Latin in Medieval Britain

9780197266083We are pleased to announce that Latin in Medieval Britain, edited by Richard Ashdowne and Carolinne White, will be published by the British Academy in April 2017. This volume follows from the conference under the same title held in 2013 to celebrate the completion of the Dictionary.

Latin continued to be used across Europe long after the end of the Roman Empire. This collection considers key issues arising from the use of Latin in Britain from the 6th to the 16th centuries. Latin in this period was not the native language of its users but was nevertheless used extensively for a wide variety of functions from religion, literature, and philosophy to record-keeping and correspondence. It existed alongside a number of everyday native spoken languages, including English, French, and Welsh. The chapters in this collection consider Latin with regard to the various contexts in which it was used, looking beyond narrow comparisons with its Roman ancestor to see what medieval users did with Latin and the changing effects this had on the language.

The fifteen chapters by expert contributors are divided into three parts. The chapters of the first part consider important examples of Latin usage in Britain during four successive periods, the pre-Conquest period, the 12th century, the long 14th century, and the 15th and 16th centuries. In the second part, different spheres of use are considered, including the law, the church, music, and science. In the final part the use of Latin is considered alongside the many spoken native languages of medieval Britain, looking at how the languages had different roles and how they influenced each other. In all the many contexts in which Latin was used, this use reveals continuity matched with adaptation to circumstance, not least in the development of new vocabulary for the language. Between these two poles, users of Latin steered a course that suited their own needs and those of their intended audience.

The contributors are:

Richard Ashdowne, Former Editor, Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources
Paul Brand FBA, Emeritus, All Souls College, University of Oxford
Charles Burnett FBA, Warburg Institute, University of London
Wendy Childs, Emeritus, University of Leeds
Philip Durkin, Deputy Chief Editor, Oxford English Dictionary
Leofranc Holford-Strevens, former Consultant Scholar-Editor, Oxford University Press
David Howlett, Former Editor, Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources
Paul Russell, University of Cambridge
Samantha Schad, Oxford English Dictionary
Richard Sharpe FBA, Wadham College, University of Oxford
Robert Swanson, University of Birmingham
David Trotter, Aberystwyth University
Carolinne White, former Assistant Editor, Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources
Laura Wright, University of Cambridge
Neil Wright, Girton College, University of Cambridge

The book can be ordered directly from OUP or from all good booksellers. It will also be available on British Academy Scholarship Online later this year.

We will be publishing the abstracts of the chapters on this blog over the coming weeks (Part I, Part II, Part III).

A celebration

Peter Glare

Peter Glare

Yesterday we celebrated the 90th birthday of our consultant editor Peter Glare with a party hosted by Oxford University Press attended by family and friends.

The OLD (right) and Peter's cake (left)

The OLD (right) and Peter’s cake (left)

Peter’s contribution to classical scholarship is inestimable. He became editor of the Oxford Latin Dictionary in 1954, taking on a project which had until then been in a state of near disarray and had relatively little to show for the years of work since its inception in 1933. Peter put the project on a sound footing and brought his immense linguistic acuteness to bear on the task, leading the small team of lexicographers to complete this major project. The resulting dictionary, first published in eight fascicules between 1968 and 1982, has been widely acclaimed since its first publication and it is now the standard scholarly reference for latinists in the Anglophone world and beyond.

Peter Glare

Peter Glare

After thirty years working on Latin, Peter then turned his lexicographical talents to the service of classical Greek scholarship, editing the revised Supplement to Liddell/Scott/Jones’ Greek Lexicon from 1981 through to its publication in 1996. Like the OLD, LSJ is a standard scholarly reference dictionary, and its revised Supplement is an essential companion that enables this venerable work to encompass the new evidence of the language that has emerged in recent decades.

Both dictionaries are essential reference tools that have been used every day by scholars worldwide since they were first published, and they will continue to be used for many decades, maybe even centuries, to come. Peter’s is truly a service to classical scholarship without rival.

Having completed two major lexicographical projects, Peter in retirement took up a fresh challenge, as consultant editor for the DMLBS, checking quotations, and reading and commenting on drafts of entries. There is not a page of the DMLBS in that period that has not been greatly enriched by his acute and wise comments. Moreover, as well as being a huge academic support to the project, he has also been throughout the most congenial of colleagues in the team.

It was thus a pleasure to have this opportunity to wish Peter a very happy 90th birthday and to thank him for all he has done for us and scholarship over so many years.IMG_1320 (Copy)


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Dictionary display at Bodleian closes

Bodleian Display

Bodleian Display

Our Latin in Medieval Britain display at the Bodleian Library in Oxford has now been taken down. However, it remains available to view in virtual format on our website, where you can also find the lecture by David Howlett, ‘Making the Dictionary’. Our thanks go to the Library for hosting the display and in particular to Sallyanne Gilchrist of the Bodleian Conservation team and Shelagh Sneddon of the DMLBS team for their hard work in putting it together.

Picture credit: Sallyanne Gilchrist

Last chance to see Bodleian display

DMLBS display poster

DMLBS display poster

This week is the last chance to see our Latin in Medieval Britain display at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It will remain available to view in virtual format on our website, where you can also find the lecture by David Howlett, ‘Making the Dictionary’.

The Conference in Pictures (4)

The final session of our celebratory conference looked at some of the challenges involved in producing a dictionary of a medieval language. Entitled ‘Lexicography and linguistics’, it was chaired by Paul Russell, whose paper on medieval Wales had already paved the way.

Paul Russell chairing the third session

The first speaker was Laura Wright (Cambridge), whose paper on ‘Medieval Latin/Anglo-Norman French/Middle English codeswitched writing’ focussed on a series of documents relating to London Bridge in which Latin was replaced with English over the course of the 15th century. Laura argued that the documents from the transitional decades resist easy classification, and should be mined for evidence by lexicographers of both languages.

Laura Wright talking about code-switching in late medieval England

As if on cue, next up was David Trotter (Aberystwyth), the Editor of the Anglo-Norman Dictionary (not to mention one of our external readers), whose disarmingly generous talk on ‘Why the AND likes the DMLBS’ revealed how freely his dictionary borrows from ours.

David Trotter talking about the Anglo-Norman Dictionary

After coffee, Richard Sharpe (Oxford), a former Assistant Editor on the DMLBS, raised the thorny question of how a dictionary should handle the use of antique or generic terms like ‘consul’ and ‘provincia’ as substitutes for official terms like ‘comes’ (earl) and ‘comitatus’ (county). Richard argued that medieval readers would have been expected to understand these substitutes in a technical sense, and that a dictionary should define them accordingly.

Richard Sharpe raising a thorny lexicographical question

The final paper of the conference returned to the theme of trilingualism, as Philip Durkin (Principal Etymologist and Deputy Chief Editor, OED) and Samantha Schad (Etymologist, OED) explained how the DMLBS and its quotation slips provide valuable evidence for the Oxford English Dictionary.

Samantha Schad discussing the relationship between Latin and English

Philip Durkin discussing the relationship between the OED and the DMLBS

Full abstracts of these talks can be found on the conference website.