Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Table Alphabeticall

Richard Cawdrey - A Table Alphabeticall (1604)

University of Toronto link

The Guardian's always interesting Top 10 books lists recently focused on Top 10 Dictionaries.  Most are public domain so they seemed worth posting, especially because the article's links are not consistent and there's little author information.  The next few posts will cover most of these.

A Table Alphabeticall is considered the first English dictionary though today we would think of it more a guide to difficult or tricky words rather than a true dictionary. Nevertheless most of the words are still current today and in basically the same meaning.  The book was apparently popular and quickly went through four editions (1604, 1609, 1613, 1617).  Its alphabetical order also seems to have been an innovation.  In 1623 Henry Cockeram published The English Dictionarie (the first to use the actual word) which clearly stated that he selected words from Cawdrey's book.

As far as I can tell there are no digital copies but the University of Toronto has a webpage with the entire work.  The book was reprinted in 1970 by Da Capo and in 2015 by the Bodleian, the latter with an introduction by John Simpson.

Richard Cawdrey (1537/38 to 1604 or later) was a British rector who had conflicts with the church and returned to teaching later in life.  There seems to be little information about his life, much of it drawn from remarks in his work.  I'd guess the Simpson introduction mentioned above has the most detail but that reprint isn't in my library so I haven't read it.

There's a study of A Table Alphabeticall by Kusujiro Miyoshi in Adventuring in Dictionaries.