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LINGUIST List 24.659

Tue Feb 05 2013

Review: Discipline of Linguistics; Historical Linguistics: Marsden (2012)

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <monicalinguistlist.org>

Date: 11-Jan-2013
From: Rolf Kemmler <kemmlerutad.pt>
Subject: A Catalogue of Dictionaries, Vocabularies, Grammars, and Alphabets
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-2926.html

AUTHOR: William Marsden
TITLE: A Catalogue of Dictionaries, Vocabularies, Grammars, and Alphabets
PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press
YEAR: 2012

REVIEWER: Rolf Kemmler, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro


The present work is a facsimile reproduction of the bibliographical catalogue
the Irish scholar William Marsden originally published in 1796. Occupying six
unnumbered pages as well as 154 numbered pages, the work can be divided in
paratexts and two parts.

The first paratext is the author's preface. In this text, Marsden offers the
following explanation for the choice of his works' contents: ''The following
Catalogue is intended to comprise the Titles of the Dictionaries,
Vocabularies, Grammars and Alphabets of all Languages, excepting Hebrew,
Greek, and Latin, together with the modern derivatives from the Latin and
Gothic; viz. French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Danish,
Swedish, and English, and of all dialects, as distinguished from the principal
Languages to which they belong; whether separately published, or found in
Accounts of Voyages and Travels, or other Works. [...] The Russian, in respect
of its importance and the improvement it has experienced under its present
august Patroness, should also have been excepted; but the progress of
Slavonian literature in other Countries being as yet inconsiderable, the
opportunity was taken of pointing out those Works by which a knowledge of it
may be facilitated'' (p. III).

While Marsden appears to be generally interested in all kinds of
metalinguistic texts, he prefers to omit works dedicated to the classical
languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) as well as the Romance and German
languages and their diasystematic variations (with the exception of Russian
works, given that they are apt to be less known in the West). As the author
explains, this selection is due to the multiplicity of publications pertaining
to both the classical and the modern languages, to which must be added a
considerable number of secondary titles like chapters in travel literature,
journal articles, etc.

The title page of the original edition indicates that Marsden's work is
separated ''in two parts'' (p. I), although this is omitted in the recent
edition's title. The first part contains an ''Alphabetic Catalogue of
Authors'' (called ''Catalogue of Authors'' on p. 1) and occupies pages 1
through 82, to which needs to be added the ''Appendix'' on pages 153-154.
Within pages 1-74 and 153-154, the author lists a total of 822 authors and
1,113 works. As the catalogue also includes several pages of ''Anonymous
Works. In the Order of their Dates'' (pp. 75-82), the absolute total of
mentioned publications is 1,254. Amongst these, 520 ''Books in the possession
of the Editor'' (or 41.47% of all titles) are marked with an asterisk to show
that this part of the repertoire belonged to the author. 424 works (33.81%)
are marked with a cross as a means of identifying all of the ''Books which he
has not had an opportunity of seeing''. These are obviously books of whose
existence the author obtained knowledge through his readings of relevant
publications. The third class of books is those of works that belong to
private or public libraries, and are identified by abbreviations, like the
Bibliotheca Bodleiana (B.B.), British Museum (B.M.), His Majesty's Library
(K.L), etc. (310 items or 24.72%).

The second part, ''Chronological catalogue of works in each class of
language,'' occupies pages 83-152. After a short three-page outlook on the
''Classification of languages'' (pp. 85-87), this part offers a total of 1,212
works, amongst which 498 belong to the Author's personal library, 411 have not
been seen by him and 303 belong to the aforementioned libraries. Without any
pretence of establishing a language typology as known in modern language
science, Marsden chronologically lists the entries in this part in the
following 33 sections (orthography and punctuation are those of the author's
1796 original edition):

American (pp. 89-93)
Arabic (pp. 93-98)
Armenian (p. 99)
Cantabrian or Basque (p. 100)
Canting. Rothwelsch, i.e. ''thieves slang'' (p. 100)
Celtic (pp. 101-104)
Chinese. Tunkinese. Japonese (pp. 104-105)
Coptic or Egyptian (pp. 105-106)
English. Ancient, Provincial and Etymological. Scottish (pp. 106-108)
Epirotic or Albanian (p. 108)
Ethiopic (pp. 108-110)
Finnic. Hungarian. Lapponic. Esthonian (pp. 110-112)
Georgian or Iberian (p. 112)
Greek, Modern, Etymologial, and Dialects (p. 113)
New Holland, i.e. Australia (p. 114)
Hottentot (p. 114)
Latin Barbarous and Modern Dialects – i.e. Latin and Romance languages (pp.
Malayan, Javan, Philippine, Madagascar (pp. 118-120)
Mauritanian. Breber (p. 121)
Negro, Caffer (pp. 121-122)
Otaïtean or South-Sea (p. 122)
Persian. Kurdic. Zend. Palmyrene (pp. 123-124)
Polyglot. Universal (pp. 124-127)
Punic. Phenician (pp. 127-128)
Sanskrit, and Dialects thence derived (pp. 128-129)
Scandinavian. Moeso-Gothic (pp. 129-132)
Siamese. Burman. Peguan. (p. 132)
Slavonian Dialects (pp. 133-138)
Syriac. Samaritan. Aramaean (pp. 139-143)
Tamul. Malabar. Telinga. Kanarin. Singalese (pp. 144-145)
Tatarian Dialects (pp. 145-146)
Teutonic – Germanic languages, like German, English, etc. (pp. 146-151)
Turkish (pp. 151-152)

Notwithstanding the fact that the number of entries slightly diverges between
the two parts, both have in common that Marsden usually offers the author's
name (when known), the title, place and date of publication, as well as the
book's format. In the first part, he additionally offers an insight into
separate volumes, chapters or even pages with noteworthy information.


Given that in the late 18th century linguistic studies still were mostly
devoid of the modern sense of an occupation within the modern rules of
scientific endeavour, the lack of existence of a historiographic discipline
that understands itself as such is evident. There are, however, a few
landmarks of linguistic thought that put in evidence that some authors may
indeed have had some historiographic conscience. Foremost is the French
scholar François Thurot, whose ''Discours Préliminaire'' (Harris & Thurot
1796: ix-cxix) to the French translation “Hermès” of James Harris' 1771
English work “Hermes” is commonly held to be one of the earliest essays
belonging to the historiography of linguistics. This is the same year in which
the volume under review appeared.

Nowadays, there exists a number of bibliographies dedicated to various aspects
of different languages and metalinguistic texts. In this sense, the value of
Marsden's repertoire of ca. 1,200 bibliographic items involving a great number
of languages on five continents might be viewed as somewhat limited by modern
scholars. The work is, however, an important monument of the beginnings of the
historiography of linguistics itself, placing Marsden as one of the British
precursors of the historiography of linguistics. Indeed, his focus on
languages that were not part of the classical syllabus of European
philological studies differentiates his work from the more
classically-oriented contemporary catalogues of dictionaries that had been
published by the mid-18th century philologists such as Johann Heumann von
Teutschenbrunn (1747) and Jacques-Bernard Durey de Noinville (1758).

Concerning the impact of Marsden's work, Cop (1991: 3173) mentions without
referring to any source that there were only ''60 copies'' that had been
''privately printed'', i.e. published directly by the author. Indeed, in his
memoirs, published posthumously by his wife Elizabeth Marsden, the author
explains both the quantity of printed copies and the book's purpose: ''You ask
me why I do not print more than sixty copies? It is because I mean only to
give them away, and that number is sufficient'' (Marsden, 1838: 88). This
statement by the author himself shows that the claim that had been perpetuated
since Ebert's (1830: col. 51) bibliographical encyclopedia that 150 copies
were printed is not correct.

Due to the small number of copies that were produced for private circulation,
it would seem that the work’s impact might have been strongly limited.
However, the contrary seems to be the case, as there exist contemporary
reviews that document the author's will to promote his work notwithstanding
its non-commercial nature. A somewhat short review was published in the
September 1797 edition of the London journal ''The Gentleman's Magazine and
Historical Chronicle'' (GM, 1797: 770-771), being followed by a similarly
short appraisal in the July-December 1797 edition of the ''British Critic''
(BC 1798: 208).

But the impact of Marsden's catalogue was not limited to the British journals
which reviewed current publications. Even before the aforementioned London
journals published their reviews, at least two anonymous reviews appeared in
early 1797 German review journals. These contributions were published in the
12 January 1797 edition of the ''Göttingische Anzeigen von gelehrten Sachen''
(GAgS, 1797: 52-56) and in the 20 February 1797 edition of the ''Allgemeine
Literatur-Zeitung'' (ALZ, 1797: cols. 453-156). Contrary to the succinct
English reviews, both of these quite elaborate critical reviews provide not
only an insight into Marsden's work, but offer a critical discussion of its
merits and shortcomings. Both of these quite well-informed reviews by two
different authors end with the opinion that Marsden's repertoire will be of
service for future similar but more elaborate compilations (like the ones that
were published a decade later by the German philologists Johann Christoph
Adelung and Johann Severin Vater). The German expatriate Johann Christian
Hüttner (1766-1847) offers an explanation for the appearance of these reviews
by stating in a letter dated 3 December 1796 that Marsden sent three copies of
the book to Germany, namely one to Göttingen, one to Berlin and one to the
scientist and linguist at Jena University, Prof. Christian Wilhelm Büttner
(1716-1801), who most probably would have been responsible for the ALZ (1797)
review (cf. Hüttner 1797: 153).

The existence of these (and probably other yet unknown) reviews clearly
demonstrates that Marsden's compilation of bibliographical information was
generally well (even if critically) received by fellow philologists of the
time. Even so, the work must have been very scarce prior to its recent
digitization and the present publication by Cambridge University Press. The
same seems to apply to the follow-up compilation ''Bibliotheca marsdeniana
philologica et orientalis'' (1827) which Marsden published 31 years later.
This volume was reedited by Cambridge University Press in the same facsimile
collection in August 2012.

Given that around 3,000 items from Marsden's private library were donated by
the author to King's College in London in 1835 (UKIRA 2001), both of his
bibliographical catalogues not only have historical value for the history of
linguistics but may also serve (at least partially) as catalogues of still
existing library holdings.


ALZ (1797) = Marsden, W.: A catalogue of dictionaries, vocabularies, grammars
and alphabets. London 1796. Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung 57 (20. Februar
1797), cols. 453-456.

BC (1798) = Art. 52. A Catalogue of Dictionaries, Vocabularies, Grammars, and
Alphabets. In Two Parts. Part 1. Alphabetical Catalogue of Authors. II.
Chronological Catalogue of Works in each class of Language. By William
Marsden, F. R. S. &c. 4to. 154 pp. London. 1796. The British Critic X
(July-December, 1797), 208.

Cop, Margaret. 1991. 335. Bibliography of Dictionary Bibliographies. In
Hausmann, Franz Josef, Reichmann, Oskar, Wiegand, Herbert Ernst, Zgusta,
Ladislav (eds.), Wörterbücher, Dictionaries, Dictionnaires: An International
Encyclopedia of Lexicography, Encyclopédie internationale der Lexicographie,
Ein internationales Handbuch zur Lexikographie. Berlin, New York: Walter de
Gruyter (Handbücher zur Sprach- und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Handbooks of
Linguistics and Communication Science, Manuels de linguistique et des sciences
de communication, 5.3), 3169-3177.

Ebert, Friedrich Adolf. 1830. Allgemeines Bibliographisches Lexikon: Zweiter
Band, M-Z. Leipzig: F. A. Brockhaus.

GAgS (1797) = A Catalogue of Dictionaries, Vocabularies, Grammars, and
Alphabets in two Parts. Part I. alphabetical catalogue of authors. II.
Chronological catalogue of Works in each class of Language. By William
Marsden, F. R. S. 1796. 154 Seiten in ar. Quart. Göttingische Anzeigen von
gelehrten Sachen 6 (12. Januar 1797), 52-56.

GM (1797) = 184. A Catalogue of Dictionaries, Vocabularies, Grammars, and
Alphabets. In Two Parts. Part I. Alphabetical Catalogue of Authors. II.
Chronological Catalogue of Works in each class of Language. By William
Marsden, F. R. S. &c. 4to. The Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Chronicle
LXVII/2 (September, 1797), 770-771.

Harris, James & Thurot, François. 1796. Hermès ou recherches philosophiques
sur la gramaire universelle. Ouvrage traduit de l’anglois, de Jacques Harris,
avec des remarques et des additions par François Thurot. Paris: De
l’imprimerie de la république.

Heumann von Teutschenbrunn, Johann. 1747. Iohannis Hevmanni ivr. professoris
altorfini opvscvla qvibvs varia ivris germanici itemque historica et
philologica argvmenta explicantvr. Norimbergae: Sumptibus Ioannis Georgii

Hüttner, Johann Christoph. 1797. London, d. 3. December. Der Neue Teutsche
Merkur 1 (Januar 1797), 151-155.

Marsden, William. 1796. A Catalogue of Dictionaries, Vocabularies, Grammars,
and Alphabets: In two parts, Part. I. Alphabetic catalogue of authors, II.
Chronological catalogue of works in each class of language. London: Printed

Marsden, William. 1827. Bibliotheca marsdeniana philologica et orientalis: A
Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts Collected with a View to the General
Comparison of Languages, and to the Study of Oriental Literature. London:
Printed by J. L. Cox.

Marsden, William. 1838. A Brief Memoir of the Life and Writings of the Late
William Marsden: Written by Himself. London: Printed by J. L. Cox and Sons.

Marsden, William. 2012. Bibliotheca marsdeniana philologica et orientalis: A
Catalogue of Books and Manuscripts Collected with a View to the General
Comparison of Languages, and to the Study of Oriental Literature. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Noinville, Jacques-Bernard Durey de. 1758. Table alphabétique des
dictionnaires en toutes sortes de langues et sur toutes sortes de Sciences et
d'Arts. Dans le même vol: Dissertation sur les bibliothèques. Paris: Chez Hug.
Chaubert; Herissant.

UKIRA. 2001. UKIRA: UK Information Resources on Asia, Marsden Collection.
=5 (11 January 2013).


Rolf Kemmler is an auxiliary researcher in the field of Portuguese linguistic
historiography with the Centro de Estudos em Letras (CEL), University of
Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal). He received his
doctorate in Romance Philology from Bremen University (Germany) in 2005, with
a thesis entitled 'A Academia Orthográfica Portugueza na Lisboa do Século das
Luzes: Vida, obras e atividades de João Pinheiro Freire da Cunha (1738-1811)',
published in 2007. His research interests focus on the history of Portuguese
orthography and history of Portuguese and Latin-Portuguese grammar as well as
historiography of linguistics in general.
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