Click-clack and crocodile tears: an annotated Elizabethan dictionary

If dictionaries are still on your mind after reading in The Collation and elsewhere about the 1580 copy of John Baret’s Alvearie owned by George Koppelman and Dan Wechsler, then here’s another tri-lingual annotated dictionary to ponder: the intensively-annotated Folger copy of John Higgins’s Huloets dictionarie newelye corrected, amended, set in order and enlarged… by which you may finde the Latin or Frenche, or anye English woorde you will (London, 1572).

Title page of Folger copy of John Higgin's Huloets dictionarie (STC 13941). Click to enlarge

Title page of Folger copy of John Higgins’s Huloets dictionarie (STC 13941). Click to enlarge

The annotations on the title page are hard to make out, but include, at the top, a verse from Virgil’s sixth eclogue, in both Latin and English, exactly as it appears in “To the Reader” in Richard Knolles’s The general history of the Turks (London, 1603). Helpfully, the annotator prefaced the English translation with the word “Knoll.” It’s also findable in the Union First Line Index of English Verse

Richard Knolles, The general history of the Turks (London, 1603). STC 15051. EEBO image of British Library copy.

Richard Knolles, The general history of the Turks (London, 1603). STC 15051. EEBO image of British Library copy.

A list of dictionary compilers and their date of publication appear in the lower right frame, awkwardly broken up by the narrow strip of empty space.

Detail of lower right corner of title page of STC 13941.

Detail of lower right corner of title page of Higgins’s Huloets dictionarie.

Eliot imprinted A[nn]o d[omin]i 15
42 Stephanus 1549. Hu
lo
et
15
62
Co
op
er
156
5
hi
gg
1572

That is, Thomas Elyot’s dictionary, Bibliotecha Eliotae (London, 1542); Robert Estienne’s (Stephanus’s) dictionary, Dictionnaire François-Latin (Paris, 1549); Richard Huloet’s dictionary, Abcedarium Anglico latinum (London, 1552, not 1562); Thomas Cooper’s dictionary, Thesaurus linguae Romanae & Britannicae (London, 1564); and finally, John Higgins’s 1572 dictionary. This list seems to be continued underneath and next to the date imprint, with the words and dates barely visible: 1589 (John Rider’s Biliotheca scholastica, possibly), 1594 (possibly a reference to Synonymorum Sylva, although 1594 was not a publication year for it), and 1596 (probably the 1596 edition of Thomas Thomasii, Dictionarium linguae Latinae et Anglicanae). Perhaps these constitute a list of additional sources that the annotator used to amplify his dictionary.

On the verso of the title page is an extensive receipt for treating kidney and bladder stones, with “Finis 1608″ added at the bottom.

The back of the title page of the Folger copy pf John HIggins' Huloets dictionarie.

The back of the title page of the Folger copy of John Higgins’s Huloets dictionarie.

A typical opening looks like the one below, for letters beginning “Fi-.”

A typical opening, with all blank space filled with additional words and phrases in English, Latin, and occasionally, French.

A typical opening, with all blank space filled with additional words and phrases in English, Latin, and occasionally, French.

The annotations are copious, dense, tiny, in both secretary and italic scripts, and written during many different stints. A later owner claims that the annotations were added by the editor himself, John Higgins, in preparation for a later edition which never happened. I only looked at this book for the first time yesterday and so can’t prove or disprove that claim, but given  that the 1572 edition is a massive expansion and revision of Richard Huloet’s Abecedarium anglico latinum (1552), it would make sense that Higgins would continue to grow the dictionary into a third edition.

Marginal annotations on sig. I2v of Higgins’ Huloets dictionarie (Folger STC 13941). Click to enlarge and see more of the marginalia

Marginal annotations on sig. I2v of Higgins’s Huloets dictionarie. Click this and the following images to enlarge and see more of the marginalia

A brief scan of some of the openings quickly reveals that the marginalia needs to be included in the IMLS-funded EMMO project, and that a careful transcription might reveal some new Elizabethan words. For example, the image above includes, right between “Clerkle handled” and “Clymover” (climb over), the phrase “Click Clack,” and its three Latin equivalents: “caute loquacior,” “litore loquacior,” and “cicada vocalior.” The Collected Works of Erasmus provides translations for these rather cryptic proverbs—“as garrulous as a reef” (Adages, 3.6.53), “as talkative as the seashore” (Adages, 2.9.32), and “as noisy as a cricket” (Adages, 1.9.100)—all referring to annoyingly talkative people. The English phrase does not appear in any other dictionary from the early modern period, according to the handy database LEME, or Lexicons of Early Modern English. Although the first usage for click-clack in the Oxford English Dictionary is 1782, there was clearly a need for a vernacular term for loquaciousness a century earlier!

The image below has an added entry for crocodile tears (“Crockodils teares”) which includes many Latin equivalents, such as “Beneuolus trucidator.” Again, the compiler is looking to Erasmus: Benevolus trucidator, or well-meaning murderer, appears in his Adages.

Manuscript entries for crocodile tears and other words.

Manuscript entries for crocodile tears and other words.

Underneath crocodile tears is a definition that gives a new, and sobering, meaning to the phrase by hook or by crook: “Crooke or a hooke used to draw dead child out of the mothers wombe Embryorectes Embryothlastes.” A variant Latin term for this instrument appears under the definition for hook.

Added entry for “By hooke or by crooke.”

Manuscript entry for “By hooke or by crooke.”

After various Latin equivalents of “By hooke or by crooke,” is the entry for “Hooke or crooke ordaned to draw dead child out of the womb vngula.” Was the compiler using different medical texts when he was working on “crook” words and “hook” words?

A politically topical addition was added in the margins of the letter A: “Apparelled like a Spaniard.” We know this phrase was in use at the time because it is used by Robert Robinson in a letter dated May 1, 1592, in which he complains that his diplomacy in Antwerp is hindred because he is “not yett appareled accordinge to the fashion of the Spaniardes” (SP 12/242, fol. 5).

Manuscript entry for “Apparelled like a Spanyard.”

Manuscript entry for “Apparelled like a Spanyard.”

And because we are the Folger Shakespeare Library, this post will close with an entry that sounds like a botched title for a familiar Shakespeare play:

Manuscript definitions for “make muche a doo about Right naught.”

Manuscript definitions for “make muche a doo about Right naught.”

As these examples start to suggest, this dictionary’s thousands of manuscript definitions provide a rich opportunity to explore the English language as it developed in Shakespeare’s time.

Author: Heather Wolfe

HEATHER WOLFE is Curator of Manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and teaches early modern English paleography for the Folger Institute and Rare Book School.

One Comment

  1. The last variant on “Much Ado” reminds me that the practice of applying proverbs to the titles of plays is itself an outgrowth of the proverb collecting, commonplacing culture the produced this book and its annotations. We are not accustomed to seeing what we would now call “reference works” being used actively in the creative process, but I think that practice is widespread. What I’d like to understand better, with the help of this and other annotated dictionaries, is the “annotation pathway”– the underlying sense of connection between what is contained in the printed text and the set of examples or variants that are added by the reader. Is the annotator trying to exhaust the meanings contained in the headword entry, to show his or her capacity to multiply those meanings (copia), to extend them to new examples, or to competitively show that the printed references are incomplete? Is this a record keeping exercise connected to one’s systematic reading habits? I think there’s a lot to learn about themental and cultural processes that guide the work of annotators who use dictionaries (or thesaurii, proverb collections, commonplace books). John Considine’s work on early modern dictionaries seems crucial in this respect.

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