Beck, Cave (DNB00)

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BECK, CAVE (1623–1706?), writer on pasigraphy, son of John Beck, baker, of the parish of St. John, Clerkenwell, was born in London in 1623. He was educated in a private school kept in London by Mr. Brathwayte, and on 13 June 1638 was admitted a pensioner of St. John's College, Cambridge, He took the degree of B.A. in 1641, and subsequently that of M.A., being incorporated in the latter at Oxford, 17 Oct. 1643. In 1655 he was master of the free grammar school at Ipswich; in 1657, however, Robert Woodside was retained as master, during the pleasure of the corporation, in the room of Beck, who perhaps resigned that situation on being instituted to St. Helen's, or Monksoham, of which he was also rector. In 1662 he licensed to the perpetual curacy of St. Margaret's, Ipswich, and in the same year he was presented by the king, by lapse, to the rectory of St. Helen's, Ipswich, with St. Clement's annexed. We have been unable to ascertain the precise date of the death of this ingenious scholar. He was certainly alive in 1697, and William Ray, who was instituted to Monksoham in 1706, was probably his immediate successor.

He wrote an extremely curious and interesting work entitled 'The Universal Character, by which all Nations in the World may understand one another's Conceptions, Reading out of one Common Writing their own Mother Tongues. An Invention of General Use, the Practise whereof may be Attained in two Hours' space. Observing the Grammatical Directions. Which Character is so contrived, that it may be Spoken as well as Written,' Lond. 1657, 8vo. The work was also published the same year in the French language. It is dedicated to Nathanael and Francis Bacon, esquires, 'patronis suis colendissimis.' The characters chosen by Beck are the ten Arabic numerals, which he proposes to pronounce aun, too, tray, for or for, fai, sic, sen, at, nin, o. The combinations of these characters, intended to express all the radical words in any language, are to be arranged in numerical order, from unity to 10,000, which number he thinks sufficient to express all words in general use; and to each number is to be annexed the word in any language, as for example English, of which it is a symbol, thus forming a numerical vocabulary. The same words are also to be arranged in another vocabulary in the alphabetical order of the language they belong to; thus each serves for a key to the other. There is also a list of about two hundred characters to denote parts of compound words, and the grammatical modifications of words are expressed by letters of the alphabet. The words are in most instances extended to an unmanageable length and the difficulty of discovering the meaning of the numerical group which stands for the radical word is increased by the still greater difficulty of disconnecting the radical from the modifying appendage, and of analysing the component parts of the latter. As a frontispiece to the book there is an engraving by Faithorne, and the figure of the European is supposed, with great probability, to be the portrait of the author.

[Addit. MSS. 5863, f. 135, 19166, f. 11; Hollingworth's Character of Charles I, p. 27; MS. note in Thomas Baker's copy of The Universal Character; Wood's Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 60; Groves's Pasilogia, 62; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 5th edit. iii. 329; Gent. Mag. N. S. xiv. 365; Wodderspoon's Ipswich, 391, 399.]

T. C.