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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 280 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR FREDERIC MADDEN (1801-1873), English palaeographer, the son of an officer of Irish extraction, was born at Portsmouth on the 16th of February 1801. From his earliest years he displayed a strong bent to linguistic and antiquarian studies. In 1826 he was engaged by the British Museum to assist in the preparation of the classified catalogue of printed books then contemplated, and in 1828 he became assistant keeper of manuscripts. In 1833 he was knighted, and in 1837 succeeded Josiah Forshall as keeper of manuscripts. He was not entirely successful in this office, partly owing to want of harmony with his colleagues; he retired in 1866. He edited for the Roxburghe Club Havelok the Dane (1828), discovered by himself among the Laudian MSS. in the Bodleian, William and the Werwolf (1832) and the old English versions of the Gesta Romanorum (1838). In 1839 he edited the ancient metrical romances of Syr Gawayne for the Bannatyne Club, and in 1847 Layamon's Brut, with a prose translation, for the Society of Antiquaries. In 185o the magnificent edition, in parallel columns, of what are known as the " Wycliffite " versions of the Bible, from the original MSS., upon which he and his coadjutor, Forshall, had been engaged for twenty years, was published by the university of Oxford. In 1866-1869 he edited the Historia Minor of Matthew Paris for the Rolls Series. In 1833 he wrote the text of Henry Shaw's Illuminated Ornaments of the Middle Ages; and in 185o edited the English translation of Silvestre's Paleographie universelle. He died on the 8th of March 1873, bequeathing his journals and other private papers to the Bodleian Library, where they were to remain unopened until 1920. Madden was perhaps the first palaeographer of his day. He was an acute as well as a laborious antiquary, but his ignorance of German prevented his ranking high as a philologist, although he paid much attention to the early dialectical forms of French and English. His minor contributions to antiquarian research were exceedingly numerous: the best known, perhaps, was his dissertation on the orthography of Shakespeare's name, which, mainly on the strength of the Florio autograph, he contended should be " Shakspere."
End of Article: SIR FREDERIC MADDEN (1801-1873)

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