Book Id: 43367 Doctor in linguas. Bookplate of bookseller John Lawson. Contemporary calf with royal arms on covers. John Minsheu.
Doctor in linguas. Bookplate of bookseller John Lawson. Contemporary calf with royal arms on covers.
Doctor in linguas. Bookplate of bookseller John Lawson. Contemporary calf with royal arms on covers.
Doctor in linguas. Bookplate of bookseller John Lawson. Contemporary calf with royal arms on covers.
Doctor in linguas. Bookplate of bookseller John Lawson. Contemporary calf with royal arms on covers.

Doctor in linguas. Bookplate of bookseller John Lawson. Contemporary calf with royal arms on covers.

Publisher Information: London: 1617.

Minsheu, John (1560-1627). Hegemon eis tas glossas [in Greek], id est, ductor in linguas, the guide into tongues . . . [16], 543, [193]pp.; separate subscription leaf (“A catalogue and true note of the names of such persons . . .”) laid in. London: John Brown, 1617. 400 x 257 mm. Calf ca. 1617, British royal coat of arms stamped in gilt on both covers, moderate wear. Marginal repair to a few leaves, margins of first and last leaves a bit frayed, occasional dampstaining, subscription leaf with some soiling and marginal fraying and one small repair, but very good. Engraved armorial bookplate of Thomas Stapleton; modern bookplate.

First Edition, with the very rare single leaf of subscribers laid in (STC 17944a, variant 6, including the names of Francis Bacon and John Donne). Minsheu’s Ductor in linguas was the first book published by advance subscription using a printed prospectus, and the first book to include a list of subscribers. Minsheu worked for twenty years to produce this massive polyglot dictionary, which translates English words into Welsh, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Spanish Portuguese, Latin, Greek and Hebrew and gives their etymologies. The author’s two decades of labor on his dictionary coincide with the last fifteen years of Shakespeare’s career and thus provides a valuable record of the language of the period.

There is no doubt that the Ductor in linguas is a monumental work. No less impressive than the title are the size and the contents of this volume. On more than 500 closely printed folio pages English lemmata are followed by their etymologies and their equivalents in ten other languages, “British or Welsh, Low Dutch, High Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguez, Latine, Greeke, Hebrew.” In addition to Roman, black letter, and italics, the favorite triad around 1600, the compositors were also required to use Greek, Hebrew, and Anglo-Saxon letters. Long and learned prefaces in Latin and in English introduce the work, and there are two commendatory certificates, one by the University of Oxford and another by some of the leading scholars of the day. Both of these certificates are dated from the end of 1610 when the work had apparently been in progress for several years. In addition, a list of purchasers contains illustrious names from the court, as well as the study. Throughout his introductions Minsheu stresses the number of collaborators and the amount of time and money invested in the enterprise, and the extent of his labor seems stupendous. Learned etymologies, definitions, multilingual equivalents, illustrative quotations, and precise bibliographic references crowd the pages, and the fact that the work was published at all may be more noteworthy than the many years of preparation (Schäfer, p. 24).

Although some scholars disputed whether Minsheu actually issued the first edition of his dictionary by subscription, the survival of a single copy of the book’s 1611 prospectus—preserved at the Bodleian Library—proves that he did. John Feather, who reproduced this unique document in his English Book Prospectuses (1984), regarded Minsheu’s Ductor in linguas as “the first subscription book, and John Minsheu himself as the pioneer, and for all practical purposes the inventor, of the book prospectus” (Feather, p. 28). Schäfer, “John Minsheu, scholar or charlatan,” Renaissance Quarterly 26 (1973): 23-35.

Book Id: 43367

Price: $7,500.00

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