Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Starved and Well-Fed Lexicons

The Diary and Correspondence of Dr. John Worthington, ed. James Crossley, Vol. II, Part I (Chetham Society, 1855), p. 23 (letter from Worthington to Samuel Hartlib, September 9, 1661, with the editor's footnote):
I do not like starved lexicons.3 When the signification is confirmed by good testimonies, (as in Buxtorf's Talmudic Lexicon,) and when fit apothegms, proverbs, observations, &c, are pertinently brought in under such a word, the reader better remembers the signification, and reads with more delight.

3 A sentence worthy of a good old scholar. A lean, lank lexicon is a prodigy demanding expiation. Dr. Johnson exulted that his dictionary would issue "vastâ mole superbus;" and Barker of Thetford, in the last conversation I had with him, claimed as his greatest merit, not his Junius discoveries, nor his monument (in two goodly octavos) to Dr. Parr, but that he had "plumped up the meagreness (!) of Harry Stephens."
"Barker of Thetford" is Edmund Henry Barker (1788-1839), who expanded Henri Estienne's Thesaurus Graecae Linguae into 12 folio volumes (London: Valpy, 1816-1828). C.J. Blomfield reviewed Vol. I, Partes I-IV, unfavorably in Quarterly Review 22 (1820) 302-348, and had this to say (at 329) about the scale of the expansion: "The 688th page of Mr. Valpy's Thesaurus corresponds with the 53d of the original work; consequently, if the same proportion be observed throughout, the new edition will be just thirteen times as bulky as the old one." Barker replied with Aristarchus Anti-Blomfieldianus: or, A Reply to the Notice of the New Greek Thesaurus... (London: J.H. Bohte, 1820), 112 pp. J.H. Monk answered Barker's Aristarchus Anti-Blomfieldianus in Quarterly Review 24 (1821) 376-400.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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