ASSEMANI, the name of a Syrian Maronite family of famous Orientalists.
1. Joseph Simon, a Maronite of Mount Lebanon, was born in 1687. When very young he was sent to the Maronite college in Rome, and was transferred thence to the Vatican library. In 1717 he was sent to Egypt and Syria to search for valuable MSS., and returned with about 150 very choice ones. The success of this expedition induced the pope to send him again to the East in 1735, and he returned with a still more valuable collection. On his return he was made titular archbishop of Tyre and librarian of the Vatican library. He instantly began to carry into execution most extensive plans for editing and publishing the most valuable MS. treasures of the Vatican. His two great works are the Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino-Vaticana rec. manuscr. codd. Syr., Arab., Pers., Turc., Hebr., Samarit., Armen., Aethiop., Graec., Aegypt., Iber., et Malab., jussu et munif. Clem. XI. (Rome, 1719-1728), 9 vols. folio, and Ephraemi Syri opera omnia quae extant, Gr., Syr., et Lat., 6 vols. folio (Rome, 1737-1746). Of the Bibliotheca the first three vols. only were completed. The work was to have been in four parts - (1) Syrian and allied MSS., orthodox, Nestorian and Jacobite; (2) Arabian MSS., Christian and Mahommedan; (3) Coptic, Aethiopic, Persian and Turkish MSS.; and (4) Syrian and Arabian MSS. not distinctively theological; only the first part was completed, but extensive preparations were made for the others. There is a German abridgment by A.F. Pfeiffer.
2. Joseph Aloysius, brother of Joseph Simon, and professor of Oriental languages at Rome. He died in 1782. Besides aiding his brother in his literary labours, he published, in 1749-1760, Codex Liturgicus Ecclesiae Universae in xv. libris (this is incomplete), and Comment. de Catholicis sive Patriarchis Chaldaeorum et Nestorianorum (Rome, 1775).
3. Stephen Evodius, nephew of Joseph Simon and Joseph Aloysius, was the chief assistant of his uncle Joseph Simon in his work in the Vatican library. He was titular archbishop of Apamea in Syria, and held several rich prebends in Italy. His literary labours were very extensive. His two most important works were a description of certain valuable MSS. in his Bibliotheae Mediceo-Laurentianae et Palatinae codd. manuscr. Orientalium Catalogus (Flor. 1742), fol., and his Acta SS. Martyrum Orientalium. He made several translations from the Syrian, and in conjunction with his uncle he began the Bibliothecae Apostol. Vatic. codd. manusc. Catal., in tres partes distributus. Only three vols. were published, and the fire in the Vatican library in 1768 consumed the manuscript collections which had been prepared for the continuation of the work.
4. Simon, grandnephew of Joseph Simon, was born at Tripoli in 1752, and was professor of Oriental languages in Padua. He died in 1820. He is best known by his masterly detection of the literary imposture of Vella, which claimed to be a history of the Saracens in Syria.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)