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Early printed dictionaries

Single-language and dual-language dictionaries were just as indispensable to writers and scholars of the Renaissance as they are today, though in the age of online dictionaries and Google Translate it may be harder to appreciate just how revolutionary printed reference books were in the late 15th century. Printing not only sped up the process of creating dictionaries for scholars to reference — mass production of language reference books helped to standardize spelling, orthography, and vocabulary in many European languages.

reuchlinSpecial Collections owns a small number of early printed dictionaries and has recently acquired another, Johann Reuchlin’s Latin dictionary, Vocabularius breuiloquus (Basel: Nikolaus Kessler, 1486). A close-up from the first page of the preface is shown here. Other early printed dictionaries at Special Collections include an edition of an abridged Latin-German dictionary, Vocabularius ex quo (Strasbourg: Johann Prüss, ca. 1488-1493) and the Latin-Greek dictionary  (Johannes Crastonus’ Lexicon Graeco-Latinum)  printed by Aldus Manutius in 1497.

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