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Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2008-06 > 1213199101

From: "La Greenall" <>
Subject: Re: [Ess] Dictionaries - was Great Chishall burial
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2008 16:45:01 +0100
In-Reply-To: <>

Dear Elmo,

Hint taken - dictionaries are not on-topic, but I would venture that in
the present context, discussing their origins within the variability of
early modern English, may help with lister's genealogical research,
especially when such entries as "the wide baron" are being encountered!
So I hope you'll let this wide lorry driver slip one more tangential
posting through the net...

Hi Michael.

On checking, it seems we're both wrong about the UK.

The union of 1603 which you refer to did not, evidently, unite the
kingdoms, but only gave the two kingdoms one and the same ruler. The
union proper came into being with the passing of the Acts of Union in
1707 - so the UK did exist before 1755!

BTW I do use other sources apart from Wikipedia, but it is very

PS - just noticed Mike Stone's message posted at 13.22 - thanks Mike.

As for early dictionaries, David Hoye is the man.

The British Library webpage on "Dictionaries and Meanings" at

places Richard Mulcaster's 8,000-word 'Elementarie' of 1582 at the top
of a chronological list of works:

"Until the end of the 16th century, Latin had been the traditional
language of learning - English was looked down upon by scholars, and
only thought to be good enough for popular books and plays. By
stabilising the language, Mulcaster hoped that English would be
recognised by scholars for its richness and vitality. He wrote 'I do not
think that anie language, be it whatsoever, is better able to utter all
arguments, either with more pith, or greater planesse, than our English
tung is, if the English utterer be as skillfull in the matter, which he
is to utter.' " [BL website]

I wonder if Shakespeare had a copy?

However, BL goes on to explain that, since none of Mulcaster's entries
included a definition, the Elementarie is not strictly a dictionary.

Cawdrey's Table Alphabeticall comes in at second place, but is the first
to be called a dictionary by the BL. Many of its mere 3,000 words were
considered so difficult for the average person, being recent imports
from foreign tongues, that Cawdrey saw fit to drape his Alphabetical
Table with definitions.

Bearing in mind their close contemporaneity, it might be interesting to
compare the vocabulary of Shakespeare's plays with Cawdrey's work. And
possibly his spelling with Mulcaster? One would expect a lot of
variance, but it might be interesting if the two spelt similarly.

The BL notes a further three dictionaries published after Cawdrey and
before Johnson.

See also


-----Original Message-----
[mailto:] On Behalf Of
Sent: 11 June 2008 10:55
Subject: Re: [Ess] Dictionaries - was Great Chishall burial

Have I done it again, when was the UK created? I thought it was from
reign of James I of England and James VI of Scotland
I did not know until today that there was an earlier English Dictionary.
Thank you both
Michael Allbrook

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