Payne Smith, Robert (1818–1895)

Syriac scholar and compiler of the Thesaurus Syriacus. He studied at Oxford University and was appointed a Fellow of Pembroke College. He later moved, first to Edinburgh, and then (1853) to London as Headmaster of Kensington School. In London he worked on the British Museum’s recently acquired Syriac mss. from Dayr al-Suryān. In 1857 he was appointed Sub-Librarian at the Bodleian Library, Oxford; there he compiled the Catalogue of that library’s Syriac mss. (1864) before being appointed (in 1865) Regius Professor of Divinity; he finally ended up (1871) as Dean of Canterbury Cathedral. It was thanks to his work of editing and translating the Syriac version of Cyril of Alexandria’s ‘Homilies on Luke’ (1858–9; lost in Greek), and translating the Third Part of Yuḥanon of Ephesus’s Ecclesiastical History (1860), that he became acutely aware of the urgent need for a new Syriac dictionary, building on the work, often unpublished, of earlier scholars. The first fascicle of his monumental Thesaurus Syriacus appeared in 1868, and the final one appeared in 1901, after his death, edited by his daughter, Jessie Payne Smith (Mrs. Margoliouth).


  • R. S.  Simpson, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 51 (2004), 289–90.
  • S. P.  Brock, ‘Syriac lexicography: reflections on resources and sources’, AS 1:2 (2003), 165–78. (repr. in Foundations for Syriac Lexicography, ed. A. D. Forbes and D. G. K. Taylor [Perspectives on Syriac Linguistics; 2005], ch. 8)

| Payne Smith, Robert |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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