7.0. Lexicographical works of Robert Estienne to 1539 
Robert Estienne (1503-1559) 
was the son of a Parisian printer,
Henri Estienne, and (following his father's death in 1520), the stepson of another
printer, Simon de Collines. After finishing his studies, Robert worked for his
stepfather until about 1526, when he established himself as an independent printer
in premises formerly occupied by his father in the Clos Bruneau, rue St-Jean de
Beauvais (Brandon 1904: 3f.). He exercised his trade there until his move to
Geneva in 1550, where he continued to print until his death.
As a printer, Robert Estienne's program was a practical one. Over a period
of more than thirty years it covered a wide range of Latin and Greek classics,
several editions of the Bible in Latin as well as an edition in Hebrew and the New
Testament in Greek, grammars and other pedagogical works in both Latin and French,
and several dictionaries, addressed to different audiences.
As an author and editor, we can say with Starnes (1963: 10) that "[h]is was
an historical and critical method like that of such humanist scholars as Colet and
7.1. Early Lexicographical Works
Artz (1966: 84) tells us:
"The greatest undertaking of Spanish Renaissance Humanism
was a polyglot text of the Bible in parallel columns of
the original languages and a Latin translation. This was
the favorite enterprise of Cardinal
Ximenes;  it was
1522  after
Ximenes' death. This work was
one of the great monuments of scholarship and printing
skill in the first half of the sixteenth century. In the
Old Testament the Latin Vulgate was printed
between the Hebrew text and the Greek Septuagint."
This Bible, usually called the Complutensian  Polyglot Bible,
comprises six volumes, of which Volume VI is a glossary of Hebrew, Chaldean, Greek
and Latin words (Starnes 1963: 16). Robert Estienne based his first
lexicographical work on the glossary in the Complutensian Bible. It is a glossary
of proper names in the Scriptures and an index of the Old Testament,
entitled Hebraea, Chaldaea, Graeca et Latina nomina, which was a companion
volume to his first edition of the Bible, printed in 1528. The 1532 edition
includes an enlarged glossary and an index of both Old and New Testaments. Such
a glossary and index are found in all of Estienne's subsequent editions of the
Latin Bible (id. 1963: 10f.).
In 1537, Estienne published the glossary of proper names and the index to
the Scriptures as a separate work with the title:
Hebraea, Chaldaea, Graeca et Latina nomina virorum, mulierum,
populorum, idolorum, urbium, fluviorum, montium, caeterorúmque
locorum quae in Bibliis leguntur, restituta, cum Latina
Estienne acknowedges his debt to the Complutensian Bible at the beginning
of this independent edition of the glossary: Deinde, interpretationem, quae in
Bibliis Compluti impressis erat, in omnibus fere secuti sumus (Starnes
1963: 17). Armstrong (1956: 90) remarks that this glossary "is virtually a
Locorum descriptio ex Cosmographis.
Index praeterea rerum et sententiarum quae in iisdem Bibliis
Ex officina Roberti Stephani.
M. D. XXXVII.
Further evidence of Estienne's feeling that proper names needed separate
treatment comes from his revision of a dictionary of proper nouns compiled by
Herman Torrentius (first printed in 1498). Estienne printed the Dictionarium
poeticum quod vulgo inscribatur Elucidarius Carminum in 1530 and again in
1535. This text was the basis for his own work entitled Elucidarius poeticus,
sive Dictionarium nominum proprium, published in 1541, "but his compilation
deals more completely and systematically with the proper names found in ancient
literature, with details and references, and incorporates general geographical
information of a kind not to be found in the older book at all" (Armstrong 1956:
Estienne's first large, original lexicographical work appeared in 1531: his
Dictionarium, seu Latinae linguae Thesaurus, usually called
7.2. Dictionarium, seu Latinae linguae Thesaurus
Brandon (1904: 27f.) defines three stages in the development of Latin lexicography
from the invention of printing until Estienne produced his large lexicographical
The first stage is represented by John Balbi's Catholicon. It was the
first dictionary to be printed and it dominated the field in the last half of the
fifteenth century. The nomenclature of the Catholicon contains ancient and
medieval words, and the microstructure is a mixture of encyclopaedic articles and
shorter ones. Balbi's citations are drawn mainly from earlier lexica including
Papias and Hugutio, from the Vulgate and the Church Fathers, as well as from
grammarians and commentators. From the humanist viewpoint, the Catholicon
"lacks a solid base: that is, a classical vocabulary supported by citations from
authors of good Latinity" (Brandon 1904: 28). We would also include in the
first stage the Latin dictionary called Vocabularius breviloquus, compiled
by Johannes Reuchlin from a manuscript dictionary based on the Catholicon
(see 5.1.2.), and first published in 1475.
The Cornucopiae sive linguae latinae commentarii of Nicholas Perotto,
published in 1489 (nine years after Perotto's death), represents the second stage
in printed Latin dictionaries. Perotto carefully selected Latin words and studied
them thoroughly in order to comment on their meaning and their classical usage.
The consultability of the Cornucopiae is aided by an appendix in which the
words commented on are listed in alphabetical order with a reference to the page
on which they are treated (Brandon 1904: 28). The second stage should probably
also include the Commentarii linguae latinae based chiefly on Ciceronian
usage, written by Étienne Dolet. Although Dolet was a contemporary of
Robert Estienne (the Commentarii were published in two volumes in
1536-1538), his method was entirely different, as Christie (1964: 244f.) explains:
"The work of Robert Estienne was a dictionary [...], in
which the alphabetical order was followed, and in which
each word was explained by itself and without regard to
its relationship to others. Dolet, on the contrary,
arranged his words according to their connection with
each other, or rather with the ideas which they
expressed. The commentary upon one word is followed by a
commentary upon the words of a like character, and then
upon those which are contrary or dissimilar."
The third stage in dictionary development, according to Brandon, is found
in the Dictionarium of Ambrogio Calepino (see 6.1.4.). Calepino's principal
source appears to have been a thematic dictionary written by Franciscus Grapaldus,
entitled Lexicon de partibus aedium, and first printed in Parma in 1494
(Collison 1982: 64, Green 1996: 50). Each of the
twenty-four chapters of the Lexicon begins with a description of the
apparatus, instruments, furnishings, etc. of a particular part of a house (such
as Apotheca or Gynaecium), but moves on to a general discussion of
the subject (Green 1996: 50f.), thus furnishing additional vocabulary and
It is almost certain that Calepino also used the Catholicon as a
source. A number of its lemmata are found in the nomenclature of the
Dictionarium: see Appendix 7 for a comparison of lemmata beginning
Mag- in the two dictionaries. However, the structure of the articles is
different in several respects, as we see from Exhibit 36:
|Exhibit 36: Article Abominor in the Catholicon and
the Dictionarium of Ambrogio Calepino |
abominatus sum componitur ex
ab et ominor ominaris quod est
auguror. et est abominari
abhorrere aliquid cum
execrari. detestari. vel malum
omine imprecari. Unde hic
execracio. et hec
abominarium. liber ubi
abominaciones scribebantur et
correpta mi abominor. et est
verbum deponens. Ro. ii Qui
abominaris ydola sacrilegium
Abominor penultima correpta
ex ab et ominor: de quo infra. Est
autem abominari execrari fastidire
et quasi pro malo omine habere. Pli.
Abominamur recedente aliquo ab
epulis simul verri solum: aut
bibente conviva mensam vel
repositorium tolli in
auspicatissimum iudecatur... |
Mainz 1460; reprint Gregg: Westmead 1971
Josse Bade et Jean Petit, Paris, 1516/1517 |
In this example, Calepino retains phonetic and derivational information but
omits grammatical details, and replaces the etymological definition with an
internal reference. Lindemann (1994: 118) points out another important difference
between the two dictionaries, that is, the function of citations. She explains
that in the Catholicon Balbi frequently uses citations to support the
encyclopaedic commentary. By contrast, Calepino uses citations from classical
authors to prove the purity of the Latin form.
Brandon (1904: 29) remarks that it appears Calepino did not draw his
citations directly from the authors but rather took them from grammarians and
commentators, which diminishes
the scientific value of the work. Nevertheless, the Dictionarium represents
a step forward from the Catholicon, through the elimination of much
medieval Latin vocabulary, the number of citations, and the absence of
encyclopaedic articles (although Calepino retains some proper nouns).
Calepino's dictionary was an immediate success and enjoyed a lasting
reputation (see 6.1.4.). However, repeated printings and emendations soon made it
a difficult work to consult, and about 1528  Estienne was asked to
produce an improved edition of Calepino's popular work. He approached several
scholars whom he considered suited to the task but, such was the state of the
work,  no-one would agree to
undertake it. Finally, Estienne decided
to write an original work based on a fresh survey of Latin literature (Armstrong
1956: 85), exemplified by the best writers and glossed by the most authoritative
commentators (Wooldridge 1989a: 177). The result of three years' intensive labour
by Estienne was the appearance in 1531 of a new Latin dictionary, comprising 964
folios and containing a quantity of French interpretations, with the title:
Dictionarium, seu Latinae linguae Thesaurus, Non singulas modò
dictiones continens, sed integras quoque Latinè et loquendi,
et scribendi formulas ex optimis quibusque authoribus
accuratissimè collectas. Cum Gallica ferè
Despite the fact that Estienne considered Calepino's work to be
unsatisfactory in many ways, it is clear from the comparison in Exhibit 37 that
in this case, at any rate, he used the Dictionarium as his basic source:
eliminating, adding, correcting and reordering material according to his own plan,
verifying or substituting citations, and adding French forms.
|Exhibit 37: Article Macer in the Dictionarium of Ambrogio
Calepino and the Thesaurus 1531 of Robert Estienne |
||Thesaurus 1531 |
|¶ Macer cra. crum.
a moerore fit: & exilem
extenuatumque significat. Virg. Heu
heu quam pingui macer est mihi
taurus in arvo. Col. lib. ii. Nam
vel pinguissima vel macerrima humo
|¶ Macies macritudo &
macor extenuationem significant.
Apu. Unde ista tam subita macies &
tantus pallor. Plaut. Ossa atque
pellis: ut miser macritudine. Pacu.
Corpusque meum tali moerore errore
macore sonet. |
plenus macie. Festus. Macilenti
macie attenuati. |
|¶ Macreo es. macer
sum: a quo macresco: macer
fio. Col. lib. vi. Dabimusque operam
ne penuria cibi macrescat pecus.
Var. Qui earum aspectus ad
desyderium macrescere facit volucres
|¶ Maceo ces.
macui: idem quod macreo: a quo
macesco macescis macer fio.
Col. lib. ii. Constat arva segetibus
eius scilicet hordei macescere.
Varro. Tum propter laborem
asperantur: & macescunt. |
|¶ Macio as. macrum
facio. Cuius compositum est
emacio: quod est valde macio.
Col. lib. v. At certe in ordinariis
vitibus utique obtinendum est ne
pluribus flagellis emacientur nisi
si futuria propaginibus
|¶ Macero as. cum
ad corpus refertur significat
attenuo contero: ab eo quod est
macer. Hora. li. i. car. Quam
penitus lentis macerer ignibus.
Plaut. in cap. Multos iste morbus
homines macerat. Cum autem ad animam
significat affligo. Lact. li. vii.
Nec ad oculus somnus accedet sed
animas hominum sollicitudo ac
vigilia macerabit. Proprie tum
macerare est mollificare: ut fit cum
quippiam tam diu in aqua tenetur
donec tenerescat. Teren. in Adel.
Salsamenta haec Stephanio fac ut
macerentur pulchre. Col. li. i.
Piscinas duas alteram quam anseribus
pecoribusque serviat: alteram in qua
lupinum: ulmi vimina & virgas atque
alia quae sunt usibus nostris apta
|¶ Maceresco maceratus fio.
Ca. de re ru. Frumento curgulio ne
noceat neu mures tangant lutum de
amurca facito: palearum paulum
addito: sinito macerescant. |
|° Macro cras. cuius compositivum est emacro:
quod est valde macer
fio. Pli. lib. xviii. Terram emacrari <sic> hoc satu existimantes.
Josse Bade et Jean Petit, Paris, 1516/1517
|MACER macra macrum, à moerore fit, & exilem,
extenuatúmque significat. Maigre. Virg. Heu heu quàm pingui macer est
mihi taurus in arvo. Columella lib. 2, Nam vel pinguissima vel macerrima humo iacitur.
| ||Macellus macella macellum, diminutivum, pro
macilento. Lucilius lib. 6, Si nosti, non
magnus homo est, nasutus, macellus. |
|Macilentus macilenta macilentum, Fort maigre. Festus,
Macilenti: macie attenuati.
Plaut. in Asin. 8.20, Macilentis malis, rufulus, aliquantum ventriosus. Idem in Capt. ll.ll6,
Sed qua facie est tuus sodalis Philolacrates: AR. dicam tibi, Macilento ore, naso acuto, corpore
albo, & oculis nigris. |
|Macror macroris, mascul. ge. Idem. Pacuvius, Corpúsque meum
tali moerore, errore,
macrore senet. |
|Macritudo macritudinis, foem. gen. Idem. Plautus in Capt. 4.32, Ossa,
atque pellis sum misera
|Macies maciei, foem. gen. Maigreté. Apuleius, Unde
ista tam subita macies, &
tantus pallor: |
|Maceo maces, macui, macere, Estre maigre. Plaut. in Aulul.
16.28, Qui ossa, atque
pellis totus est, ita cura macet. |
|Macesco macescis, macui, macescere: Devenir maigre. Plaut.
in Capt. 4.32, Ego qui tuo
moerore maceror, macesco, consenesco, & tabesco miser. Columella libro secundo, Constat arva
segetibus eius (scilicet hordei) macescere. Varro, Tum propter laborem asperantur &
|Macio macias, maciare, Macrum facere. à quo Emacio.
Vide loco suo. |
|Macreo macres, macrui, macrere, Estre maigre. |
|Macresco macrescis, macrescere, Macrum fierei. Columella lib. 6,
Dabimúsque operam ne
penuria cibi macrescat pecus. Varro, Qui earum aspectus ad desyderium macrescere facit
|Macero maceras, macerare, attenuare, conterere, Faire maigre.
& ad corpus tunc
refertur. Horat. lib. Car. Quàm penitus lentis macerer ignibus. Plaut. in Capt. Multos
iste morbus homines macerat. |
| ||Macerare, Mollificare, ut fit cum quippiam tam
diu in aqua tenetur donec tenerescat.
Mettre attendir en leaue, Mettre destremper. Terent. in Adelphis, 3.3.27, Salsamenta
haec Stephanio fac ut macerentur probé. Columella lib. i, Piscinas duas, alteram
quae anseribus, pecoribúsque serviat: alteram in qua lupinum ulmi vimina, & virgas,
atque alia, quae sunt usibus nostris apta, maceremus. |
| ||Macerare se, Se affliger, & contrister
tellement que lon divienne maigre. Plaut.
in trinummo, 5.2, Multas res simul in meo corde vorso, multum in cogitando dolorem
indipiscor, egomet me concoquo, & macero, & defatigo. Idem in Milite, 10.22, At hoc me
facinus miserum macerat, meúmque cor, corpúsque cruciat. Idem in Capt.
Qui tuo moerore maceror. Terent. in And. 4.2.2, Tu modo anime mi noli te macerare.
5.3.15, Sed quid ego: cur me excrucio: cur me macero: Idem in Eunu. 1.2. 107, Rus ibo:
hoc macerabo biduum. |
|Maceratus macerata maceratum, Qui est amolli, attendri. Plaut.
in Poenulo, 8.21,
Macerato hoc pingues fiunt auro in Barbaria boves. |
|Marceresco marcerescis, macerescere, Maceratum fieri, Devenir
mol. Cato de re rustica,
Frumento curgulio ne noceat, neu mures tangant, lutum de amurca facito: palearum paulum
sinito macerescant. |
|Macro macras macrare, Faire mol. Unde EMACRARE. Vide loco
Robert Estienne, Paris, 1531
Brandon (1904: 36) writes: "Estienne proposed three improvements in the science of lexicography:
that is, purging of the vocabulary, verification of generally accepted interpretations, and more
extensive use of classical citations with precise references". Estienne explains his methods in
compiling the Thesaurus in a second Preface,  and we discuss them in
We should stress that the Thesaurus of 1531 (T1531) is not a
bilingual dictionary. Brandon (1904: 48) affirms that Estienne had Latin and only
Latin in mind. He intended T1531, which is addressed studiosis
lectoribus, to be used both by students and by scholars knowledgeable in Latin
(Brandon 1904: 50). However, he later recognized the need to separate his
dictionaries into monolingual Latin and bilingual Latin-French works. In the
second edition of the Thesaurus (T1536), he eliminated the
expression Cum Gallica ferè interpretatione and replaced it with a
list of the Latin writers cited in the text:
Dictionarium seu Latinae Linguae Thesaurus, non singulas modo
dictiones continens, sed integras quoque Latine et loquendi, et
scribendi formulas Catone, Varrone, Caesare, Cicerone, Livio,
Columella, Plinio avunculo, Plinio secundo, Plauto, Terentio,
Virgilio, Martiale. Cum Latina tum grammaticorum, tum varii generis
Estienne moderated the importance of French in this edition because he had
in mind a project to publish a Latin-French dictionary.  However,
the absolute volume of French scarcely changed in T1536, due to the large
quantity of new entries, of which a number include a French interpretation
(Brandon 1904: 58, Wooldridge 1977: 21f.).
Parisiis. Ex officina Roberti Stephani, 1536.
French was suppressed entirely in the 1543 edition of the Thesaurus,
a huge work of more than 3,000 folios in three volumes, and the last edition
published by Estienne.
Dictionarium, seu Latinae linguae Thesaurus. Non singulas modo
dictiones continens, sed integras quoque Latine et loquendi, et
scribendi formulas ex optimis quibusque authoribus, ea quidem nunc
accessione, ut nihil propemodum observatu dignum sit apud Oratores,
Historicos, Poetas, omnis denique generis scriptores, quod hic non
promptum paratumque habeat.
In the title, Estienne calls this his second edition, but he refers to it
as the third edition in the preface.
Parisiis. Ex officina Roberti Stephani typographi regii, 1543.
Wooldridge (1977: 21, n.8) remarks that the Thesaurus subsequently
had a "glorious monolingual career". Posthumous editions appeared in Lyons in
1573, in London in 1734 and in Basle in 1740 (Brandon 1904: 59, n.2).
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