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REVIEWS 220Reviews César-Pierre Richelet (1626-1698). Biographie et oeuvre lexicographique ( = Lexicographica Series Maior, 1 5). Laurent Bray. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1986. Laurent Bray's study of Richelet's lexicographical work, both the major works (the Dictionnaire françois and the Dictionnaire portatif de la langue françoise) and the minor works (Dictionnaire des rimes, Les plus belles lettres, etc.), provide a solid example of both the strengths and the weaknesses of modern historiography of lexicography. The strengths are descriptive, the weaknesses analytical. We find in Bray's study outstanding bibliographical work and a solid biographical portrait, both of which introduce much new material. But the biggest weaknesses come in the analysis of Richelet's major didionary, where we gain little understanding of the work itself, and where the tracing of sources and influences is done in a mechanical and superficial way. The book is divided into four parts: (1) an analysis of sources and influences (1-44); (2) the formal lay-out and organization of the Dictionnaire françois (45-62); (3) an analytical bibliography of all of Richelet's works (63-187); (4) a biographical sketch (188-259). Appendices add a number of letters and other documents written by or about Richelet. One can see by the distribution alone of the sections of this study the overwhelming weight given to descriptive material, at the expense of real analysis. However, lest this seem too negative an appreciation of Bray's work, I should emphasize the very high quality of the analytical bibliography. Each edition of each work is clearly described, with full title, notation of the specific copy consulted (complete with the library call number), pagination, commentary (generally on questions of dating, filiation, or faulty printing), a list of the location of known copies, and finally, where applicable, a list of modern reprints. The care with which Mr. Bray has conduded this research will make the work a valuable resource for the history of lexicography. If only he had stopped at that, an analytical bibliography with biography, this reviewer would have nothing but praise for this work. The problems reside entirely in the level of analysis presented in the first section of the book, and perhaps Reviews22 1 I would not feel compelled to stress these problems were they not so prevalent in the history of lexicography. All too often what passes for analysis of old dictionaries is a comparison of a very limited range of one dictionary's articles with those of another. Bray's book is filled with such comparisons: headwords beginning with "gi-" in Miège (1677) and Richelet (1680), beginning with "ge-" in Pomey (1671) and Richelet (1680). Such comparisons must represent a very preliminary (if necessary) phase in historical analysis. Of more interest are (1)an overall appreciation of the vocabulary included—areas of expansion and, if applicable, areas of retrenchment; (2)changes in the nature of the definition, in the lexicographic metalanguage of definitions; (3) changes in the techniques of collection of raw lexicographic data. All three of these have the promise of revealing links between lexicographic works and the broader concerns of the soriety, not in the superficial way that some have traced the appearance (and disappearance) of four-letter words, but rather in a meaningful attempt to understand the relationship between theories of natural and social sciences and our own lexicographic enterprise. Obviously such analysis requires much more time than the surface comparisons we find so frequently today, but with the advent of the computer age we have the means at our disposal to make a more global appreciation of individual didionaries, particularly of dictionaries composed before the nineteenth century, which, though not small by any means, are still more manageable than recent works. In Bray's book, this type of analysis is limited to four pages, "Le Dictionnaire françois: ouvrage de première main" (36-39), in which he mentions such issues as the relationship between the concept of "honnête homme" and the elaboration of Richelet's dictionary. This topic merits a full discussion, but receives only a few paragraphs. In conclusion, whatever the analytical faults of this study may be, the bibliographical and biographical information it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 220-222
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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