THE 'PROMPTORIUM PARVULORUM'
FIRST ENGLISH-LATIN DICTIONARY
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 70v
he Early English Text Society published an edition of the first English-Latin Dictionary, the Promptorium Parvulorum et Clericorum, compiled in 1440 by a Dominican recluse, Galfridus Grammaticus, in Lynn, Norfolk, and edited by A.L. Mayhew from six manuscripts and three early printed editions in 1908. I first acquired the volume, at a discount from being a member of the Early English Text Society, because I thought it could be useful in my work in editing Julian of Norwich’s Showing of Love. Then I let it languish unread for some time, quailing at the idea of reading it because my own childhood experiences in learning Caesar from a sarcastic nun, had been traumatic.
As a medievalist I had to fight clear of my horror of Latin, and I did so partly by studying republican and African Terence, advocating on the web that he be taught in modern schools, rather than imperial European Caesar. The title of that website became 'Terence through Time: Latin with Laughter'. For this was, in fact, how medieval and Renaissance children learned their Latin, through Terence's Comedies, which gave to them a living language as spoken in families, as spoken between men and women, as spoken between grown-ups and children, as spoken between masters and slaves, in which the women, the children, the slaves come out on top.
Josephus Master, 1407, Terence, Paris, Bibl. nat 7907 A, fol. 2v
We find beautiful illuminated manuscripts and books with engravings throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance of these plays, specifically produced for school children to read and also act and play. We find echoes of Terence in Hrotswitha's Comedies, in Latin liturgical dramas, in Dante's Commedia, in the Wakefield Master's plays, in Montaigne's Essais, in Shakespeare's dramas and in Molière's, until imperial A.E. Housman decreed that Terence was 'stupid stuff'.
When I finally did open the pages of Early English Text Society, Extra Series 102, I was delighted at its undoing of my prejudices against Latin. Jean Leclercq has told us that anchorites earned their keep teaching children literacy and Latin. Jan Huizinga has taught us to see the playfulness in medieval culture. Our Lynn Norfolk Dominican recluse, Galfridus Grammaticus, notes that his English is in that dialect, which he has only known since childhood, then he proceeds, through using words one also find in Julian's Showing, written in nearby Norwich, to pair them with their equivalent words in Latin. Julian throughout her text shows her familiarity with teaching the ABC and also shares with us a sense of humour, most particularly when she comes to laugh at the Devil. Galfridus Grammaticus of Lynn Episcopi, Norfolk, in 1440, similarly demonstrates his paedagogical talents and his sense of participation in children's play. One can imagine both of them meeting with their young scholars taught through their window onto the world, then turning to their other window, their hagioscope, gazing upon the altar. To read this Dictionary is to enter into the medieval world of Norfolk, to find it close to our modern English one, and yet that it is more compassionate, more playful and more human than we allow ourselves to be.
Reading through the lists of words I found myself first looking for those found also in Julian's manuscript versions, then those relating to education, and to life-supporting crafts and skills, then being startled by the open and non-Victorian, non Puritan, acceptance of the body and its natural functions, then delighting in the words connected with children's play. I list the words of the last category in the handout, giving with them manuscript marginalia foliation from Brunetto Latino's thirteenth-century Li Livres dou Tresor in the St Petersburg mansucript (it has a twin in the Laurentian Library, their illuminations as well as their text being produced in Artois, and I have seen both), and from the British Library's fourteenth-century Luttrell Psalter, itself a Lincolnshire production, which shows Constantinople as like Norwich,
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 164v
and whose peasants seem to have their faces be the masks of Terentian comic characters.
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 173
Startling also was the gender equality evident in the Dictionary. 'Abbot' is preceded by 'Abbess', 'Abesse: Abatissa Abot, or Abbot: Abbas, -tis', it being clear from the text that women had stature in the structures of the then Church, and likewise in the secular professions, as witnessed amongst minstrels: 'Gluman, or mynstrel: Musicus, -ci, masc.; Musica, -ce, ffem.' etc.
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 68
Moreover there are many vocabulary words for the senses, my favourite, 'Eggyde, as teth ffor sowr ffrute: Acidus, -da, -um', and for the parts, including the private parts, of the human body, and for the very lovely sense and state of wholeness, wellness, which Julian also uses in 'And ale manere of thyng shalle be welle' (which I discovered to be her translating of 'Shalom'): 'Al-hole, or hely: Sanus, Incolimus, -a, -um; Al-holy: Integraliter, totaliter, adverbus'. The skills of weaving, hunting, carpentry, cooking, all find their vocabularies in these pages. We recall the alliterative poem, Wynnere and Wastoure, in which producers, the farmers and the artisans, and consumers, the nobility, the tax-collectors debate concerning the welfare of the kingdom. Here we find all levels of society and an intense observation of nature and culture. It is not only a dictionary, it is an encyclopedia, pre-Diderot. One recalls the pages in the Tesoretto where Natura shows Brunetto all the cosmos, all creation, all flora and fauna.
Il Tesoretto, fol. 2v
finds, too, the word 'magnet' and the using of the ship's compass, and
the word 'gunne' as mangonel. Our recluse is up-to-date with
the latest technology.
or hely: Sanus, Incolimus, -a, -um
Al-holy: Integraliter, totaliter, adverbus.
Emendyd: Correctus, -a, -um; Emendatus, -a, -um
Amendyng: correccio, -is; Emendacio, -is
Amendyng and reparacion of thyngis werid or a-peyryd: Reparacio, -is
[Amuce: almicium, -ij, et habetur in 'horologio diuine sapientie' (the Dominican Suso's mystical work, part of which also appears in the Amherst Manuscript)]
Ankyr, recluse: Anachorita, -te
Armenest, or ernest, seryowste; Seriositas, -tis
A-stonyed, or a-stonyed in Mannys wytt: Attonitus, -a, -um, Stupefactus, -a, -um; Consternatus; Perculsus, -a, -um
Avter: altare, -ris; Ara, -e
Bede, or prayor: Oracio, -is
Blew of Colore: Blodius, -a, -um, bluetus, -a, -um
Bolnede: tumidus, -da, -dum
Bydde yn bedis, or to say preyors: Oro, -as, -aui, etc.
Chyrchherd: Cimiterium, -ij
Ermyte: Heremita, -te
Glad, or mery: Iocosus, -a, -um; Gaudiosus, -a, -um
Grownd of a byldyng, or fundament: ffundamentum, -i
Hesyl, tre: Corulus, -i
Iangelyn, or talkyn: Confabulor, -aris, -atus; Colloquor, -rus, -qutrus
Leep, or sterte: Saltus, -tus
Lawhyn to scorn: Derideo, -es; Irrideo, -es
Mystery, or privety to mannys wyte: Misticus, -a, -um
Mokke, or scorne: valgia, -e
Meet and feyt, or evyn: Equs, -a, -um
Mos growyng a-mong stonys: Muscus, -ci
Privy in vndyrstondyng: Misticus, -a, -um; Orbatus, -a, -um; Secretus, -a, -um
Privyte: Misterium, Archanum
Qvave of a myre: labina, -e; Tremo, -is, -vi, -re
Rayne water: nubata, -te
Sorow for syn takyn for dre e of peyn rather than for drede of god: Attricio, -is
Shewyn: Monstro, -as, -aui, -are; Iudico, -as; Revelo, -as; Ostendo, -is, di, -re, sum; Promo, -is, -si, -re: Pando, -is, -di, -re, sum
Scoryn a-wey rust: Eruginom -as, -aui, -are
Swellyn, or bolnyn: Tumeo, -es. -vi, -ere
Thak of howsys: Sartatectum, -i; Sartategmen
Thakkyn howsys: Sartatego, -is, -texi, -re. -tectum
Wreke of the se: Alga, -e
The World of Learning
-i; Abedecariuum, -i
Apsey-lerner, or he that lernyth his apsy: Alphabeticus, -i; Abecedarius, -ij
Astyllabyr, Instrument: Astrolabium, -ij
ffellow in scole: Consors, -tis
fformyng, techyng, or Informyng: Instruccio, -is; Informacio, -is
ffor-3eton lessonys, or odyr lyke and techyngis: Dedisco, -scis, -re
Gemetry: Gemetria, -e
Gloose of a boke: Glosa, -e
Grayle, boke: Gradale, -is
Gramaryon: gramaticus, -ci
Gramowre: Gramatica, -ce
Inke: Encaustum, -i
Inkhorn: Attramentarium, -ij
Kennyn, or techyn: Doceo, -es, -vi, -re
Lerar, Lernar, or techere: Doctor, -ris; Instructor, -ris
Lernare, or lerar, or he that resevyth lore: Discipulus
Lewdnesse of clergy: Illiteratura, -re
Luminnyd bokes: Elucidatus, -a, -um
Lumynoure: Elucidator, -ris; Illuminator, -ris; Mineographus, -i; Miniator, -ris
Mayster: Magister, -ri; Didasculus, -i; Petagogus, -i
Maystresse: Magistra, -e
Orlage: Orilogium, -ij
Parafe of a boke: paraphus, -phi
Parchemyyn: Pergemenum, -ni
Patron of benefyce: Patronus
Pawse of redyng of bokys: Periodus, -i
Pensel for portrayng: Penicillus, -i; Pincella, -e; Pinca
Penne: Penna, -e
Penne knyfe: Artauus, -i
Pennere: Pennarium, -ij
Penne and ynkhorn in on word: Scriptorium, -ij
Pyment: Pigmentum, -i
Pin of an horlage or odyr lyk shewyng the owrys of the day or the nyght: Sciotirus
Poete: Poete, -te
Poetry: poetria, -trie
Poyntel: Stilus, -li; Graphium, -ij
Poytynge, or prykkynge: puncatacio, -is
Prykkynge with a prikke a scherp thyng as bokys: Pungo, -is, punxi, -re, punctum
Racynge or scrapynge, of bokis or oder lyke: abrasio, -nis; Rasura, -re
Redyng of bokys: Rubiculum, -li [Rubrication of books]
Rehersynge: Recitatio, -is
Revle off techynge: Regula, -le
Recordyn lessonys: Recordor, -ris
Rewlen with Instrument: Regulo, -as, -are
Sawtrey: psalterium, ij
Stacyoner, or he that sellyth bokys: stacionarius, -ij
Tellynge of talys or spekynge: Narracio, -nis
Teme of sermon: Tema, -tis
Techyne: Doceo, -es, -vi, -re; Instruo, -is, -uxi, .re, -structum; Imbuo, -is, -vi, -ere, -butum
Volyme, booke: volumen, -nis
Wryten: scribo, -is, scripsi, scriptum
The Body through Time
sevyn: Nota ugucio in sum, es, fui; 7tem etates Prima,
que continet 7tem annos; 2a Puericia usque as iiijtum
decimum; 3a Adolescencia usque ad xxixm; 4a
usque as Lm; 5a gravitas usque ad LXXm; 6a
senectus que nullo certo terminatur termino, Senium es ultima pars; 7a
est in resurrectione finali.
Babbe, or lityl chil: Infans, -tis; 2orum generum; Puerulus
[See the many words connected with 'Chyld' and 'Chylbed' of women when they bear a child. Likewise the many entries concerning weaning a child from the breast.]
Lytyl chyld: Paruulus, Puerilus, -i: Pusius, -ij; Pusillus, -i
Lullyng of yong childere: Neniacio, -is
Lullyng song: Nenia, -e
Popyne, Chyldis clowtis: pupa, -pe
Rokkyn chyldyrne in acradyl: Cunagito, -as, -aui, -re; Motito, -as, -aui, -re
Spanyn or wenyn childryn: Ablacto, -as, -aui, -are
Swathyn Chyldyrne: ffascio, -as, aui, -re
Children's Play and Laughter
Bace pley: Barri, -orum; dantur ludi puerorum [American baseball, English rounders]
Balle of pley: pila, -e
Balpley: puli ludus, -di
Bowle, or to play with Bowlys: Bolo, -as, -aui, -are
Chekyr tabul: Scaccarium, -ij, etc.
Chesse: Saccarium, -ij
Carolyn, or syng carowlys: Pallinodio, -as, aui, -re [There are extensive and technical vocabulary entries for music, both secular and sacred singing in which children would have also participated, as well as for musical instruments]
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 176
in cerkyl: Chorea
Dyce: Alea; Dyce pleyer: Aleatar, -ris
Fable: ffabula, -e
Fawknere: falconarius, -ij
ffawkyn, hawk; ffalco [There is extensive vocabulary for falconry, also for botany, particularly for edible plants and fruits, particularly for herbs and spices, to which medieval children would have been exposed very early in order to learn skills for sustenance.]
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 63
-a, -um; fredame: libertas, -tis
Gabbyng, or lesyng: Mendacium, -ij
Game, pley: ludus, -di; Iocus, -ci
Gestyng off romawnceng: Gestio, -is
Gettyng in Iolite: Gestus, -us
Gynglyng of gay harneys, or odyr thyngis: Resonancia, -e
Hasarde, pley: aleatura, -e
Halwyn holydayys: ffestino, -as, -aui
Hoppyn, or skyppyn: Salto, -as, -aui, -re
Ianglere: Garrulator, -ris
Iaper: Nugax, -cis
Iape: Nuga, -e; frivolum, -i; Scurrilitas, -tis
Interlege of a pley: preludium, -ij, Interludium
Interpretowre, or expownere: Interpretes, -tris
Ioy: Gaudium, -ij; leticia, -e; Iocunditas, -tis; Iubilus, -li
Ioy, or pley that be-gynneth with sorow and endyth with gladness: Commedia, -ie
Iustyng: hastiludus, -i
Female and male centaurs jousting, Brunetto Latino, Li Livres dou Tresor, St Petersburg Manuscript, fol. 77
Iapyn: Trufo, -as, -aui, -re; Illudo, -dis, -si,
Ioglyn: prestigior, -aris, -atus, -ari
Lepyng, or rennyng: Cursus, -sus
Lepyng awey: ffuga, -e
Letgame, or letter of ply: prepiludius, -ij
Lawhyn: Rideo, -es, -si
Prille, or whyrgyg, childis pley: Geraclum, -i
Pley: ludus, -di; Iocus, -ci; of sume game: Spectaculum, -li
Pley that be-gynneth with mornynge and sorow and endyth with merth: Commedia, -ie
Playare: lusor, -ris; Playere that wil allway pley: ludibundus, -a, -um
Pleyare at the balle: piludius, -ij
Playfere: Collusor, -ris
Pleynge garment: ludix, -cis
Pleyynge thynge, or thyngis that men or chylderne play with: adluricum, -ci
Repon of a balle or other lyke: Repula, -le
Roke of chesse: Rocus, -ci
Schytyl, chyldys game: sagitella, -le
Scrykyng of chyldyr: Vagitus, -us
Snurtyn or frown with the nosse for scorn or schrewdnesse: Nario, -is, -iui, -ire
Stylte: Calepodium, -ij; lignipodium, -ij
Luttrell Psalter, fol. 70v
Top, of Chyldrynys play: Trocus, -ci
Tregetowre: Mimus, -mi; pantomimus, -mi; prestigiator, -ris; Ioculator, -ris
Turnyn vp so done: Euerto, -tis, etc
Vp-so-done: Euersus, -a, -um; Transuersus, -a, -um; Subuersus, -a, um
Whyrlgyg, Childis game: Giraculum, -li
Wylsume, or folwyng only his owyn wylle: Effrenatus, -a, -um; vel Effrenis
Wynkkyng with the eye: Nicitacio, -his; Conquinicio, -is; Connivuencia, -e
Wrestlyn: luctor, -aris, -atus, -ari; paletriso, -as. etc.
I should like to conclude with another observation, this time the use of this English-Latin Dictionary, this Promptorium Parvulorum, to explain a pun that Dante uses in his Inferno. Galfridus Grammaticus discusses a word for a cloth border, 'Purfyle off cloth:' as meaning 'limbus, -bi' in Latin.
Domenico di Michelino, Dante Interpreting the Commedia, Duomo
We recall in the tragic pages the comedy, the joke,
those who never chose as whirling about behind a banner of cloth on
there is no sign, no word, nothing. Evil is the tending to non-being.
all Hell is filled by Dante with adult souls who play, too seriously,
pompously, and who are in turn played with in an infernal game lacking
laughter (Inferno III.1-57). It shall be in Paradiso
Beatrice will be Dante's smiling magistra, in the smiling
expounding there the meaning of the movement of the sun and the other
as created by love.
Brunetto Latino. Il Tesoretto.
Laurentian Library Manuscript. Trascrizione del manoscritto di
Bolton Holloway. Firenze: Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana; Le Lettere,
Brunetto Latino. Li Livres dou Tresor. Facsimile, St Petersburg Manuscript. Barcelona: M.Moleiro, 1999.
Janet Backhouse. The Luttrell Psalter. London: The British Library, 1989. (British Library, Additional Manuscript 42130)
Dante Alighieri. La Commedia. Ed. Giorgio Petrocchi. Milano: Arnaldo Mondadori Editore, 1966. 4 vols.
Galfridus Grammaticus. The Promptorium Parvulorum: The First English-Latin Dictonary. Ed. A.L. Mayhew. London: Early English Text Society, 1908. EETS 102.
Hrotswitha. Comedies./ Rosvita di Gandersheim. Dialoghi drammatici. Ed. Ferruccio Bertini. Roma: Garzanti, 2000. Parallel text, Latin and Italian.
Johan Huizinga. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1950.
Julian of Norwich. Showing of Love: Extant Manuscripts and Translation. Ed. Sister Anna Maria Reynolds, C.P., and Julia Bolton Holloway. Firenze: SISMEL, 2001. Biblioteche e Archivi 8.
Jean Leclercq. 'Solitude and Solidarity: Medieval Women Recluses'. In Peace Weavers: Medieval Religious Women. Ed. John A. Nichols and Lillian Thomas Shank. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1987. II, 67-83.
Millard Meiss. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Limbourgs and Their Contemporaries. New York: George Braziller, The Pierpont Morgan Library, 1974. 2 vols.
Terence/ P. Terenti Afri. Comoediae. Ed. Robert Kauer, Wallace M. Lindsay. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.
The Wakefield Master. In The Towneley Plays. Ed. George England, Alfred W. Pollard. London: Early English Text Society, 1897. EETS Extra Series 71.
Wynnere and Wastoure. In The Age of Chaucer. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965. Ed. Boris Ford. Pp. 315-333.
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