Special issue on Guzè Gatt

L-Akkademja tal-Malti has just published a special issue of its review Il-Malti (€9.50) dedicated to the historian Guzè Gatt (1886-1976). This book is intended to whoever has the history of the Maltese language at heart and it is of great value to the bibliography of over one hundred works of Guzè Gatt.

It is perhaps somewhat ironical that about Guzè Gatt – who was a prolific writer – little, if anything, has been written. It is not because this is a rare phenomenon where Maltese authors are concerned, who dedicated their means and even their lives for the research about their country: more than this. At least, in these last years, one can see a revival of conscience, variegated with serious academic research on Maltese individuals who in different ways contributed towards the richness of Maltese culture, or for its wider recognition.

Although he lived in a time when historical research – particularly in the local context – was still hindered with lack of facilities, inaccessible archives and taboos, the works of Gatt, in their majority, were original contributions which remained for many years, some of them even up to this day, among the most renowned, if not the only, serious studies on this particular subject.

Guzè Cassar Pullicino was more than justified to consider Gatt as an expert in melitensia. His works includes writings about the Stamp of the Crusade as well as the extensive study about the Government Gazette between the years 1813 and 1840. It is true that Gatt, as it is sometimes said about him, did not always give references about the source from which he used to obtain certain information. This was a bad habit quite common in his time. But it is also true that the number of writers, who came later and used research published by Gatt without making the slightest reference to him, was quite significant. It is not only that Gatt’s research was based on original documentation, but more so, it was written in Maltese. We have to admit that up to this day – when the prejudices about Maltese are (or should have been long ago) ended – very few historians publish the fruit of their works in Maltese.

Gatt’s contribution was not only limited to the publication of his research. He was a member, from the very start, of the Ghaqda tal-Kittieba tal-Malti, today L-Akkademja tal-Malti. It is known that Gatt handed over the material he had about Mikiel Anton Vassalli to Ninu Cremona, and therefore Gatt was instrumental in that a prominent figure in the history of Maltese political and linguistic aspects, starts to be studied. The historical foreword to the Taghrif fuq il-Kitba Maltija was also based on what Gatt has written about the development of the press in Malta. Among the number of Maltese most renowned in his time, Guzè Gatt was also familiar with Gwann Mamo. The latter even mentions Gatt in his renowned work: Ulied in-Nanna Venut fl-Amerka (Malta 1930).

The thought behind this publication was precisely not only to renew the memory of the contribution towards an eminent Maltese historian of the first half of the 20th century, but even to make again accessible a number of his writings for both the researcher and the general reader. Guzè Gatt had the financial means that enabled him to dedicate most of his time to research, but more than this, he had the love and dedication to do this for the good of his country. A little more than one hundred of Gatt’s published studies have been collected up to now in various papers and periodicals. Of these, 16 are being published in this book. The writings that have been chosen are about the Maltese language, about the development of communication means in Malta, like printing and drama, as well as biographies of Maltese individuals.

Gatt never published his works in one book and for this reason his writings are found scattered in papers and periodicals of his time. One can therefore understand that it was not that easy to retrieve these writings. A whole list of them can be seen in the bibliography of the book.

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