In this chapter we shall study the word list in Palsgrave's EnglishFrench dictionary. He himself never calls it a 'dictionary'; he uses the terms 'vocabular', 'vocabuler', and 'vocabulyst' and characterizes it as the 'frenche vocabular', thus highlighting what he regarded as its most salient feature. The earliest date we have for the use of 'dictionary' in English is 1526, 1 and we know that the first dictionary including English as one of the languages described is the Dictionary of Syr Thomas Elyot, published in 1538. In using 'vocabular', 'vocabulyst', Palsgrave strikes us as more factual than other earlier and later compilers of English word lists, who described their collections of words and phrases for want of a generic term metaphorically as a Medulla, a Promptorium, a Hortus vocabulorum, a Catholicon, an Abecedarium, a Thesaurus, a Manipulus vocabulorum, an Alvearie, a Sylva synonymorum, a Bibliotheca, or simply a Worlde of Words (see Stein 1985a).
We begin with what Palsgrave himself tells us about the compilation of his word list and its arrangement. We shall then look at the order in which the words are actually listed in the dictionary and see how far there is agreement between plan and execution.
The French vocabulist is part of the third book of Lesclarcissement. As we have seen in Chapter 2, there is a progression in the depth of treatment from books I and II to book III. The third book resumes the grammatical description of the different parts of speech given earlier and provides us with a more specialized analysis of the accidents (of the different word classes). Palsgrave continues his introductory account in book III as follows:____________________