Pet Book Report #1 – The Philadelphia Vocabulary

The book that I have chosen to be my “pet book” is titled The Philadelphia Vocabulary, English and Latin: Put into a New Method, proper to acquaint the Learner with Things as well as pure Latin words. Adorned with Twenty-Six Pictures. For the Use of Schools. Since that title is a mouth-full, I will simply be referring to it from now on as The Philadelphia Vocabulary. It is by James Greenwood, who is, as the title page informs us, also the “Author of the English Grammar, and late Sur-Master of St. Paul’s School.” The edition found at the Northeastern Special Collections was printed in Philadelphia in 1787 by Carey and Co. and “sold by all the Booksellers.” Carey and Co. seem very confident.

The book itself is, to be frank, in rough shape. The cover is made of a plain brown calf[1] leather that shows its age and the front cover has actually completely detached from the book. However, because the cover is falling apart it is now easy to see some of the binding and what looks like cardboard underneath the leather. The are 123 pages, all of them fairly thin and many of them having rips and tears. The paper seems to be handmade because there are chain lines, but there does not appear to be a watermark.

Since this is an English-Latin dictionary, the text itself is mostly just lists of words. The English word is on the left side of the page and its Latin equivalent is on the right side of the page, as well as the declension and gender of the word. There is a line that separates these columns, although when there is more than one Latin word for one English word, this line becomes a curly bracket ( { ). Instead of listing the words in alphabetical order as many dictionaries do now, they are instead split up into 33 category chapters with titles such as “Of Beasts,” “Of the Bones,” and “Of Time,” with a few more generic categories towards the end such as “Of Pronouns” and “Of Conjunctions.”[2] Once within these chapters, the words are further separated into categories. For example, the “Of Fishes” chapter contains more detailed categories such as “River and Pond Fishes are” and “Sea Fish are.” These section titles all seem to be constructed as sentences with the vocabulary word finishing the sentence. Mixed into the text are all sorts of features of early print, such as random capitalization, the long s[3], and catchwords.

As one of the sentences in the long title suggests, there are also pictures inside, although my initial count is twenty-two pictures instead of the promised twenty-six. The pages could have been sticking together or I could have just missed some, so I absolutely plan on getting a more definite count the next time I visit my pet book. Also, a few of the pictures have been hand-colored or have a single element in them that have been colored.

All of these details were factors in me deciding to adopt this book as my pet book, but the main aspect of the book that caught my eye was all of the interesting handwritten marks, words, and drawings inside, especially on the blank leaves. There are a few different names written in the book, but “James Williams” seems to be the most possessive of this book’s previous owners[4] because his name without a doubt comes up the most. There are also beginning and end dates of when the book was read, a price, school names, a whole paragraph that I have yet to decipher, and a few drawings, including one that looks like some sort of building with the words “Incorporated in 1675” written underneath. I don’t want to describe every little bit of writing inside the book, and some of it I don’t yet know how to describe, so instead I am simply going to include a few pictures as a sample.

img_8052 img_8053 img_8054 img_8092

[1] According to a helpful library information card.

[2] Interestingly (at least to me), there are two chapters in the table of contents that don’t follow the “Of ____” format: “Meats and Drinks” and “The School.” However, at the beginning of the actual chapter “Meats and Drinks” does become “Of Meats and Drinks” while “The School” stays Of-less. Additionally, “Of Beasts” becomes “Of Four-Footed Beasts” in the Table of Contents to chapter start transition.

[3] I had planned on using the long s when transcribing the title, but could not find one in either Microsoft Word of WordPress. Does anyone know how to insert the long s?

[4] The most recent owner, or at least the most recent owner that left a visible mark on the book, appears to have been Josiah H. Penniman according to a small bookplate. A quick Google search shows that Mr. Penniman was a professor of English and Provost at the University of Pennsylvania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *