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Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1807 to 1814 > Catalogue RaisonnÚ

The Catalogue RaisonnÚ of the Oriental and Greek manuscripts was not completed until 1807, having thus absorbed the greater part of Abate Mezzofanti's time during two years.

A large proportion of the Oriental MSS. had never even been entered upon the ordinary library catalogue, and no attempt at all had been made to describe them accurately, much less to register their character or contents. Very many of them too, as we learn from Mezzofanti's letters, were imperfect; and a still more considerable number wanted at least the title and the name of the author. It was no trivial labour, therefore, to examine the -entire collection ; to decide on the name, the age, and the authorship of each; to describe their contents ; and to reduce them all into their respective classes. For most of these particulars the compiler of the catalogue was utterly without a guide. It is true that Joseph Assemani's catalogue of the Oriental MSS. of the Vatican, and the catalogue of those of the Medicean Library at Florence by his nephew Stephen Evodius, were in some cases available. But many of the Bologna MSS. are not to be found in either catalogue ; and for all these Mezzofanti was of course compelled to rely altogether on his own lights.

The catalogue, as drawn up by him, is still preserved, and, notwithstanding these disadvantages, is described as a highly creditable performance, and " a valuable supplement to the labours of Talmar and the Assemanis ;"Note 1 and at all events it was to his long and laborious researches while engaged in its preparation, that he owed that minute familiarity with the whole literature of the East, ancient and modern, which, as we shall see, was a subject of wonder even to learned orientals themselves.
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Note 1
Seo Historisch-Politische Blatter, x. 203-4.

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