GOOD ENOUGH FOR SHAKESPEARE

Thesaurus Linguae Romanae & Britannicae.

London: [in ædibus Henrici Bynnemani by Henry Denham], 1584.

£2,850

Folio. pp [1716]; [par.], [A-[Y, [2A-[2Y, [3A-[3Y, [4A-[4Y, [5A-[5Y, [6A-[6V, 7A-7M. without final blank. Roman and Black letter. Woodcut of Robert Dudley’s device (the dedicatee) on title, large floriated and grotesque woodcut initials, woodcut tailpieces, engraved armorial bookplate of W. Wynne on pastedown, “John Wynne of Tower his booke” and “Johannes Wynne 1681” mss. on title. Light age yellowing, title and last browned in outer margins, a few marks, marginal spots and splashes. A good copy, crisp and clean, in contemporary calf, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands, blind ruled, later morocco label gilt, head and tail restored, lower joint a little worn.

Excellent edition of “Cooper’s Dictionary” as it was affectionately known; the premier Latin-English dictionary of the Elizabethan period. As Cooper writes in the introduction, “a studious yong man, with small paines, by the helpe of thys booke maye gather to himselfe good furniture both of wordes and approved phrases and fashions of speaking for any thing.” To that end, the book furnished grammar schools, including St. Albans and Eton, universities, and private scholarly libraries across England. “On the title page of Thesaurus Linguae Romanae & Britannicae, the Latin-English dictionary prepared by Thomas Cooper during his long spells as Master of Magdalen College School from the 1540’s to the 1560’s and published in London in 1565, he acknowledged his great debt to previous scholars. Those names included, for the Latin elements, Robert Estienne, .. and for the English equivalents Sir Tomas Elyot,.. In fact Cooper had also borrowed from Erasmus, Budé and other leading humanists in Northern Europe. But if his Latin-English dictionary reflected the relative ease with which a humble schoolmaster in mid-Tudor England could key into the work of a much older and wider network of humanist scholars and teachers, it also takes us to the heart of that mixture of innovation and conservatism which characterised early modern English education. On his own initiative Cooper added a number of features, both in the body of the dictionary and in an appendix in which he listed all the names and places found in ancient history and literature… it is notable that no Christian authorities were cited: neither the Bible , .., nor the Fathers, the Schoolmen or even Renaissance authors such as Erasmus, all of whom had much to say on the subject of Christian virtue. .. While Cooper went on to become a bishop of the Protestant Church of England, his dictionary continued to face steadfastly back to pagan ancient Rome.” I. M. Green. Humanism and Protestantism in Early Modern English Education

Thomas Cooper (1517-1594), educated at Magdalen College, Oxford and later Bishop of Wincester, began by editing the Latin-English word lists comprising Thomas Elyot’s Biblioteca Eliotae in 1548, 1552, and 1559. Eventually the work was edited and enlarged to such an extent that Cooper published it as his own in 1565, having added to each entry features such as pronunciation, function, gender, and declension. Most important was Cooper’s innovative inclusion of a catalogue of classical examples with each entry, such as Cicero and Virgil, each of which were translated into idiomatic English. For instance, the entry for “Nihil” occupies three columns with examples ranging from the very concrete “nothing or naught” to its use in Plautus “I am a man utterly undone” (Sed quid nihili sis memora.) For this reason the book has a prominent place in the annals of Elizabethan literature: Spenser, Marlowe, and Jonson, all used Cooper’s translations in their writing. Most famously, the book made possible Shakespeare’s proverbial ‘small latin and lesse greeke’ by allowing him to consult ready-made translations of Ovid, Pliny, Horace, and many other classical authors.

The autograph on the title is probably that of the Welsh Bishop John Wynne (1667-1743) who was a student at oxford from 1682. the bookplate is that of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet (23 September 1749 – 24 July 1789) was a Welsh landowner, politician and patron of the arts. 

ESTC S121950. STC 5687. Lowndes II 520. Baldwin, William Shakespeare’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke, 528.

L3280