recently the subject of two authoritative studies: R. J. Roberts, "The
Greek Press at Constantinople in 1627 and its antecedents," The Library,
5th ser. XXII (1967), 13-43 and E. Leyton, "Nikodemos Metaxas, the
first Greek printer in the eastern world," Harvard Library Bulletin, XV
(1967), 140-168.
De typographia Hebraeo-Ferrariensi commentarius historicus . . . ,
Erlangen, 1781, 106. Cf. Hesseling, op. cit., ili·

After considering Korais's letter the Sub-committee resolved

"that the recommendation contained therein be complied with:
and that the edition of 1703 be adopted as the standard Copy for
the new impression with such revision and correction as Dr. Coray
describes."39 At the next meeting of the Sub-committee, on 9
January, a copy of the 1710 Halle edition, which was apparently
unknown to Korais, was produced and it was decided to print
from this text, the contract for the printing being given to the
firm of John Tilling of Chelsea. That part of Korais's letter which
referred to the printing of the Old Testament in modern Greek
was read and it was resolved "that as the circulation of the New
Testament will form an experiment relative to the probable re­
ception of the Scriptures in general, it seems advisable for the
present to defer proceeding with the Old Testament."40 It is dif­
ficult to believe that the Society's decision to defer for the moment
the Old Testament translation was not communicated to Korais.
The postal delays between London and Paris at that time, how­
ever, probably explain why, as late as 9 February, we find Neo-
phytos Vamvas, whom Korais had in mind as one of the two
young Greeks who were to learn Hebrew and become Orientalists
at the Bible Society's expense,41 impatiently asking Korais if he
had heard the Society's reply.
No further direct communication between Korais and the Bible
Society is recorded, and the printing of the modern Greek New
Testament was duly completed in 1810.42 This soon met with
criticism on the grounds of its langage and in October 1811 "two
Greek gentlemen . . . Messrs. Johannes and Plato"43 actually ap-

Minutes . . . , op. cit., 29.
40 Ibid., 32.
The other was Theophilos Kairis, at this time on the point of re­
turning to Kydhonies (Ayvalik) in Asia Minor, where he later achieved
fame as one of the principal figures of the "Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment."
Cf. Korais, 'Αλληλογραφία, II, 512.
Ή Καινή Διαθήκη του Κυρίου καΐ Σωτήρος ημών Ίησου Χρίστου δί-
γλωττος, τοΰτ* Ιστι, το θείον Άρχέτυπον καΐ ή αύτοΰ μετάφρασις είς κοινήν
διάλεκτον μετά πολλής επιμελείας διορθωθέντα, και νεωστι μετατυποθέντα,
London, 1810.
"Plato" may have been Platon Petridhis, a Constantinopolitan
Greek sent to study in England by Lord Elgin. He translated a number
of works of English literature into Greek, including Johnson's Rasselas, and
Thomson's The Seasons. See K. Th. Dhimaras, Επαφές τής νεώτερης ελ­
ληνικής λογοτεχνίας με τήν αγγλική, 1780-1820, Φροντίσματα, Athens, 1962,

peared before the Committee of the Bible Society to voice their

criticisms, introduced by "the Rev. Mr. Waugh." T. Pell Piatt,
honorary librarian of the Society and author of a valuable MS.
account of the Society's early history, recorded that Plato stated
at this meeting that
the Greeks have no printed copy of the New Testament in
Classical Greek, and that it is his opinion that the Society's
edition of the Modern Greek being in a dialect in use a
Century ago, it will not be acceptable in their schools, it
containing many foreign words, particularly Turkish, which
would be considered barbarous, and particularly as a reli­
gious book, it being in many instances a literal translation,
without attention to the idiom of the modern tongue. . . .
Mr. Plato recommends a comparison of the Society's
Testament with the Greek publications of Mr. Corai, of
Paris, the latter being in the pure modern dialect, most ap­
proaching to the Ionic and Doric, which are in the most gen­
eral use.
That a translation into the pure language would be gen­
erally acceptable and intelligible to readers in all the prov­
inces, although the colloquial dialects vary.44
These comments were forwarded to Usko whose reply, dated
6 November 1811, is perhaps worth quoting at length as it gives
an interesting insight into the attitudes of one of the most com­
petent of the Society's advisers on the language question in Greece
and an indication of the considerable awareness of the issues in­
volved in the language question shown by the Society's closest
It is certain that a translation may be made according to the
language made use of by Mr. Corai, of Paris, in a Letter
which precedes his edition of Heliodorus. But there is one

56-61. Petridhis may also have been the translator of the Βίος του χιλιάρ-
χου 'Ιακώβου Γάρδινερ (Constantinople? Corfu? 1817), D. S. Ghinis and
V. G. Mexas, Ελληνική Βιβλιογραφία, . . . , Athens, 1939, I, 158, no. 984.
On this point see my study "Some Protestant Tracts printed at the Press
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople: 1818-1820," to appear
in a forthcoming issue of the Eastern Churches Review. I have been un­
able to identify "Johannes."
T. P. Piatt, An account of all the translations circulated by The
Society . . . (c. 1830). Modern Greek, 6-7 (in MS.).

difficulty which is first to be removed, and that is, to be gen-

erally understood by learned and unlearned, by those who
know, and those who do not know the Ancient Greek. Mr.
Corafs language is, in my opinion, so exalted, so much ap-
proaching to the hellenistical idiom, at least in words, if not
in phrases, and so difficult to readers who have not learned
the Ancient Greek, that it cannot be supposed to be generally
understood by all the Greeks, and still less to be intelligible
to the inhabitants of all the Greek islands, as it is stated by
Mr. Plato. I do not mean to detract anything from Mr.
Corai's great and eminent knowledge of the Ancient and
Modern Greek, and I must declare his noble efforts very
praiseworthy, to bring the modern dialect (his native tongue)
as near the ancient language as it is practicable by its idiom
and phraseology. However, I must confess, that his modern
language is fit for learned treatises and investigations, rather
than for the common understanding of the Greek Nation in
general, and better adapted for men versed in the ancient
Greek, than for those who have no idea of it, as is the case
of the greatest number of the Greeks who live in the Otto-
man empire.
What medium is there to be chosen for the Word of
God, to be generally understood by learned,and unlearned,
by scientific meni as well as by the people, but to give them
a translation in a dialect that keeps a happy balance between
the language of the learned and the common barbarous dic-
tion of the lower class of mankind? I think that this happy
medium has been observed in the translation published by
the British and Foreign Bible Society. It does not offend, in
my humble opinion, the ear of the learned, who speak their
native dialect, and is perfectly intelligible to the generality
of Greeks. But suppose for a moment that it is exceptionable
in some passages or words, is it for the learned and well-
educated Greek that the translation is made, or rather for
the unenlightened, for the common people, the artizans, the
females who are debarred from a scientific education, and
who, notwithstanding, are to be instructed by the Word of
God, for the salvation of their souls?
With respect to the intermixture of Turkish words and
phrases, mentioned by Mr. Plato, I should wish he would
have pointed out some of them, that I might be able to judge

how far his assertion is founded in truth, as I understand

that language. In Luke ch. ii. 4. there is a word φαμελίαν45
which is a Latin, or rather an Italian one, but in general use
among all the Greeks. If we were to expunge all the foreign
words in modern languages, for instance, in the English or
German, and substitute for them old Anglo-Saxon or Teu­
tonic words of the time of Ulphilas, it would be not only
very odd, but, I apprehend, it could not be understood by the
generality of those nations without a Glossary or a Vocabu-
laiy. If such a plan was to be adopted by the British and
Foreign Bible Society for the New Testament in modern
Greek it would be better, I presume, to publish the original
with a glossary, as it is certain that a great part of it is un­
derstood even now by modem Greeks, when it is read in
their churches, especially the Gospels.
Concerning the introduction of hellenistical words into
the modern Greek, I beg your Committee to read what Mr.
Corai says himself in his above mentioned Letter (p. W
(read ξ ζ ' ) , ξή', W and o') on this subject.46
To the assertion made by Mr. Plato that the translation
is made in a dialect in use a century ago, I must answer, that
I have not lived at Smyrna or Constantinople a century ago,
and read, notwithstanding, the translation with a peculiar
pleasure; and Mrs. Usko, a native of Smyrna, finds it simple

Cf. Ν . P. Andhriotis, Ετυμολογικό λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής,
2nd ed., Thessaloniki, 1967, 399. Usko's views in this matter were sound,
for the word was in common colloquial usage at this time. It is also to be
found in religious texts. The patriarch Samuel Khantzeris, for instance,
used the word in his ΔιαταγαΙ Γάμων, admittedly written in the spoken or
demotic language (καθωμιλημένη τη διαλέκτψ), ΔιαταγαΙ Γάμων. Έν ετει
Σωτηρίω αψξζ, έν μηνΐ φευρουαρίω, παρά Παναγιώτη Κυριακίδη τφ Βυζαν-
τίω, Constantinople, 1767, p. ο'.
In these pages Korais succinctly outlined his linguistic philosophy:
lav τό να μακρυνεταί τις από την κοινήν του λέγειν συνήθειαν τόσον, ώστε να
γίνεται ασαφής είς τήν διάνοιαν, καΐ παράξενος ολότελα είς την άκοήν, ήναι
τυραννικόν, τό να χυδαΐζη πάλιν τόσον, ώστε να γίνεται αηδής είς εκείνους
δσοι ελαβον άνατροφήν, μέ φαίνεται δημαγωγικόν. "Οταν λέγω, δτι άπό την
γλώσσαν μετέχει τό έ^νος δλον μέ δημοκρατικήν Ισότητα, δέν νοώ δτι πρέπει
ν' άφήσωμεν τήν μόρφωσιν καΐ δημιουργίαν αυτής είς τήν όχλοκρατικήν φαν-
τασίαν των χυδαίων, 'Ηλιοδώρου ΑΙΦιοπικών βιβλία δέκα, & χάριν Ελλήνων
έξέδωκε μετά σημειώσεων, προσθείς και τάς ύπό του Άμιότου συλλεγείσας,
τέως Ôè ανέκδοτους, διαφόρους γραφάς, προτροπή καΐ δαπάνη 'Αλεξάνδρου
Βασιλείου, ó Δ. Κοραής, Paris, 1804, ξη', ξϋ'·

and correct, as it is used among people of a good and polite

education, and not at all superannuated; she reads and un-
derstands it perfectly well, as her native language, and finds
a great delight in perusing it. Mr. Corai, after all, will be
the best judge of it, being also a native of Smyrna. Your
Society, dear Sir, has received through my medium, a Letter
and a Speech in French,47 composed by Mr. Corai, and the
Committee may easily apply to him for his opinion, to which
I shall finally submit, if the case be of any material impor-
tance. That a better and more perfect translation can be
made, I allow; but that this one already made is the best
I know of, is beyond any doubt. Mr. Corai, or some learned
Greek, skilful in both languages, may be able to make a
better one, and more approaching to perfection, particularly
under the direction of the Greek Patriarch and his Clergy
at Constantinople. As for Mr. Plato, I do not know the
extent of his abilities, nor am I personally acquainted with
Piatt recorded that "no further proceedings in reference to the sub-
ject of this letter are recorded,"49 and here it may be said that
Korais's relations with the Bible Society must come to an end.
In 1812 it was decided that a new edition of the Society's
modern Greek New Testament was called for and this was pub-
lished, with minor alterations only, in 1814. It was in 1814 that
the Rev. John Lindsay, chaplain to the British Embassy to the
Porte, secured the approval of the Patriarch Kyrillos VI for the
Society's 1810 edition, although in 1816 Lindsay wrote to say
that he had been unable to secure Kyrillos's approval for an edi-
tion of the modern Greek text alone, without the original.50 It
soon became apparent, however, that the 1810 edition was, in cer-
tain respects, unsatisfactory. In November 1817, the Rev. Charles
Williamson, chaplain to the Levant Company's factory in Smyrna,
wrote to the Committee that he had been told by a "learned and
well-disposed Greek, a respectable Priest, Principal of the College
at Smyrna (i.e. Konstantinos Oikonomos o ex Oikonomon), that
the translation in Modern Greek or Romaic, is imperfect and very

i.e. the Mémoire sur . . . la Grèce . . . , see p. 20 above.
T. P. Platt, op. cit., 7-9.
Ibid., 9.
Ibid., 14, Siotes, op. cit., 19, B.F.B.S. llth Report, 1815, 467-470.

inelegant, he positively asserts it to be the performance of an

Englishman or Foreigner."51 The Committee accepted William-
son's suggestions that he find a Greek scholar to provide a new
translation and thus began the Bible Society's association with the
Archimandrite Hilarión of Mount Sinai. There is no evidence that
Korais was consulted over this proposed translation.
The material available in the Bible Society's archives has, it is
hoped, enabled a fuller picture to be given of Korais's relations
with the Bible Society than has hitherto been possible. It has been
possible to give an indication of the extent to which Korais's ad-
vice prevailed in the counsels of the Bible Society, and the care
which the Bible Society toojk to obtain the best possible advice
over its proposed translations. Professor Siotes has written that
it may be inferred from the "great bitterness" which Korais de-
veloped against the English "that the British Bible Society did not
find in the person of Koraës an acceptable tool for its designs and
projects, and, on the other hand, that Koraës very early perceived
by how much the projects of the Bible Society differed from his
own with regard to the elevation of the spiritual state of the
Greek people.52 None of the evidence in the Bible Society's ar-
chives or in Korais's surviving letters would appear to bear out
this point of view. On the contrary, the Society's correspondence
with Korais seems to have been carried out on the basis of mutual
respect and cordiality. That the Society was unable to accede to
Korais's request that it should train two young Greeks as "ori-
entalists" was due to sensible prudence rather than a deliberate
snub. The high respect which the Society in fact held for Korais's
other comments is apparent in the passages from the Society's
deliberations quoted above. The relationship of Korais and the
Bible Society was hardly a major event in Korais's career; never-
theless, it has some significance in the history of the religious and
cultural development of modern Greece.


Piatt, op. cit., 15.
Siotes, op. cit., 12-13.