Lexicography and Physicke: The Record of Sixteenth-Century English Medical Terminology

By R. W. McConchie | Go to book overview

We must look again at the original texts, since both as sources for medical history and for linguistic history they have been by and large neglected and discounted. The fact that almost none of these authors has been edited in modern times, Clowes being one of the few exceptions, is indicative of the neglect they have suffered. What was not progressive or revolutionary in medicine has not been of interest. Neither Banister, Gale, nor Baker discovered the circulation of the blood, or anything else which substantially changed the course of medical history; thus they are considered to be of no significance and it is not thought necessary to read them. Only two medical writers of this period, Elyot and Burton, have been credited with literary distinction. It is, however, the large trends, the subtle but ultimately pervasive shifts of attitude expressed in these writings as a whole, the incremental creep of language and thought in tandem, which ought to be researched in depth. It is here that the preconditions for the discoveries and the revolutionary changes are to be found, as well as the broader picture of society as it then was. These works are also surprisingly revealing of the state of the lexicon at the time. In particular we must attend to Jürgen Schäfer's plea concerning the revisions to be made to our view of the English lexicon in the sixteenth century:

OED's documentation, the richest presently available, is inadequate in the light of modern scholarship; the combination of the older EMED project, and present day computer technology offers a unique opportunity to remedy this situation and to arrive at solutions that might prove as indispensable and lasting for scholars as the OED has been for more than a century. ( Schäfer 1989: 67)


Notes
1.
Mats Rydén has shown the dangers of ascribing creative neologizing too readily to this or indeed any author. Of twenty-five antedatings listed by him discovered in an early herbal, nine are from Turner. The probability is that more will be found in time, and that the number of his neologisms have, on the evidence available from the OED, been overstated ( Rydén 1985: 12-14). Although Rydén does not identify the nine, they are bean [of Egypt], dogberry, [great] rape, herb-grace, lunary, sindaw, [white] beet, clary, and [wild] saffron.
2.
For a cautious but enlightening discussion of the problems of definition and periodization involved, see Eisenstein 1979, vol. i, Ch. 3).
3.
See Christianson ( 1989), however, for an assessment of manuscript production in London into the sixteenth century. Despite the decline in numbers working in this craft up to 1519 (Christianson, 89), medical

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Lexicography and Physicke: The Record of Sixteenth-Century English Medical Terminology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • I - Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Inadequacy of English 14
  • Notes 57
  • 3 - Language and Authority 62
  • Notes 93
  • 4 - The Early Lexicographers: Elyot to Bullokar 97
  • Notes 115
  • 5 - New Data for the Oed: Methodological Problems 119
  • Notes 149
  • 6 - Antedatings 154
  • Notes 179
  • 7 - The Medical Lexicon and the Oed 182
  • Notes 221
  • Bibliography 223
  • Appendix 1, - An Alphabetical List by Author of the Data Excerpted 237
  • Notes 411
  • Appendix 2 - Graphs of the Lengths of Antedatings by Author 413
  • Appendix 3 - Medical Antedatings 422
  • Index 435
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