1578 Cooper Thesaurus Latin-english Dictionary Of Queen Elizabeth & Shakespeare

1578 Cooper Thesaurus Latin-english Dictionary Of Queen Elizabeth & Shakespeare

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1578 Cooper Thesaurus Latin-english Dictionary Of Queen Elizabeth & Shakespeare:

[Early Printing - England - London - Elizabethan Era] [Linguistics and Lexicography] [Dictionaries and lexicons - Latin and English]
[Classical Literature and Mythology - References] [Shakespeare - Sources] [America - Early references]

Printed in London [by Henry Denham], 1578. (Printer from STC)
Third Edition.
Text in Latin (in Roman type) and English (in elegant black leter), and preliminary verses in Greek.

SCARCE THIRD EDITION of the most important and widely used Latin-English dictionary and phrase book of the Elizabethan era. Queen Elizabeth was personally impressed by the dictionary and aided in the advancement of Cooper's career.

The book is dedicated to Robert Dudley (1532-1588), 1st Earl of Leicester, a favourite and close friend of Elizabeth I (he was, actually, a suitor for the Queen's hand for many years).

Cooper's monumental Thesaurus, based on the work of Thomas Elyot and Robert Estienne, contains innumerable Latin words, phrases, expressions and idioms taken from various classical authors, with English translations or equivalents. The second part, Dictionarium historicum & poeticum propria locorum & personatum..., contains fairly detailed English explanations of proper names, geographical locations, etc. including (but not limited to) those found in the Bible, Greek And Roman classics, mythology, etc.
This includes an entry for "America," defined as "A countrye late founse in the west part of the worlde by Americus Vesputius, the yeare of oure Lorde 1477 (sic!)". There are also entries for Cabala (i.e. Kabbalah), King Arthur, Egyptian Pyramids, India, Persia, Cathay (North China), etc, etc.

Cooper's Thesaurus was the standard Latin-English dictionary during William Shakespeare's youth, and he almost certainly consulted it when reading the Latin classics, and probably even used it as a source (particularly, the Dictionarium historicum & poeticum) for some classical/mythological themes in his plays. Evidence of this comes from a close statistical inspection of Shakespeare's word usage. For instance, O.J. Campbell (ed.), A Shakespeare Encyclopaedia (p.141) notes that Copper's Thesaurus "was the standard reference work on classical mythology in the Elizabethan age. [...] Shekespeare seems to have drawn from it the description of Tarquin in The Rape of Lucrece and the famous lines in Antony and Cleopatra spoken by Cleopatra at the moment of her death when she refers to the fatal asp applied to her breast as "my baby [...] that sucks the nurse asleep"." The idea of placing the donkey's ears on [...] Nick Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream also have come from the story of King Midas as retold in Cooper's Dictionarium.

T.W. Baldwin in his authoritative study William Shakspere's Small Latine & Lesse Greeke proved that Shakespeare, who has been famously described by Ben Jonson as having "small Latin and less Greek" had, in fact, "attended grammar school, and, accordingly, learned there a certain amount of Latin", large by twentieth-century standard, but reasonably described as "small" by the more learned Jonson. Baldwin also demonstrated that the vocabulary of Shakespeare's adaptations of Latin material is sometimes closer to Cooper's Thesaurus, the standard Latin dictionary of the period, than to the available translation, which suggests that Shakespeare had recourse to the original..." (M. Martindale, Shakespeare and the Uses of Antiquity, p.6)

Thomas Cooper's Thesaurus Linguae Romaine et Britannica is "by far his greatest literary work [...] This book, commonly known as Cooper's Dictionary, delighted Queen Elizabeth so much that she expressed her determination to promote the author as far as lay in her power. His life, however, was anything but happy. He had married unhappily, his wife was utterly profligate. He condoned her unfaithfulness again and again, refusing to be divorced when the heads of the university offered to arrange it for him, and declaring that he would not charge his conscience with so great a scandal. On one occasion his wife, in a paroxysm of fury, tore up half his Thesaurus, and threw it into the fire. He patiently set to work and rewrote it (Aurrey's Lives, II. 290)." (DNB)

Thomas Cooper (c. 1517-1594), an English bishop, lexicographer, and theologist, was born in Oxford. He was educated at Magdalen College, where he became a fellow, and later a vice-chancellor of the Oxford University.

Cooper's literary career began in 1548, when he compiled, or rather edited, Bibliotheca Eliotae, a Latin dictionary by Sir Thomas Elyot. In 1549 he published a continuation of Thomas Lanquet's Chronicle of the World. This work, known as Cooper's Chronicle, covers the period from AD 17 to the time of its writing. In 1565 appeared the first edition of his greatest work, Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae, and this was followed by three other editions.

Elizabeth I, as noted above, was greatly pleased with the Thesaurus and actively promoted its author. Cooper, who had been ordained about 1559, was made dean of Christ Church, Oxford, in 1567. Two years later he became dean of Gloucester, in 1571 bishop of Lincoln and in 1584 bishop of Winchester.

Cooper was a stout controversialist; he defended the practice and precept of the Church of England against the Roman Catholics on the one hand and against the Martin Marprelate's writings and the Puritans on the other. He took some part, the exact extent of which is disputed, in the persecution of religious recusants in his diocese. He died at Winchester on 29 April 1594.

In his important Dedicatory Preface to Robert Dudley in the preliminaries of this volume, Cooper writes that the Earl of Leicester and Sir William Cecil, together with the Queen, had developed a plan for restoring the arts to their former dignity and for encouraging the young men of the university in learning, and that Queen Elizabeth's visit to Cambridge in 1564 was an expression of this interest.

Bibliographic references:

STC 5688.

Physical description:

Thick Folio (textblock measure 31 cm x 21 cm). Contemporary (late 16th-century) full calf, with a modern (mid twentieth-century) reback; unlettered spine with five raised bands.

Unpaginated; [1718] pp.
Signatures: ¶6 [-¶1 blank] A-Y6 2A-2Y6 3A-3Y6 4A-4Y6 5A-5Y6 6A-6V6 7D-7O6 7P-7Q4.
COLLATED AND COMPLETE, except for the front blank.

Woodcut device (with a chained bear and the motto of the Order of The Garter) to title page; a few elaborate large woodcut initials in the preliminaries. Printed in double column, in Roman (Latin) and Gothic type (English); a preliminary poem printed in Greek.

Dictionarium historicum & poeticum propria locorum & personarum vocabula breuiter complectens occupies leaves 7D1-7Q4.

Preliminaries (¶2-¶6) include Cooper's short address to the reader (on verso of title), Cooper's dedicatory epistle in Latin to Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, author's notes on the use of this dictionary (in English and Latin) and several laudatory poems on the Thesaurus (including one in Greek).


Bookplate of John Cannon on front pastedown, presumably John Ashton Cannon (1926-2012), an English historian.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete. Binding rubbed with some scuffs and superficial scratches; edges and corners worn, corners bumped, slightly rounded and with minor discrete repairs; rebacked. Title page mostly laid down, but carefully leaving a window wide enough for author's address to the reader on verso, thus with absolutely no loss of text. Other preliminary leaves with marginal repairs; three quires at the beginning and one at the end with edges somewhat frayed and with some minor chipping or short tears. Occasional light soiling, and some light marginal dampstaining. op margin cropped a bit close, but with absolutely no loss of text. Generally a rather clean, bright and solid example of this important work, of which most copies have suffered a considerable wear due to extensive use.

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1578 Cooper Thesaurus Latin-english Dictionary Of Queen Elizabeth & Shakespeare:

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