Education and publishing: the legacy of Pierre Larousse (1817-1875)


GDU’s frontispiece (Z900.a.86.1)

Last week was the Semaine de la langue française et de la francophonie, so it is a good occasion to consider the famous French lexicographer and publisher Pierre Larousse (1817-1875).

The son of a blacksmith and an innkeeper, Pierre Athanase Larousse was born in Toucy (Burgundy) in 1817. He was a very good student and, not surprisingly, an avid reader at a time when books were distributed by peddlers. To some extent he was a free spirit, out of the conventions of his time. He cohabited for many years with Suzanne Pauline Caubel, before marrying her in 1872.

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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

A Croatian picture dictionary : the February 2017 Slavonic item of the month

We have recently started to catalogue various reference works transferred to the University Library from the Modern and Medieval Faculty Library’s Balkan section.   Most are academic dictionaries, but among them is the delightful 1938 Croatian picture dictionary Sta je sta (What is what).  Each opening provides often quite complex terminology facing illustrative pictures.  Produced by two academics and writers, Iso Velikanovic and Nikola Andric, the 685-page dictionary covers a huge number of topics in quite extraordinary detail.  Even cricket is included.


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The Brothers Grimm: much more than just fairy tales

New academic research into fairy tales made it into the news recently, suggesting that many are thousands of years old and date back to before the languages of the common Indo-European language family split. This corroborates the beliefs of the Brothers Grimm who are famous for collecting and publishing fairy tales in the 19th century.

Jacob (1785-1863) and Wilhelm (1786-1859) Grimm first published their Kinder- und Hausmärchen in 1812. The earliest editions held by the UL are the 1826 Kleine Ausgabe (S463.e.82.1) and the 1837 Grosse Ausgabe (XXVII.3.46).

Grimm’s fairy tales have been consistently popular since first publication and much translated and illustrated. Our catalogue lists over 300 editions (some containing just one story though) dating from every decade since the 1820s and including illustrations by, among others, George Cruikshank, (the caricaturist who illustrated the very first English translation), Arthur Rackham, Walter Crane, Ludwig Richter, Mervyn Peake and David Hockney. The illustration of the Grimm tales is in itself an important enough topic that a 2013 book by François Fièvre discusses it: Le conte et l’image: l’illustration des contes de Grimm en Angleterre au XIXe siècle (C204.d.1872).

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