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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

Introduction

Summary

This is the first global history of lexicography. There are, I think, two reasons why no such book has been written before.

The first reason is that there have been so many lexicographical traditions in the world over the past five thousand years: hundreds if not thousands of languages have been documented in wordlists of some sort, and scores of them have been documented in wordlists so numerous, and often so large, that their individual traditions are almost ungraspable by a single historian. There have been global bibliographies of wordlists since the eighteenth century, and, since at least the time of William Marsden’s Catalogue of Dictionaries (1796), some of these have presented the wordlists of each language in chronological order. Information of historical value is naturally present in such bibliographies even when the order is not primarily chronological. In Wolfram Zaunmüller’s Bibliographisches Handbuch der Sprachwörterbücher, the last part of the entry for each language is, where appropriate, an overview of early dictionaries in reverse chronological order, century by century, from the nineteenth as far back as the fifteenth.