Seaman, William (DNB00)

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SEAMAN, WILLIAM (1606-1680), orientalist, and first translator of the New Testament into Turkish, was born in 1606. In 1623-4 he matriculated at Balliol College, Oxford, graduating B.A. at the same time, and M.A. in 1626. In 1628 he became rector of Upton-Scudamore, a living in the gift of Queen's College, Oxford, which he held up to the time of his death. Soon after his institution he travelled to Constantinople, and there entered the service of Sir Peter Wyche [q. v.], the English ambassador, though in what capacity does not appear. Twells, in a note to his 'Life of Dr, Edward Pocock ' (London, 1740), doubtfully states that Seaman was chaplain to an English ambassador at the Porte, Sir Peter was ambassador from 1628 to 1639, and Thomas Hunt was his chaplain from 1628 till 1636. In 1652 Seaman published a translation from the Turkish of Hojah Effendi's ‘Reign of the Sultan Orchan,’ and dedicated it to Lady Jane Merick, who had formerly been the wife of Sir Peter Wyche. Seaman states as the reason of his presenting the work to her: ‘Not only because (during my youth) I began the study of the Turkish language while I was a servant of your family, but likewise as having had my education, in the use of my pen, under the Right Honourable Sir Peter Wyche (your then noble husband) in the time of his embassie there.’

After 1650 Seaman, at the instigation of the Hon. Robert Boyle, who contributed 60l. to the cost of the undertaking, commenced his magnum opus, the translation of the New Testament into Turkish, and in 1659 he published the three epistles of St. John, under the title ‘Specimen S.S. Scripturæ … Turcicè redditæ opera G. S.’ In the following year he prepared, also at the desire of Boyle, a Turkish version of the ‘Short Catechisme’ of John Ball (1585–1640) [q. v.] This work (of which a copy exists in the Bodleian Library) is a small octavo, printed apparently at Oxford. There is neither title-page, author's name, nor date.

The New Testament was completed and published in quarto at Oxford in 1666. It is a creditable monument of Seaman's erudition and industry, and remained for a century and a half the only printed Turkish version. In 1670 Seaman published a Turkish grammar, concerning which several letters passed between himself and Dr. Pococke, who bestowed great care and pains in correcting and improving the style of the Latin preface and epistle dedicatory. In the dedication Seaman acknowledges the assistance he had received from Boyle, who contributed 20l. (to be paid in books) towards the cost of the work, and to Cyril Wyche, the son of his former patron, Sir Peter. At this time Seaman had a house in Whitecross Alley, Moorfields. He died on 7 Nov. 1680, and was buried in the church of Upton-Scudamore, having held the rectory for fifty-two years. He is stated to have been a moderate nonconformist. He was married and left issue.

[Twells's Life of Dr. Edw. Pocock; Court Books of the Levant Company; information from the Rev. R. Powley, rector of Upton-Scudamore, Wiltshire.]

H. L. T.