Mikiel Anton Vassalli's book about proverbs, Motti, Aforismi E proverbii Maltesi, published in 1828, has been translated into Maltese by Frans Sammut.
This afternoon, Mr Sammut will be at Sapienza's Bookshop, in Valletta, to sign copies of the book.
"I went deeply into Vassalli's works when I was writing the novel between Il-Holma Maltija. I wanted to understand the socio-cultural setting I was writing about," Mr Sammut said.
The book contains about 863 proverbs and expressions, some of which are still in use and which Vassalli had explained in Italian. This time round, Mr Sammut gives the original expression with its Maltese meaning. The book is annotated with several footnotes.
"Thanks to Vassalli's meticulous eye for detail, we are able to date some of the proverbs because he sometimes mentions who he had heard them from, and when," Mr Sammut said.
Vassalli was the first person to teach Maltese at the University of Malta thanks to Hookham Frère, who created the chair for him and paid him out of his own pocket.
Vassalli wrote a Maltese alphabet, a copy of which is preserved at the Cathedral Library, in Mdina, a Maltese grammar and the lexicon. Finally, he published the book which Mr Sammut has re-worked.
"One of the proverbs Vassalli placed on the frontispiece of his book was Biex tixrob safi, trid tmur f'ras il-ghajn, meaning that one had to go to the original source to get to the root of things. I can only urge scholars to heed this advice. The expressions found in Vassalli are a mine of information which linguists and social historians can use," Mr Sammut said.
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