Medieval Latin Dictionary Finished After 100 Years

Work on the The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources (DMLBS) began in 1913.

It was completed this month,  58,000 entries, 3,830 pages, and 17 volumes later:

Begun in 1913, the finished dictionary is the culmination of a century-long enterprise which has had over 200 researchers working on it over the decades. Based on the writings found in poetry, sermons, chronicles, scientific texts, legal documents, state records, accounts and letters that were created between the years 540 and 1600 by thousands of authors who were born or worked in Britain, theDictionary includes material from well-known works such as the Domesday Book, Magna Carta and Bayeux tapestry.

Dr Richard Ashdowne, the current editor of the Dictionary and a member of Oxford University’s Faculty of Classics, said, “This is the first ever comprehensive description of the vocabulary of the Latin language used in Britain and by Britons between AD 540 and 1600. For the last hundred years, the project has been systematically scouring the surviving British medieval Latin texts to find evidence for every word and all its meanings and usage.

“Much of this fundamental work was done in the early years of the project by a small army of volunteers, including historians, clergymen, and even retired soldiers. They provided the project with illustrative example quotations copied out from the original texts onto paper slips – an early form of crowdsourcing that had previously been used in the preparation of the Oxford English Dictionary.

“During its existence the project has accumulated an estimated 750,000 such slips. Nowadays, in addition to this invaluable resource, which covers a vast quantity of material only available in the form of the original manuscripts, we also have access to large electronic databases enabling us to examine the works of authors such as the Venerable Bede more thoroughly than ever before.”

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