Dictionarium gemma gemmarum (with) Elucidarius vel vocabularius poeticus.

Strasbourg, Johann I Knobloch, November 1520.


4to. ff. 142 + 58. Gothic letter, double column. Two works in one, separate title to each within charming white on black architectural border with grotesques and other figures. Light age yellowing, small ink stain with minor loss to outer margin to first and last couple of ll., just encroaching on t-p border, occasional minor ink spot, upper margin a bit short. A very good, crisp, generally well-margined copy in contemporary half German pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, one clasp missing. Two rolls with double blind-tooled rule borders, figures of Christ, St Paul, St Peter, binder’s monogram ‘H.B.’, and Latin mottos, separated by roll of foliage. Spine in four compartments, raised bands. Early ms inscription ‘TASSIPODIUM VEL’ to t-p, occasional early annotations, early ex-libris ‘Ioannes Zweyffel est Gubernator meus’ and ‘Iam est Lucas Bos possessor huius libri verbum Dominii manet in eternum’ on rear e.p.

Handsome volume comprising very good, crisp copies of these uncommon C16 dictionaries and glossaries for German schoolboys. Hermannus Torrentinus (Hermann van Beek) (c.1450-c.1520) was a Dutch grammarian and professor of rhetoric at Groningen. Adapted for a German-speaking readership from the Latin-Netherlandish dictionary ‘Dictionarium quod gemma gemmarum vocant’ (Antwerp, 1511), his ‘Dictionarium’ was designed for Latin beginners—two of whom autographed this copy—who, the preface states, should always be vigilant and hungry for knowledge, and keep this little book at hand. It is a selection of polished lexicographic ‘precious stones’ (‘gemmae’) developed from the compendious medieval dictionaries formerly used in schools, such as Balbus’s ‘Catholicon’ and Huguitio of Pisa’s ‘Liber derivationum’. Following this tradition, the ‘Dictionarium’ lists words in alphabetical order, including their etymologies (e.g., ‘infernus ab infra’), to which it adds a German translation; it also clarifies the gender, declension or conjugation of each word, sometimes diligently rehearsed in the ms. marginalia of this copy. Torrentinus intended his dictionary to substitute its ‘tedious’ predecessors at school level because, he wrote, ‘to read without understanding is to remain ignorant’. The very young and inexpert annotator of the t-p prefixed to ‘Dictionarium’ the additional title ‘Tassipodium’—perhaps a mistaken reference to ‘Dasypodius’, a Swiss humanist and author of the ‘Dictionarium Latinogermanicum’ (1535). The ‘Elucidarius’ is a glossary of the most important names of deities, heroes, rivers, islands, lands, and mountains, as well as words from Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew, found in classical fables and histories. Like the ‘Dictionarium’, it was designed to assist beginners with the reading of classical poetry and history, clarifying these engaging narratives to elicit a better understanding of Latin.

1) No copies of this ed. recorded in the US.

G 1107; USTC 636315. Not in BM STC Ger. or Graesse.

2) Only Illinois at Urbana-Champaign copy recorded in the US.

T 1608; USTC 649849. Not in BM STC Ger. or Graesse.


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