Mr. Bedwell was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge. He was Vicar of Tottenliam High Cross, near London. He died at his vicarage, at the age of seventy, May 5th, 1632, justly reputed to have been "an eminent oriental scholar."*(Heis spoken of in his epitaph, as being "for the Eastern tongues, as learned a man as most lived in these modern times")
He published in quarto an edition of the epistles of St. John in Arabic, with a Latin version, printed at the press of Raphelengius, at Antwerp, in 1612. He also left many Arabic manuscripts to the University of Cambridge, with numerous notes upon them, and a font types for printing them. His fame for Arabic learning was so great, that when Erpenius, a most renowned Orientalist, resided in England, in 1606, he was much indebted to Bedwell for direction in his studies. To Bedwell, rather than to Erpenius, who commonly enjoys it, belongs the honor of being the first who considerably promoted and revived the study of the Arabic language and literature in Europe. He was also tutor to another Orientalist of renown, Dr. Pococke. For many years, Mr. Bedwell was engaged in preparing an Arabic Lexicon in three volumes; and went to Holland to examine the collections of Joseph Scaliger. But proceeding very slowly, from desire to make his work perfect as possible, Golius forestalled him, by the publication of a similar work.
After Bedwell's death, the voluminous manuscripts of his lexicon were loaned by the University of Cambridge to aid in the compilation of Dr. Casteli's colossal work, the Lexicon Heptaglotton. Some modern scholars have fancied, that we have an advantage in our times over the translators of King James's day, by reason of the greater attention which is supposed to be paid at present to what are called the "cognate" and "Shemitic" languages, and especially the Arabic by which much light is thought to be reflected upon Hebrew words and phrases. It is evident, however, that Mr. Bedwell and others, among his fellow-laborers, were thoroughly conversant in this part of the broad field of sacred criticism.
Mr. Bedwell also commenced a Persian dictionary, which is among Archbishop Laud's manuscripts, still preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. In 1615, he published his book, "A Discovery of the Impostures of Mahomet and of the Koran." To this was annexed the "Arabian Trudgeman." Trudgeman or truchman is the word Dragoman in its older form, and is derived from a Chaldee word meaning interpreter. This Arabian Trudgeman is a most curious illustration of oriental etymology and history.
Dr. Bedwell had a fondness for mathematical studies. He invented a ruler for geometrical purposes, like what we call Gunter's Scale, which went by the name of "Bedwell's Ruler."
This closes what we have to say of that first Westminster Company, of ten members, to whom was committed the historical books, beginning with Genesis and ending with the Second Book of Kings, once "commonly called," as its title still says, "The Fourth Book of the Kings."
The second company of King James translators held its meetings in Cambridge. To this section of those learned divines, was assigned from the beginning of Chronicles to the end of "The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's." The eight men to whom this important part of the work was assigned, were no whit behind their associates, in fitness for their great undertaking.
Main Listing of Translators