MINSHEU, John Ductoris in linguas. The guide into tongues

London, John Haviland, 1627


Folio pp. (iv) cols 760 [pp. 380] (iv). Double column. Black, Roman, Italic and Greek and Hebrew letter, printed side notes. Title within typographical border, 3 ornate woodcut headpieces and initials, C17 ex libris on fly ‘H. Burton’ and jottings e.g. ‘Abingdon quasi Alby town in Barkshire’, including other names, mostly light age browning. 2 ll. discoloured, one with tear without loss and small hole with loss of two or three letters, a good original copy in contemporary calf, upper joint cracked but sound, foot of spine slightly defective, edges a bit rubbed.

Second and best edition of Minsheu’s great multilingual dictionary much altered by the author, giving “The Reasons and Derivations of all or the most part of words” in English, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, together with etymological explanations and examples of literary usage. The text differs from the first edition in that Welsh and Portugese are omitted. Also included are proper names “of the Bible…Countries, Cities, Townes, Hilles, Rivers, Flouds, Promontaries, Ports, Creekes, Islands, Seas, Men, Women, Gods, Peoples, and other things of note”, and a detailed “Exposition of the Termes of the Lawes of this Land…with the description of the Magistracies, Offices and Officers” clearly designed for the burgeoning legal market. The work also catered for the increasing interest in England in continental languages – apart from the traditional classical texts people were often attempting to read and write, whether for business or pleasure in the modern European tongues. The lasting value of this great lexicon however is as a dictionary of everyday English in its golden age at the beginning of the C17 – no other work gives as comprehensive a survey of the meanings of Shakespeare, Jonson and the other giants of the day. It is also still a wonderful source of random information, e.g. ‘nicotine’ comes from Jean Nicot who introduced tobacco to France in 1560. The first edition of 1617 is one of the first books to be printed by subscription – John Donne’s (here as Dunne) name appears as one of the subscribers. ‘H. Burton’ may be the puritan divine Henry Burton (1578 – 1648), immensely popular preacher and author, whose ears were famously cropped by order of Star Chamber and who more famously continued preaching without them.

STC 17947. Lowndes IV 1570 "Minsheu's guide is a very important work and has furnished great assistance to subsequent lexicographers. Todd...This edition is by some prefered for its additions and corrections." Alden 627/76; "An etymological dictionary with definitions and sources for numerous words relating to the Americas (617/93). Alston II 107. c.v. F. B. Williams "Scholarly Publications in Shakespeare's Day".
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