Solomon Caesar Malan

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Solomon Caesar Malan, 1862

Solomon Caesar Malan (April 22, 1812 – November 25, 1894) was a British divine and orientalist.


By birth a Swiss descended from an exiled French family, Malan was born in Geneva, where his father, Dr Henri Abraham César Malan (1787–1864) enjoyed a great reputation as a Protestant divine.

From his earliest youth he manifested a remarkable faculty for the study of languages, and when he came to Scotland as tutor in the marquis of Tweeddale's family at the age of 18 he had already made progress in Sanskrit, Arabic and Hebrew. In 1833 he matriculated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford; and English being almost an unknown tongue to him, he petitioned the examiners to allow him to do his paper work of the examination in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Latin or Greek, rather than in English.

But his request was not granted. After gaining the Boden and the Pusey and Ellerton scholarships, he graduated 2nd class in Literae humaniores in 1837. He then proceeded to India as classical lecturer at Bishop's College, Calcutta, to which post he added the duties of secretary to the Bengal branch of the Royal Asiatic Society; and although compelled by illness to return in 1840, laid the foundation of a knowledge of Tibetan and Chinese.

After serving various curacies, he was presented in 1845 to the living of Broadwindsor, Dorset, which he held until 1886 During this entire period he continued to augment his linguistic knowledge; he was able to preach in Georgian, on a visit which he paid to Nineveh in 1872. His translations from the Armenian, Georgian and Coptic were numerous. He applied his Chinese learning to the determination of important points connected with Chinese religion, and published a vast number of parallel passages illustrative of the Book of Proverbs.

In 1880 the University of Edinburgh conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.D.

No modern scholar, perhaps, has so nearly approached the linguistic omniscience of Mezzofanti; but, like Mezzofanti, Dr Malan was more of a linguist than a critic. He made himself conspicuous by the vehemence of his opposition to Westcott and Hort's text of the New Testament, and to the transliteration of Oriental languages, on neither of which points did he have the general support of scholars. His extensive and valuable library, some special collections excepted, was presented by him in his lifetime to the Indian Institute at Oxford. He died at Bournemouth. His life has been written by his son.

Drawings an excavation in Nineveh by S. C. Malan (1850)


Further reading

Malan, Arthur Noel. 1897. Solomon Caesar Malan, D.D. : memorials of his life and writings. London : John Murray. in OCLC Worldcat [1]