COTGRAVE, Randle A dictionarie of the French and English tongues

London, printed by Adam Islip, 1611


FIRST EDITION. Folio. 484 unnumbered leaves, ff. 10, [ii]. [A] B-4N . [first and last leaf blank] Roman and Italic letter, double column. Title within elaborate woodcut border, text within single rule, historiated and floriated woodcut initials grotesque head and tail-pieces, “Gilbt. Garard” with price in contemporary hand on second fly leaf, “To Mr. Benj’n Hyett at Nicholas Hyetts, Boswell Court Carey Street” on first fly, a few folded corner ‘temoins’. Very light age yellowing. A fine copy, crisp and clean, in handsome contemporary calf, covers bordered with a triple blind rule, scrolled arabesque gilt stamped at centres, spine with raised bands, blind ruled in compartments, small fleurons gilt at centres, head and tail restored, extremities a little rubbed.

A fine, and unusually fresh copy, in a contemporary binding of the first edition of Cotgrave’s important French dictionary; a delightful and fascinating volume in which robust Shakespearean English and Rabelaisian French are given full expression. “Randle Cotgrave’s Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (London, 1611) is the most important French-English dictionary of the Renaissance. It was a popular work and went through five editions, laying the foundation for the compilations of Guy Miège and Abel Boyer. In 1632, Robert Sherwood added an English-French section, turning Cotgrave’s work into a bidirectional dictionary. … Very little is known about the life of Randle Cotgrave. It is certain that he was a student under the Lady Margaret Foundation at St. John’s College, Cambridge University,… What further information we have has been gleaned from what he tells us himself in the Dictionary and from the contents of two letters written to M. Beaulieu, secretary of the English Ambassador to Paris. From these letters, .. we learn that M. Beaulieu along with a Hr. Limery had assisted Cotgrave in his compilations, and that Cotgrave was in the employment of William Cecil, Lord Burghley during the time he was writing. … From the humorous character of some of his illustrative material we are left with the impression that Cotgrave was a man of great wit. Plays on words, popular during his time, rhymes and side comments abound. Wherever possible he illustrated an entry with a Proverb. This he preferred rather than citations taken from poetic works or the Classics. ..What seems to be a deliberate attempt on Cotgrave’s part to list legal and government terminology… is shown by eight pages of text appearing under the entry Droict alone. The glosses for Roi, Parlement, and Etat reflect equal attention to detail. Cotgrave’s dictionary is invaluable for those studying Renaissance and early seventeenth century French language as he included entries which are variant dialectical forms, gleaned particularly from Rabelais. ..Vera E. Smalley’s study .. explains the tremendous amount of research which went into the Cotgrave compilation … unlike his predecessors, and those lexicographers to follow, he was not content to use solely dictionary sources in his compilation. … However, the most interesting part of this dictionary from the standpoint of the philologist is the grammatical section at the back following the last page of glosses. The first page of this section numbered Fol.l bears the title “Brief Directions for such as desire to learne the French Tongue: and first of the Vowels, and Dipthongs”. It is the most complete discussion of sounds thus far.., and the most authoritative.” James David Anderson. ‘The Development of the English-French, French English Bilingual Dictionary: a Study in Comparative Lexicography.’ A fine copy in handsome contemporary calf.

ESTC S107262. STC 5830. Lowndes II 532. “Very useful in explaining the obsolete terms in old French writers.” Alden 611/17.

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