Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Woide, Charles Godfrey

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WOIDE, CHARLES GODFREY (1725–1790), oriental scholar, a native of Poland, was born on 4 July 1725. He was educated at the universities of Frankfort an der Oder and Leyden, and then became minister of the Socinian church at Lissa in Poland, near the border of Silesia. In 1750, while he was residing at Leyden, he began to transcribe the ‘Lexicon Ægyptiaco-Latinum’ of Martinus Veyssiere la Croze, and, under the tuition of Christianus Scholtz, became an expert in the language of Lower Egypt.

From June 1770 Woide held the post of preacher at the Dutch chapel royal in St. James's Palace, London, and soon afterwards joined with it the duties of reader. On the recommendation of the archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Lowth, and Lord North, he worked in the libraries of Paris, at the expense of George III, for four months in 1773 and 1774, studying oriental manuscripts, and on his return sent to the ‘Journal des Savans’ a short article on La Croze's lexicon and on the scholars best acquainted with the languages of ancient Egypt. He had now perfected himself in the Sahidic language of Upper Egypt. At a later date he also served as reader and chaplain of the reformed protestant church in the Savoy, London.

In 1775 the university of Oxford published at the Clarendon Press the ‘Lexicon Ægyptiaco-Latinum,’ which La Croze had drawn up and Scholtz had revised. Woide was engaged to edit the work, and he added to it notes and indexes. He then reduced from four volumes into one the manuscript ‘Grammatica Ægyptiaca utriusque Dialecti’ of Scholtz, and illustrated it with notes. It was published in 1778 by the Clarendon Press under Woide's supervision, the Sahidic portion being entirely his own work. About 1778 he was living at 5 Lisson Street, Paddington. On 12 Feb. in that year he was elected F.S.A. Woide was appointed assistant librarian at the British Museum in 1782. He was at first engaged in the natural history section, but was afterwards transferred to the more congenial department of printed books. Dr. Thomas Somerville [q. v.], while in London in 1785 at work in the British Museum, was ‘under the deepest obligations’ to Woide, whom he describes as ‘the oriental secretary who had the charge of the Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts’ (Life and Times, pp. 210–11). He was at this time engaged upon his noble facsimile edition of the ‘Novum Testamentum Græcum,’ from the ‘Codex Alexandrinus’ or ‘Codex A,’ at the British Museum. It was published by John Nichols in 1786, through the munificence of the trustees of the British Museum, and on 5 May 1786 Woide presented a copy to the king (Gent. Mag. 1786, i. 437, ii. 497–8). There were about 450 copies on common paper at two guineas each, and twenty-five on fine paper at five guineas apiece. Ten were on vellum, but only six of them had the notes and illustrations. He added to it ‘admirable prolegomena and notes.’

An appendix to this work, begun by Woide and completed by Henry Ford, professor of Arabic at Oxford, was published by the university in 1799. It contained the fragments of the New Testament, about a third in all, in the Sahidic dialect, mostly taken from manuscripts at Oxford, with a dissertation on the Egyptian versions of the scriptures, and a collation of the ‘Vatican Codex.’ On the publication of the ‘Codex Alexandrinus’ in 1786 J. G. Burckhardt printed a thesis at Leipzig in justification of the reading theos in the manuscript in 1 Tim. iii. 16, and in 1788 G. L. Spohn published at the same place the ‘notitia’ of Woide, ‘cum variis ejus lectionibus omnibus.’

Woide was a D.D. of the university of Copenhagen. He was elected F.R.S. on 21 April 1785, created D.C.L. by the university of Oxford on 28 June 1786, and was also a fellow of many foreign societies. A fit of apoplexy seized him at a conversazione in the house of Sir Joseph Banks on 6 May 1790, and on 9 May he died in his rooms at the British Museum. His wife had died on 12 Aug. 1784, leaving two daughters.

Woide supplied information to Franciscus Perezius Bayerius for his book ‘De Nummis Hebræo-Samaritanis,’ which was printed at Valentia in 1781, and several of his communications are in the appendix (pp. i–xix). He contributed to the ‘Archæologia’ (vi. 130–2) a paper on a ‘Palmyrene Coin,’ communicated for the fourth edition of William Bowyer's ‘Critical Conjectures on the New Testament’ (1812) the notes of Professor Schultz, and revised the Greek notes in the 1788 edition of Bishop Warburton's works.

His portrait was engraved by Bartolozzi in 1791.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Sheppard's St. James's Palace, ii. 244–7; Gent. Mag. 1784 ii. 638, 1790 i. 478; Biogr. Univ. 1828; Didot's Nouvelle Biogr. Générale; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. vi. 492, 602, ix. 11–14; Nichols's Lit. Illustr. viii. 448.]

W. P. C.