9.0. Conclusion

We have followed Latin lexicography through seventeen centuries of progress, hesitation, trial and error, from Varro's De lingua latina to Estienne's Thesaurus, and we have also observed three centuries of development in Latin-French lexica. From this survey we are able to identify some important trends.

9.1. Methods

9.2. Sources and transmission

We find that there is a limited number of sources in medieval Latin lexicography. Chiefly, these are the Vulgate Bible, Latin grammarians, and Latin glossaries. Concerning the latter, Laistner (1931: 177) notes that there are only a few early glossaries which must be regarded as basic.

We also see that the close interdependence among Latin lexica makes it impossible to trace their transmission except in the broadest terms. For example, when the author of a dictionary in the Catholicon line of descent cites Hugutio or Papias, we cannot know whether he drew his material directly from those sources or by way of the Catholicon. As Buridant (1986: 27) accurately observes:

Relationships among medieval and pre-Renaissance Latin-French dictionaries are somewhat easier to trace than those of Latin lexica because of their smaller numbers. However, as we have seen, their sources represent a wide range of Latin dictionaries, and there are some surprising borrowings among the bilingual texts.

9.3. Early Printed Latin-French Dictionaries

The first printed dictionaries (whether Latin or bilingual) closely resembled their manuscript predecessors, in both content and form. Even a new compilation, such as Nebrija's Latin-Spanish Lexicon and its Latin-Catalan and Latin-French adaptations, is very much like other contemporary bilingual dictionaries.

Estienne's Thesaurus represents a new stage in Latin lexicography because Estienne is the first lexicographer to break entirely free of the medieval tradition. Kibbee (1986: 140) affirms:

Equally important, of course, is the fact that Estienne evidently valued French as a means of access to the Latin language, and regarded the vernacular as an integral part of his lexical works.

Brandon (1904: 26) claims that Estienne was unaware of medieval manuscript lexica, although he knew the printed Latin dictionaries from 1460 to 1530. We feel it is rather unlikely that Estienne, as a student in the first two decades of the sixteenth century, would not have had some exposure to manuscript dictionaries. In any case, he must have retained some impressions, both positive and negative, from earlier compilations, whether manuscript or printed. His early experience with dictionaries, even before Calepino's Dictionarium, probably contributed to his resolve to create a new work.

There is no evidence that Estienne knew or used other bilingual dictionaries. What is clear, however, is the supremacy of Latin in all of them, including Estienne's. Wooldridge (1977: 23) tells us that "although the essential form of the French dictionary is established" in the DFL of 1539, "the intention will only be born later", in the second edition of 1549. Brandon (1904: 73) affirms that the seed of a true French language dictionary may be seen in the second edition.

9.4. Future Opportunities

Our work in this study identifies some areas which we were not able to explore fully, and which seem to us to present opportunities for future research. These relate to:
  1. French lexicography.
    There are untapped resources of Middle French in the Aalma series of manuscripts, in all editions of the Catholicon abbreviatum, and in all editions of the Vocabularius nebrissensis/Epithoma vocabulorum. A database of the text in these dictionaries would complement the work of the REFLEX  [103] Group in the Department of French Language and Literature at the University of Toronto. One of their databases contains the entire text of the Dictionarius of Firmin Le Ver, the Glossarium gallico-latinum and the Vocabularius familiaris et compendiosus, and another the works of Robert Estienne (beginning with the Thesaurus of 1531), and his successors up to the Thresor of Nicot (1606).
  2. Latin lexicography.
    We do not believe that a database has been created of the monolingual Latin editions of Ambrogio Calepino's Dictionarium. Such a database, which might also include the Latin text from the three groups of bilingual lexica mentioned in 1. above, would provide an excellent record of late medieval and pre-Renaissance Latin language.

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