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  • Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe: Lexicography and the Making of Heritage
  • Russon Wooldridge (bio)
John Considine . Dictionaries in Early Modern Europe: Lexicography and the Making of Heritage. Cambridge University Press. 2008. 408. US$99.00

The early modern Europe discussed by Considine is that of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Dictionary-makers are as much the focus of Considine's attention as the dictionaries they produced. The lexicographers considered are those judged to be heroes, in the classical sense, and their dictionaries are viewed as establishing the heritage of a language and a culture. From this perspective, Considine, quoting Henri Estienne, sees dictionary-making as a 'heroic and indeed Herculean work.'

The first two chapters are devoted to father and son Robert Estienne and Henri Estienne, their editing of classical texts, and their production of thesauri that founded the lexicography of classical Latin and Greek. As Considine states, Henri's Thesaurus Graecae linguae of 1572, though augmented by Ambroise Firmin Didot in the nineteenth century, has never been replaced. He also says that the German production of a Thesaurus Linguae Latinae will replace Robert's 1543 Dictionarium seu Latinae linguae Thesaurus, augmented by Birrius in the eighteenth century. However, since the German project, begun in 1894, is not scheduled for completion before 2050, an undertaking then of over a century and a half, Robert Estienne's multi-volume thesaurus remains the authoritative, and most complete, lexicographical account of classical Latin. It is of interest to note that in the space of only twelve years and in the field of lexicography alone, Robert Estienne produced the first two editions of his Latin thesaurus (1531, 1536), the first editions of his two large bilingual dictionaries, the Dictionarium latinogallicum [End Page 243] (1538) and Dictionaire francoislatin (1539), the first edition of his smaller Dictionariolum puerorum (1542), and the third edition of the Latinae linguae Thesaurus (1543). The enduring authority of the two Estienne thesauri explains the importance of the Greek and Latin Lexica Project, involving the computerization of the two Estienne thesauri, led by Peter Way of Paris with the participation of the universities of Kaiserslautern and Toronto.

The remaining chapters deal with German, Dutch, English, and Scandinavian treatments of the heritages of the early medieval Germanic world, those of the heritages of post-classical Latinity and Byzantine Greek and seventeenth-century polyglot and universal dictionaries. The volume ends with an extensive bibliography and an index.

Russon Wooldridge

Russon Wooldridge, Department of French, University of Toronto



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