Tag Archives: Oxford’s Dictionary of Medieval Latin

Oxford Latin dictionary takes 100 years to print

Another very interesting talk at the West Oxford Academy, just up the road from chez moi.

Mark Thakkar was talking about Oxford’s Dictionary of Mediaeval Latin which has just gone to the printers even though the project was started in 1913.

Mark said the project first started at 78 Banbury Road at a place called The Scriptorium.  It was effectively crowd sourced, he said.  The literati were invited to send in quotations and RJ Whitwell (1859-1928) only sent in 30,000 of them.

West Oxford Academy
In 1913 the academics petitioned for “an adequate dictionary of mediaeval Latin”. The period in question was between 500AD to 1500AD and we’ve stuff about the former Osney Abbey, demolished by Henry VIII just down my street in a piece of privatisation called the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Were they dissolute? Certainly they were “dissolved”.

Mark pointed to Osney Abbey. One of the quotations said the pope sent his legate to the kirk and a group of scholars from Oxford University  “started a terrible fight, with a cook pouring boiling oil”. 70 folk were arrested and imprisoned. Several clerics died.

The quotations only relate to English mediaval Latin, and Mark showed that English words were sort of dumped into the Latin.

We then came to the fabulously named Robert Grosseteste (1220) who obviously had the balls to mash up his Latin grammar with some choice, that is to say pithy Anglo-Saxon.

As far as we can tell, the dictionary ends with the letter “s” – funding is a problem, said Mark. But the Packard Foundation – we’re talking an HP heir here, funded the most recent project.

A source close to the Kite tells Volesoft that mediaeval Latin was a very bastardised form of the lingo.  Mark started and finished his talk with this mediaeval picture which sort of tells its own story, doesn’t it?