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A: Milano, Lombardia, Italy

The First Truly Recognizable Dictionary

Circa 1040 to 1050
Page from Papias

Page from Papias' Elementarium listing words beginning with "a."


Between 1040 and 1050 Papias, an Italian sometimes known as Papias the Lombard or Papias the Grammarian, wrote Elementarium doctrinae rudimentum. This work, which was in circulation by 1053, has been called the "first fully recognizable dictionary."

"The Elementarium . . . is a landmark in the development of dictionaries as distinct from mere collections of glosses. Papias arranges entries alphabetically based on the first three letters of the word, and is the first lexicographer to name the authors or texts he uses as sources. Although most entries are not etymological, Papias laid the groundwork for derivational lexicography, which became firmly established only a century later. Papias seems to have been a cleric with theological interests, possibly living in Pavia. The name 'Papias'means 'the guide,' and may be a pseudonym or pen name. Bruno of Würzburg saw an early draft of the Elementarium before he died in 1045, but an unambiguous reference in the chronicle of Albericus Trium Fontium establishes that it was published by 1053" (Wikipedia article on Papias, accessed 11-22-2012).

Papias's Elementarium was first published in print under the title Vocabularium by Dominicus de Vespolate of Milan on December 12, 1476. ISTC No. ip00077500.

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