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Lexicon (in Greek). Hesychii Dictionarium.


(On colophon-leaf:) Haguenau, in aedibus Thomae Badensis, 1521). Small folio. Beautiful full calf binding over wooden boards. Recently rebacked. Beautiful blindstamped ornamental borders to boards and remains of clasps, ties missing. A few smaller wormhols to boards, and two drilled holes of ab. the same size to lower part of front board (for a chain?). Ornamented incunable-leaves with red and blue initials used as pasted-down end-papers. Front free end-paper soiled, with neat 19th century inscription (stating editions of the work), and with a beautiful large, engraved armorial book-plate (Collection of Bryan Hall). First leaf with a larger damp-spot to lower part (not affecting any text). Otherwise a very nice copy with only some minor light marginal soiling, a small dampstain to lower inner corner of last ab. 8 leaves, far from affecting text, and a bit of light spotting to a few leaves towards the end. Beautiful large woodcut printer's device to last leaf. (1) f., 776 columns (i.e. 388 pp/ 194 ff.), (1 - colophon) f. ¶ The rare 3rd edition of Hesychios' extremely important Greek dictionary, one of the most important works of philology and linguistics ever printed, this edition constituting the first Greek work to be printed in the famous Renaissance printing-city of Hagenau/Haguenau (in Alsace).

The first edition of the work was printed by Aldus in Venice in 1514, and in 1520 a re-impression appeared. The present third edition, edited by Marcus Musurus and printed after the edition of 1514 of Aldus Manutius, constitutes the second re-impression of the work, but it is the first to be printed in Hagenau and the first by the notable printer Thomas Anshelm, who had settled in Haguenau in 1516, being the first to seriously rival Henry Gran here. Anshelm is regarded as one of the most important printers of what we now call the Humanist period of the Renaissance. All three editions are rare and important.

Hesychios of Alexandria was a highly important grammarian and lexicographer, whose only surviving work is the present lexicon of unusual and obscure Greek words, the richest of its kind ever. It is assumed that the work was executed by Hesychios during the 5th century. The work is extraordinary in that it constitutes a huge and unique listing of peculiar Greek words and phrases, with explanations and often references to the originator or place of origin. As such, the work is of the greatest value to the both the student of Greek dialects as well as for the ongoing work of restoring the texts of classical authors, for which the present lexicon it still an indispensible tool. But Hesychios' work is not only of the utmost importance to Greek philology, it is also a main work in the study of lost languages and obscure non-Greek dialects (e.g. Thracian and ancient Macedonian). Furthermore, the work was instrumental in the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European, one of the most, if not THE most, important philological tasks ever. Only in the late 18th century did Jones determine the connection between the Indo-European languages, thereby founding comparative philology.

Only a very corrupt manuscript, from the 15th century, of the work survives, and it is this manuscript that Marcus Musurus used as the basis for the first printing of the work by Aldus in 1514. As stated, two re-impressions (with modest corrections) appeared of this Aldus-edition (ours being the second), and since then no complete comparative edition of the manuscript has been published, bestowing on these three scarce early editions a huge importance.

A modern edition of the seminal work has, however, been in intermittent publication since 1953. The editor of the last wolume states the following about Hesychios' Lexicon:

"Hesychius of Alexandria lived in the fifth century A.D. and compiled a dictionary of unusual or difficult Greek words with explanations in Greek. Approximately 51,000 entries make it the richest surviving Greek lexicon compiled until the invention of printing. It is of great importance to Ancient Greek studies because it contains countless words and expressions from poetry, administration, medicine, and so on, that are otherwise unknown or insufficiently explained. In particular, numerous words from the Greek dialects are important, not only for Greek but also for Indo-European philology.
The Lexicon suffered substantial alterations, including abridgements and additions on its way from the author to the only surviving manuscript (fifteenth century). The production of an edition that gives all important information about the manuscript and the work of earlier scholars, as well as meeting modern requirements for the noting of parallels in other lexicographical works, is a slow and difficult task. Marcus Musurus published the first edition in 1514 (reprinted in 1520 and 1521 with modest revisions). There have since been many plans for an edition, but only four were started. Of the four editors, only one, M. Schmidt, lived long enough to finish the work himself. His edition (1858-68) is now completely out of date.
A new edition was one of the most urgent requirements in Greek studies already when the German scholar KURT LATTE began preliminary work in the 1920s for the Danish Academy's Commission for Corpus Lexicographorum Graecorum. The project was severely hampered by the events of 1933-45. Volumes 1-2 were published in 1953 and (posthumously) 1966." (Peter Allan Hansen, Editor of the final part of the great ongoing project of the new printing of the Hesychius-Lexicon)

"Hesychius , (flourished 5th century ad), author of the most important Greek lexicon known from antiquity, valued as a basic authority for the dialects and vocabularies of ancient inscriptions, poetic text, and the Greek Church Fathers." (British Encycl.).

Though not of particular fame or importance today, the small city of Haguenau played a dominating role in the late 15th and the first half of the 16th century, then being one of the most important centres of printing. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a remarkably large number of books were issued from presses in this small town, located close to Strasbourg. Thomas Anshelm (fl. 1488-1522) is considered perhaps the most eminent of the early Hagenau printers. He established himself as a printer in Basle in 1485 but subsequently worked as a printer in Strasbourg (1488), Pforzheim (1500-1511), Tübingen (1511-1516), and finally Hagenau (1516-1522), having by then developed his printing technique to perfection.

Graesse III:266

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