Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2007.03.12

René Hoven, Lexique de la prose latine de la Renaissance. Avec la collaboration dé Laurent Grailet. Deuxième édition revue et considérablement augmentée. English Translation by Coen Maes, revised by Karin Renard-Jadoul.   Leiden:  Brill, 2006.  Pp. lix, 683.  ISBN 978-90-04-13984-8.  €160.00.  



Reviewed by Marc van der Poel, Radboud University Nijmegen (m.v.d.poel@let.ru.nl)
Word count: 1516 words

The first edition of this useful and (at the time of its first publication) unique dictionary of humanistic Latin was published, in French only, in 1994. That edition has not been reviewed in BMCR; a good assessment of it, written by T. Tunberg, can be found in Renaissance Quarterly 48 (1995), 888-893.

In this new edition, the dictionary has been expanded by about one third of its original size. Its editorial principles and lay-out have remained unchanged. The dictionary records the vocabulary (words or meanings) of a large number of Latin prose authors between 1300 and 1600 from multifarious national backgrounds, who wrote in all kinds of genres and hence used different styles. The oldest author included is Petrarch (1304-1374), the most recent one is Justus Lipsius (1547-1606). In the case of a small number of authors, e.g. Ulrich von Hutten, the complete works have been analyzed, but generally only one or a few writings have been taken into account. The editions consulted are sometimes modern critical ones, but more often an old edition was resorted to, which may or may not be reliable. A small point of criticism is that a modern edition has not been used in every case where this was possible. For instance, Rudolph Agricola's De inventione dialectica (not De imitatione dialectica, as is printed by mistake in the list of authors and texts, p. xxxii) was consulted in the Alardus edition of 1539, not in the modern edition by L. Mundt (Tübingen 1992); Giovanni Pontano's dialogues Antonius and Charon were consulted in the Opera-edition of 1514, not in the critical edition by C. Previtera (Florence 1943); Lorenzo Valla's works were consulted in the 1962 reprint of the Opera omnia from 1450, while a number of his writings have been published in modern editions (e.g. the Elegantiae linguae Latinae, ed. S. López Moreda, 2 vols., Cáceres 1999).

The selection of authors has been considerably increased (230 vs. 150 in the first edition) and, though inevitably there still is an element of subjectivity in the choice of authors and texts, a serious effort has been made to make the corpus more representative of the Latinity in the period covered by including authors from all European countries and by choosing preferably first-rate authors, such as the Italians Barbaro, Bembo, Biondo, Perotti and Pontano (all these authors were listed by Tunberg in his above-mentioned review as regrettable omissions in the first edition; Filelfo, also mentioned in this list, is still lacking).

The dictionary sets out to record the non-classical Latin vocabulary (words and meanings) in the texts under consideration; the research results in about 11.000 entries and 11.600 meanings. Each entry contains the Latin word with its possible orthographic variants, followed by a French and an English translation, at least one reference, sometimes also a quotation and occasionally a critical observation by one of the humanist lexicographers (e.g. L. Valla in his Elegantiae linguae Latinae dating from the 1440s or C. Crocus in his Farrago sordidorum verborum from 1529) or by Hoven himself. To determine which words and meanings stem from the classical Latin vocabulary, Hoven has taken the Dictionnaire Latin-Français by F. Gaffiot or Le Grand Gaffiot (new, revised and expanded edition, 2000) as the main point of reference. This dictionary covers ancient Roman literature in its entirety, from the remains of old Latin to the Pervigilium Veneris, including a number of Church Fathers and the Latin Vulgate. To verify and complement Gaffiot's data, the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae was used, supplemented for the missing parts (letter N-P partim, Q-Z) by Forcellini (the German edition, 4 vols., Schneeberg 1831-1835). For late Latin, in particular the period of the Church Fathers, Blaise's Dictionnaire latin-français des auteurs chrétiens and Souter's A Glossary of Later Latin to 600 A.D. were used in addition to Gaffiot. Comparison of the words found in the humanistic texts with these dictionaries resulted in the identification of some 1600 classical words which were given a new sense by the humanists (marked with the sign +), and 900 late Latin words which were re-used in their original meaning by the humanists (indicated by means of two asterisks). There is a special category of about 65 words, which were considered classical by the humanists, but not by modern scholars (marked by three asterisks): e.g. applausor (somebody who applauds), used by Erasmus, does not occur in Gaffiot (nor in OLD), but is listed by Forcellini with a reference to Pliny, Pan. 46.4 (the modern text has plausor); facetosus (facetious), used by Guillaume Budé, is not in Gaffiot (nor in OLD), but it is mentioned in Forcellini as a variant reading in Cic., Fin. II, 103 (facetus in the modern text); lutulare (to soil), is not in Gaffiot and OLD, but Forcellini lists it as a variant reading of Plautus, Trin. 292 (lutitare in the modern text). In some cases, one may wonder whether the inclusion of a particular word in this category is justified; for instance, ostracismus crops up, marked by three asterisks, with a single reference, taken from Forcellini, to Nepos, Cim. 3.1. But in fact, this is a Greek word written in Greek or Latin characters at will in the manuscripts. There are other Greek words used by the humanists which are perhaps unnecessarily listed as Latin neologisms, e.g. stathmos (stopping place), used by Guillaume Budé. Quite a large number of words and meanings used by the humanists, namely 2600, belongs to medieval Latin (indicated by means of one asterisk). To identify these, no less than fourteen modern dictionaries of medieval Latin (four of which are still in the course of publication) have been consulted. This is considerably more than the five dictionaries consulted for the first edition of the dictionary. Without doubt the degree of persistence of medieval Latin in Renaissance Latin is thus far better illustrated in this new edition of the dictionary. Still, given the imperfect state of our knowledge of medieval Latin, one cannot assume that Hoven has brought to light the entire medieval substratum of the humanistic texts under consideration.

The remaining body of words, not marked by the sign + or by one, two or three asterisks, constitutes the genuinely humanistic Latin vocabulary. These words have been created by the usual techniques which languages have at their disposal. Thus, we find words borrowed from foreign languages. New in this edition of the dictionary are borrowings from Slavonic languages, e.g. cmeto (a wealthy farmer) orginally a Polish word, borrowings from Hungarian, e.g. nas(ss/z)ada (boat), and borrowings from Amerindian languages, e.g. oxota (a kind of sandal). Diminutives, including adjectives, adverbs and substantives, form a large category of their own; finally, there are all kinds of derivatives formed with suffixes. Adjectives and substantives ending in -icus, adverbs ending in -ice, and substantives ending in -tio are particularly numerous, e.g. baprificus (manufacturer of paper), bombardicus (of a fire-arm), helvetice (like a Helvetian), digladiatio (controversy). All these different categories and the words belonging to them are listed conventiently at the end of the book ('recapitulative appendices', p. 605-655), so as to facilitate comparison and further research.

The volume ends with a study by Hoven of the particularities of Thomas More's Latin vocabulary ('Essai sur le vocabulaire Néo-Latin de Thomas More'), previously published in Moreana 35 (1998), 125-53. As Hoven points out in the introduction, this article is an illustration of the difficulties one meets setting out to study humanistic Latin vocabulary, yet also of the new linguistic and literary insights it can bring to a given text. It is useful to remind the reader that there exist in fact quite a number of general surveys of the characteristics of humanistic Latin as well as separate, usually brief and partial descriptions of individual usage in separate humanistic texts and authors. A small bibliography of such works is available online at Bibliographical Aid to the Study of Renaissance Latin Texts.

Finally it is fitting to mention here the online Neulateinische Wortliste (NLW). Originally published in 1998, this website is maintained and continuously expanded and updated by a researcher of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, J. Ramminger. In February 2007 the NLW comprises nearly 8000 Neolatin words, gathered from 1234 authors and 2243 works. Like Hoven's dictionary, the NLW is a very useful tool for historical, linguistic and literary research of Renaissance Latin texts.

In sum, albeit no longer unique in its kind, the new, greatly expanded edition of professor Hoven's dictionary is a very welcome addition to the increasing body of scholarship on humanistic Latin. Unfortunately, as with the first edition, its high price constitutes a major hindrance to its being widely used by scholars and students. Also, one could wonder if the time has not come to join both the available funds and the efforts of individual scholars in a single, large-scale collaborative and web-based project to analyse the vocabulary of humanistic Latin or Neo-Latin in its entirety. The incorporation of Hoven's dictionary and the existing Neo-Latin wordlists (e.g. the Instrumentum lexicographicum published in the yearly volumes of Humanistica Lovaniensia) in Ramminger's NLW would constitute a useful first step to such a project.

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