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Posted - 21-09-2018

Collections / Digitisation

Revealing the Objects: Dictionaries and Grammars

As of October 2018 the Library will share a number of additional items from its collections on Europeana, a European digital cultural platform. We are currently working with 12 other partner institutions on a project entitled ‘The Rise of Literacy’ which aims to explore the history of reading and writing in Europe. In this weekly blog series – ‘Revealing the Objects, some of the Library’s contributions will be disclosed on a thematic basis.

Here’s a selection of dictionaries and grammars that will be digitized as part of the project.

 

Gruffydd Robert – Dosparth byrr (1563)

Gruffydd Robert was a Roman Catholic scholar, a grammarian of the sixteenth century and a humanist of the Renaissance. It comes as no surprise therefore that Robert was concerned with the study of language and the Welsh language in particular. As a Catholic exile he had to contend with rigorous press censorship across Europe which made the process of publication a daunting task. Gruffydd Robert’s multi-volume Grammar ‘Dosbarth byrr’, the earliest grammar to appear in Welsh, was at least partly published in Milan from 1567, where the author had settled. Robert was a firm supporter of the art of translation and believed it was a vital component in the expansion and development of a language in the modern world. He put his ideas into practice in his grammar. In addition, he converted the Ciceronian style into a Welsh medium by including a select translation of Cicero’s De Senectute in his sixth volume of ‘Dosparth byrr’.

John Davies – Antiquae linguae Britannicae, nunc vulgo dictae Cambro-britannicae, a suis Cymraecae vel Cambricae, ab aliis Wallicae, et linguae Latinae, dictionarium duplex. Prius Britannico-Latinum, … posterius, Latino-Britannicum. Accesserunt adagia Britannica (1632)

‘Dictionarium Duplex’ was a Latin-Welsh, Welsh-Latin dictionary and the first of its kind. This publication showcased John Davies’s lifetime study of the Welsh language, from Old Welsh poetry dating from around the sixth century down to the seventeenth century. Davies was a Renaissance scholar and these humanistic values were evident is his ‘Dictionarium Duplex’. The preface to the volume presented an interesting statement on the uniqueness of the Welsh language, its history and its place within an international linguistic context. In addition, his familiarities with the ideas of influential humanistic scholars were evident within the publication. This dictionary was aimed at, and produced for, scholars or Latinists. It was certainly not a practical resource for the ordinary Welsh-man, nor the uneducated poet. The ‘Dictionarium Duplex’ came to the attention of some of Europe’s leading linguists in the seventeenth century and laid the foundations for many future Welsh linguists and scholars. It also had a great impact on lawyers and priests during that time. Its publication is considered as one of the most important events in the history of the Welsh language in the seventeenth century.

Thomas Jones – Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb / The British language in its lustre (1688)

‘Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb’ or ‘The British language in its lustre’ was the first Welsh-English dictionary to appear in published form. This volume, by the almanacer Thomas Jones, was pocket sized and relatively cheap. Jones used John Davies’s Welsh-Latin section in ‘Dictionarium Duplex’ as a starting point for his publication. However, this dictionary was not intended for the educated minority, like Davies’s Latin version, but rather the ordinary population. Jones wished to enhance the lower class’s ability to write and spell both in Welsh and English through ‘Y Gymraeg yn ei Disgleirdeb’.

Want to see more posts from this series? See below:

Elen Hâf Jones – Digital Access Projects Officer

This post was created as part of the Europeana Rise of Literacy Project

This post is also available in: Welsh

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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