16.08.01, Ashdowne, ed., Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources: Fascicule XVII

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Michael Herren

The Medieval Review 16.08.01

Ashdowne, R. K., with K. Gowers, G. Pezzini, S. Sneddon, M. N. A. Thakkar, and C. White, eds. Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources: Fascicule XVII, Syr-Z. Oxford: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 2013. pp. 300. ISBN: 978-0-19726-561-1 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Michael Herren
York University and The University of Toronto

The present and final fascicle of the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources comprises a brief preface by T. Reinhardt, lists of fascicules published, addenda and corrigenda to the entire dictionary, and supplementary bibliography. The last is followed immediately by entries from the end of S to the end of Z. I list here the published fascicules of the entire Dictionary with their editors and dates:

It is clear from the above that David Howlett deserves great credit for overseeing the publication of the lion's share of the fascicules and for guiding the project expeditiously to its conclusion. (His retirement preceded the completion of the Dictionary.) Howlett's achievement and that of his predecessor, founding editor R. E. Latham, were recently generously acknowledged by the last editor, Richard Ashdowne, in his article on the dictionary's history, published on the British Academy website (britac.ac.uk). One rarely thinks of dictionary making as a race. However, DMLBS was the first of the Medieval Latin dictionaries that were intended to supersede Du Cange that has been brought to conclusion. Not only are all the fascicules now available in print, they can also be consulted handily online on the Logeion website. For that achievement the last editor, Richard Ashdowne, deserves our thanks.

The DMLBS covers Latin material written on the island of Britain and by Englishmen writing elsewhere from the time of Gildas (mid-sixth century) to the reign of Elizabeth I. Unlike the earlier word-lists, J. H. Baxter and Charles Johnson's Medieval Latin Word-List from British and Irish Sources (1934) and R. E. Latham's revision of same (1965), which focused their efforts on non-classical vocabulary, DMLBS begins many entries with classical definitions and examples of their use in British Latin. (Medieval neologisms and words drawn from Old English are obviously excluded from that practice.) The dictionary also differs from the earlier lists in excluding Irish material, which was originally planned to be incorporated. In 1968, a plan to develop a Latin dictionary based on Irish sources was initiated. Over the years that was expanded to include other Celtic material, but limited to non-classical words and usages. The first volume of The Non-Classical Lexicon of Celtic Latinity, edited by Anthony Harvey and Jane Power, appeared in 2005.

Those interested in the principles by which the DMLBS was compiled will want to consult Latham's preface to Fascicle I (1975). It was obvious from the beginning that, given the massive amount of material, any attempt to be exhaustive would have been highly impractical. Only a few examples from well-known sources would be provided for classical usage, somewhat more for post-classical meanings, with "the fullest treatment...reserved for what is distinctively British." (Those who would hope for more extensive coverage should consider the history of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, begun in 1894, with P the most recent fascicule printed; or the Mittellateinisches Wörterbuch, begun in 1948, now at the middle of I). It would be easy for a reviewer to go through the index of a given Anglo-Latin writer such as Aldhelm and find citation gaps in the Dictionary (For this fascicle I would have wished for the inclusion of Aldhelm's tabula meaning one of the testaments of the Bible, and zizania, "darnel”, used in a figurative sense), but given the objectives stated at the beginning, this would be churlish. All three editors and their teams should be thanked for finishing the DMLBS expeditiously, and for making this indispensable tool easily available to everyone. Oxford University Press, printing for the British Academy, should also be credited for the clear and elegant typography of the volumes.

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