William Smith’s "LATIN-ENGLISH DICTIONARY based upon The Works of Forcellini and Freund, with Tables of the Roman Calendar, Measures, Weights, and Money," seventeenth edition of 1881, is best compared with Lewis and Short’s "A LATIN DICTIONARY founded on Andrews’ Edition of Freund’s Latin Dictionary, revised, enlarged and in great part rewritten" (Oxford University Press at the Clarendon Press), unchanged since its first edition of 1879.
The latter work is quite expensive (U.S. $240.00 in 2008) and beyond the reach of most students or those with a less-than-overwhelming interest in Latin. But when carefully compared with the current impression of Smith’s work, such a price makes even an affluent prospective buyer wonder whether Lewis and Short has more than antiquarian value.
The reviewer will find that the Latin word stock treated is essentially the same in both works, since both are ultimately based on the German scholar Freund’s dictionary, with minimal differences in the lemmata. As Smith writes in his "PREFACE TO THE NEW REVISED EDITION," his dictionary contains "all the words occurring in the existing records of the language, from the earliest period to the fall of the Western Empire." Moreover, it is often hard to escape the impression that many of the English translations in Lewis and Short were little more than copy-and-paste operations from earlier editions of Smith’s dictionary. To take one word at random, note internecio (-nicio), ōnis, f. [interneco] a massacre, general slaughter, <L&S here insert "carnage">, utter destruction, extermination: except for "carnage", the English and everything else in this excerpt is absolutely identical in both works. The moral of the story: Why pay more for the same thing?
Lewis and Short often give one or two more examples of the ancient usage of a given Latin word than does Smith, but without contributing anything extra to the definition. This extra padding does, however, add to the bulk of the L&S book (2019 pages as opposed to Smith’s 1214). For some reason, the Lewis and Short volume also lacks the useful "Tables of the Roman Calendar, Measures, Weights, and Money" given by Smith.
For the growing number of modern students interested in speaking Latin as a living language rather than tediously learning how to translate laboriously word for word from dead Latin into dead English, the inclusive compass of Smith’s (or even, for that matter, Lewis and Short’s) dictionary offers a far larger corpus than does the typical academic dictionary. The user has a much wider spectrum from which to select words useful in modern life, rather than being restricted to the limited vocabulary confined to the short classical period of about two and a half centuries and its elites. Together with the increasing availability of neo-Latin vocabulary lists, this affordable lexicon offers a wealth of Latinity making the language of Roma Æterna a ready means of expression for the whole of modern life.
We can do no better than Smith himself in explaining his own work. His Preface is presented below:
And here is the new Preface we have inserted into the book:
An attractive feature of Smith’s work is the fact that he uses the letter j to render consonantal i (pronounced /y/). Thus "conjicere," not "conicere" ("to throw together literally or figuratively, conjecture, foretell," &c.). The strained arguments in favor of eliminating j (and even lower case v) in Latin texts published by most academicians today amount to little more than pedantry (scholasticorum morositas).
Their main thesis is that the Romans did not have j and so we should not, either. But the Romans also lacked modern punctuation, to say nothing of lower-case letters like ours. The same can be said for divisions into paragraphs. Moreover, as Smith says, even those writers who do not prefer the letter j "admit that i represented two distinct sounds, and these, not the mere forms of the letters, are the proper subjects of philological investigation."
In the golden age of American Latinity, a great many — and most liturgical — books and writings used j; The sterile reversion to j-less publishing is a decline from those culturally rich times. Finally, among the great number of modern English words derived from Latin we use j: we spell "conjecture," not "coniecture." This usage makes it easier for young people to learn Latin when we print j in the dictionaries and textbooks we use, since the j (and v) forms are already so familiar to them. This fact alone means that, in learning to speak Latin (i.e., use it), rather than merely reading it, the Anglophone learner will be greatly assisted by Smith’s lexical tool. In short, we should not be studying Roman paleography, but actually speaking and using modern Latin and the modern Latin alphabet for our studies and prayers.
To proceed further and answer those who would like to murder Latin as an academic subject, we might list here a few of the reasons for learning this wonderful language:
1) To gain a firmer understanding of the two thirds of the English vocabulary which comes from Latin, either directly or through Norman French.
2) To acquire better facility in the spelling of English words by recognizing their original Latin components, e.g., English "accommodate" from Latin "accommodātum" ("fitted"), from "ad" ("to") + "cum" ("with") + "modus" ("measure") + "-ātum" ("-ed").
3) To understand immediately the meaning of many unfamiliar words on first encounter - e.g., "risible" from the Latin verb "ridēre" ("to laugh"), past participle "rīsum" ("laughed") + "-ibilis" ("-ble") - and thereby to expand one's own vocabulary.
4) To lay the foundations for acquaintance with the vast scientific vocabulary of the biological and medical sciences, which is composed mainly of Latin, Graeco-Latin, or Latinized words; to this may be added some of the lexicon of law and politics. Note that the word "science" itself is from Latin scientia ("knowledge").
5) To master the structures of English grammar and syntax by translating from and to Latin.
6) To employ Latin as a sacral language which opens the way to the soul-nourishing wellspring of liturgy, cultus and profound mysticism of the classical Roman Catholic Church.
7) To learn about and appreciate more fully the vast extent and history of Western civilization, which rests upon the amazing achievements of Graeco-Roman antiquity, and thereby to recognize one's own debt to that antiquity.
8) To develop the linguistic logic required to read and analyze complex texts in order to extract their full meaning.
9) As a foundation for learning the Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian).
10) To become a cultured human being.
Brian Thomas Patrick Regan, Ph.D.
Tacoma, Washington, USA, 2008
Lastly, here is the Publisher's note:
Smith's exhaustive work was originally published by James Murray and Sons, London. According to our research on this dictionary, the first edition was printed in 1855 and the last in 1904 (22nd edition). We had already had in our possession both the 1864 (2nd) and 1867 (7th) editions. At first we decided to reprint the 1867 impression, but soon found it unsuitable for reproduction due to various printing flaws and anomalies. After subsequently searching for an even later edition, we were able to secure the 1881 printing (the seventeenth) from a used-book seller. This copy proved to be the perfect exemplar for reproduction.
Long in the public domain, Smith’s text as presented here is an exact facsimile of that 1881 printing. Used copies (especially the later editions) are normally either very scarce or altogether non-existent. If found at all, they usually turn out to be in very poor condition. We consider ourselves fortunate to have found an 1881 copy in such good shape.
Due to page limits set by the printer, it was necessary to split the work into two volumes. The 6" by 9" format was chosen for two reasons: firstly, it is very close to the dimensions of the original book; and secondly, this size proves to be much more portable and easier to handle than any of the other size options available. It can fit easily in a college student’s backpack or be comfortably carried to a Latin study group or class. Its sturdy hardcovers will last for a lifetime.
It is our hope that this work might someday be published in a single volume and in a rich binding similar to that of the original.
Maximus Scriptorius Publications
Would you like a copy of William Smith's Latin-English Dictionary? Begin your order by clicking the "Add To Cart" button below.
by William Smith, D.C.L. LL.D.
Original year of publication: 1881
Reprinted in the year: 2008
This comprehensive Latin-English dictionary is offered as a two volume set. These hardbound tomes are constructed with high quality binder's board covered with navy blue linen featuring gold lettering on the spine. The endsheets are constructed from cream 80# stock. The text is printed on cream 50# vellum finish pages. We have posted a photo gallery below with close-up pictures of the interior and exterior of these volumes. Please refer to our full description of the Latin-English Dictionary for much more information on this exciting new addition to our library.
View Sample Page
Testimonial(s) regarding this book...
September 05, 2008
This customer ordered two sets!-
This is a difficult volume to find, and the quality of the reproduction is exceptionally good, especially considering the age of the exemplar. The perfect binding appears sturdy enough to stand up to repeated use, which this dictionary surely deserves. It is a beautifully produced edition at a very affordable price. Not only is this convenient dictionary useful in its own right (especially because of its many citations), but is also a very welcome companion to William Smith and Theophilus Hall's English-Latin Dictionary (currently available from Bolchazy-Carducci). Maximus Scriptorius has done Latinists and Latin students a great service in making this dictionary easily available once again.P.D.S. from Montclair, New Jersey
July 24, 2008
We were pleased to receive this review from William Linney of Linney's Latin Class and Getting Started with Latin.
"...This unabridged dictionary, in two volumes, claims to have every Latin word in it, from all Latin literature.
I know that's an ambitious claim, so I tested it by looking up the most obscure word I could thing of: subnervo. I had trouble finding this word in any dictionary a few months back, and I doubted it would be in this dictionary. But lo and behold, there it was. The dictionary entry gave the literal meaning, the normal meaning, and even a figurative meaning, along with citations of Latin literature where the word could be found. I was very pleased to have such a resource on my shelf.
This dictionary is not cheap, but it's really worth having on your shelf if you translate texts of any kind..."William Linney
July 16, 2008
Received the dictionary last Saturday. It took less than two weeks. That is a speedy service. Very happy with the good quality of the reprint. I like the handy size of the dictionary.
I own both Lewis and Short's A Latin Dictionary and Oxford Latin Dictionary. I can list the following uniqueness of the Smith's in comparison to the other two.
(1) Comparative philological remarks on some entries to aid linguistic cognition to other ancient and modern languages.
(2) All plant and animal words are given binomial Linnaean naming as part of their translation/definition.
In summary, great service and beautiful book.W.C. from Potomac, Maryland