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George Psalmanazar

Psalmanazar, George (sălˌmənāˈzər) [key], 1679?–1763, English literary imposter. His real name is not known. Born and educated in France, he developed a marked ability in learning languages. He traveled through Europe posing as a Japanese convert to Christianity. In Holland (1702) he was examined by William Innes, an English army chaplain who, though he penetrated Psalmanazar's pose, sent him to England as a Formosan convert in order to gain credit for the conversion. Psalmanazar was able without detection to publish An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa (1704), to invent a complete "Formosan" language, and to instruct Oxford students in the use of it. However, suspicions arose, and after 1706 he was forced to repudiate his claims. He scraped a meager living by literary hack work, became intensely religious, and wrote the story of his life and impostures, Memoirs of –––––– Commonly Known by the Name George Psalmanazar (1764).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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