Forshall, Josiah (DNB00)

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FORSHALL, JOSIAH (1795–1863), librarian, born at Witney in Oxfordshire on 29 March 1795, was the eldest son of Samuel Forshall. He received some of his education at the grammar schools of Exeter and Chester, and in 1814 entered Exeter College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. in 1818, taking a first class in mathematics and a second in litt. hum. He became M.A. in 1821, and was elected fellow and tutor of his college. He was appointed an assistant librarian in the manuscript department of the British Museum in 1824, and became keeper of that department in 1827. In 1828 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He edited the catalogue of the manuscripts in the British Museum (new series): pt. i. the Arundel MSS.; pt. ii. the Burney MSS.; pt. iii. index, 1834, &c. fol., and also the ‘Catalogus Codicum Manuscriptorum Orientalium [in the Brit. Mus.]: Pars Prima Codices Syriacos et Carshunicos amplectens,’ 1838, &c. fol. He also edited the ‘Description of the Greek Papyri’ in the Brit. Mus., pt. i. 1839, 8vo. In 1828 he had been appointed secretary to the museum, and in 1837 resigned his keepership in order to devote himself exclusively to his secretarial duties. He was examined before the select committee appointed to inquire into the museum in 1835–6, and made some curious revelations on the subject of patronage. As secretary he had much influence with the trustees. He was greatly opposed to any attempts to ‘popularise’ the museum. In 1850 he published a pamphlet entitled ‘Misrepresentations of H.M. Commissioners [who inquired into the British Museum in 1848–9] exposed,’ and about that time retired from the museum on account of ill-health. After his resignation Forshall lived in retirement, spending much of his time, till his death, at the Foundling Hospital, of which he had been appointed chaplain in 1829. He died at his house in Woburn Place, London, on 18 Dec. 1863, after undergoing a surgical operation. Forshall was a man of ability, and of a kindly disposition. Besides the catalogues already mentioned he published, in conjunction with Sir F. Madden, the well-known edition of ‘The Holy Bible … in the earliest English Versions made by John Wycliffe and his followers,’ 1850, 4 vols. 4to. To this work he had given up much time during twenty-two years. He also published editions of the Gospels of St. Mark (1862, 8vo), St. Luke (1860, 8vo), and St. John (1859, 8vo), arranged in parts and sections, and some sermons. His works ‘The Lord's Prayer with various readings and critical notes’ (1864), 8vo, and ‘The First Twelve Chapters of … St. Matthew’ in the received Greek text, with various readings and notes, 1864, 8vo, were published posthumously.

[Gent. Mag. 1864, 3rd ser. xvi. 128; Statutes and Rules of the Brit. Mus. (1871); Cowtan's Memories of the Brit. Mus. 6, 66, 69, 365–76; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

W. W.