CHWP B.19 Kibbee, "Baret's Alvearies"

1. Introduction

In the mid-1550s, John Baret, an otherwise unknown schoolteacher, began to collect the materials for a new English-Latin dictionary. Now, more than four hundred years later, we can only wonder at the accomplishment. Unfortunately, we also frequently wonder just what he was doing, and whether he knew what he was doing. In his study of Renaissance dictionaries DeWitt Starnes puzzled over Baret's use of sources. Gabriele Stein concerned herself more with lexicographic technique, the selection and definition of headwords, and she too must frequently throw up her hands in despair when trying to explain Baret's practices.[1] The problems are certainly complex, but the solutions are now within the realm of imagination, through the creation of early dictionary databases. However, even in this field there are many traps, most of which I have fallen into at one time or another, and now, wiser, I can dare to consider the matter all over again.

[Return to table of contents] [Continue]


[1] For example: "What is not clear, however, are the criteria by means of which Baret decided which of the headwords were worth making retrievable and which not" (Stein 1985: 280).