The feat of the Real Academia Española’s first dictionary (part 2)

The dictionary lacked a general method and workflows were divided among the authors by combinations of letters. They took for granted that every academic was equally qualified, worked at the same speed, and was following the same criteria as the rest of the team – criteria which, incidentally, were not precisely established from the start. For instance, not all authors were using the same edition of a given work to find the quotes from authorities, so knowing the folio or page number is not particularly useful. The original intentions were too ambitious and some cuts in the plan were required. There was no room for adding the vocabulary of the arts and sciences. This task was postponed, with plans for an eventual separate dictionary dedicated to that vocabulary; a project never undertaken. Continue reading

The feat of the Real Academia Española’s first dictionary (part 1)

The Diccionario de la lengua castellana (1726-1739), later known as Diccionario de autoridades, was the first modern Spanish lexicographical work. The Real Academia Española (RAE) was founded in 1713 under the royal auspices and the first generation of academics decided to record the Spanish vocabulary following the example of the language academies in Paris and Florence. They considered that the Spanish language had achieved its zenith in the 17th century, so it was time to preserve it for future generations. This was a huge challenge, considering that the only Spanish precedent, the Tesoro de la lengua castellana, o española (1611) by Sebastián de Covarrubias, one of the first monolingual dictionaries in a vernacular language, was around one hundred years old. They did their job altruistically, “for the honour of serving the Nation”. The founder and first director, Juan Manuel Fernández Pacheco, Marquis of Villena and Duke of Escalona was an inspiring figure and played a major role in the institution. The purpose of the academy was reflected in its motto “Limpia, fija y da esplendor” ([It] cleans, [it] fixes, and [it] gives splendour). Continue reading

Frantsysk Skaryna and 500 years of Belarusian printing : the September 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Earlier this month, the National Library of Belarus (NLB) held a conference to celebrate the history of Belarusian printing, marking the 500th anniversary of Frantsysk Skaryna’s publication of the Psalter – one of many Belarusian initiatives to celebrate Skaryna’s legacy.  Both the UL and Trinity College have contributed to another of NLB’s projects, to draw together as comprehensive as possible a database of scanned copies of all original Skaryna material.  Cambridge has provided digital copies of:

  • a fragment of Skaryna’s 1518 First Book of Kings (1 Samuel); exactly the same fragment is held by both Trinity and the UL (the latter at F151.c.7.10)
  • Skaryna’s 1522 Malaia podorozhnaia knizhitsa (Small travel book) Psalter (UL: F152.e.14.1)

Continue reading

Maria Sibylla Merian – 300

Portrait of Merian by Jacob Houbraken after Georg Gsell

It is 300 years since the renowned artist and naturalist Maria Sybilla Merian died on January 13, 1717 in Amsterdam. She was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1647 into a family of publishers and artists, and was educated and trained by the artist Jacob Marrel. She established her reputation as the foremost natural history illustrator with her Neues Blumenbuch, published in three parts from 1675. She lived with her daughters in Amsterdam from 1691, and in 1699 she travelled to the Dutch territory of Suriname in South America and spent two years studying and painting its flora and fauna. The work produced in Suriname was the basis for her masterwork published as Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium in 1705. This magnificent publication is a milestone in the history of natural history illustration. Continue reading

Catalan books and Spanish lyrical pieces in the Jonathan Gili collection

A few years ago, we announced the purchase of a collection of Catalan and Spanish books from the library of Jonathan and Phillida Gili. Our blog post featured some of the gems of this wonderful acquisition.

We are pleased to report that this collection is now fully catalogued. Continue reading