Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Platt, Thomas Pell

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PLATT, THOMAS PELL (1798–1852), orientalist, born in 1798 in London, was the son of Thomas Platt. After attending a school at Little Dunham, Norfolk, he was admitted at Trinity College, Cambridge, as pensioner on 25 Nov. 1815. He was elected scholar on 3 April 1818, minor fellow on 2 Oct. 1820, and major fellow on 2 July 1823. He graduated B.A. in 1820 as ninth senior optime, and M.A. in 1823. While at Cambridge he became connected with the British and Foreign Bible Society, and acted for some years as its librarian. In 1823 he published a catalogue of the Æthiopic Biblical MSS. in the Royal Library of Paris and in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society; and in the succeeding years collated and edited for the society the Æthiopic texts of the New Testament. The object of the publication was not critical, but was ‘simply to give the Abyssinians the Scriptures in as good a form of their ancient version as could be conveniently done.’ Platt, however, made a few notes of the readings which particularly struck him. His notes only extended to the Gospels; for the Acts and the Epistles he used only one manuscript and Walton's text. In 1829 he also prepared an edition of the Syriac Gospels, and in 1844 edited an Amharic version of the Bible, using the translation of Abba Rukh for the Old Testament, and that of Abu Rumi Habessinus for the New.

In 1827 he defended the British and Foreign Bible Society from an attack made on their publications in the ‘Quarterly Review.’ In 1840, in a ‘Letter to Dr. Pusey,’ he described his conversion from his evangelical opinions to tractarian views. He, however, protested against the application by some of the tractarians of ‘mystical and spiritual interpretations to the prophecies of the Old Testament.’

Platt was one of the earliest members of the Royal Asiatic Society, and for many years acted as one of its oriental translation committee. He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

He lived for many years at Child's Hill, Hampstead, but died at Dulwich Hill, Surrey, on 31 Oct. 1852, leaving an only son, Francis Thomas Platt.

[Gent. Mag. 1852, ii. 660; Luard's Grad. Cant.; Proc. Roy. Asiatic Society and Society of Antiquaries; Horne's Introduction to Critical Study of the Holy Scriptures, 10th edit. iv. 317–320, 733; Smith's Dict. of Bible, 1863, iii. 1614; Allibone's Dict. Engl. Lit. ii. 1606; Brit. Mus. Cat.; Platt's works; information kindly supplied by the librarian of Trinity College, Cambridge.]

G. Le G. N.