Bart Ehrman's question re: Dictionaries

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Tue Oct 10 1995 - 12:40:31 EDT

Yes, they did have such helps. Actually surviving is Hesychius' Lexicon
of about the 5th century, and the (encyclopedic) SUDA of maybe the 11th
or 12th century includes such work in it.

This is written hastily without looking up anything in books. THE best
resource to check this in great detail and with accuracy is Rudolf
Pfeiffer, _History of Classical Scholarship_, Vol. 1 (Oxford Univ.Press).
This volume deals with the early period; Vol. 2 (which should be volume 3)
deals with the later medieval period, and the middle period was never finished
becuse of his age. He was a refugee from Germany at Oxford, and wrote the
History in English!--only later issuing it in German (so don't regard the
English as a translation of a German original!).

On the other hand, it is well to remember that the notion of a single
correct spelling for words is a somewhat modern idea. Printers even long
after the Incunabula period were their own authorities for spelling.
Even tracking the several ways William Shakespeare spelled his own name
(at least in print! -- the Folios of course came out after his death, but
the non-pirated Quartos may be some evidence) suggests that "correct"
spelling was a bit illusory. No doubt the better scriptoria and such had
their own "house rules," just as the New York Times does today.

Edward Hobbs

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