Older Than Dirt

Friday Fiction - A Present from Rosita
On all Fours

Latin-English Lexicon title pageA Copious and Critical Latin-English Lexicon, Founded on the Larger Latin-German Lexicon of Dr. William Freund; with Additions and Corrections from the Lexicons of Gesner, Facciolati, Scheller, Georges, Etc.
Andrews and Freund

Submitter: This isn’t so much awful as awful for the location. This Latin-English Lexicon, published in 1872, was found still in circulation at an urban high school library in Massachusetts… in 2013. The school does not offer Latin classes. The book had not circulated since the catalog was automated in the 1990s. I have no idea why previous librarians kept this tome, especially when there is a newer Latin-English dictionary on the shelf.
It is pretty cool, just for it’s age, so it now resides behind the circulation desk as a conversation piece.

Holly: Wow. This might be the oldest still-in-circulation book we’ve seen on the site so far.  Why on earth would high school librarians keep anything from 1872 in circulation?

Really old book excerpt


Really old book excerpt


  1. Well, a quick Google tells me that both Around the World in Eighty Days (Jules Verne) and Under the Greenwood Tree (Thomas Hardy) were published in 1872. But as for a physical book from 1872, or a Latin dictionary from that year — yes, I can see a more modern work being more useful. (C’mon, you knew someone was going to look that up!) 🙂

    1. Kind of missing the point. Obviously, plenty of school libraries have Don Quixote (1620) or the Bible (date/s disputed, but darn old). What they do NOT have, is a 140-year-old circulating copy thereof. If it’s worth preserving (and, in this case, I’d say it is), it needs to be a display or reference copy, not something the students can throw in their backpacks!

  2. A.) The school may have had Latin classes in the past, and this is a relic of that time. (The high school I attended dropped Latin from the curriculum in the 1950s, but one of my French teachers — this was in the mid-1960s — had been the Latin teacher then).
    B.) The school librarian may want to contact local universities that do offer Latin (I think most universities do) to see if they might want this book in their collections.

    1. I’ll bet it doesn’t have infantária (baby-sitter), lagoena calefactória (thermos), ludus follis ovāti (rugby), or iúvenis voluptárius (playboy). They need a copy of “Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis”; you never know when you might need to use an ATM at the Vatican.

  3. I would like to propose a title change for this entry. Someone needs to translate “Hoarding is not collection development!” into Latin and we change this blog post’s title to that. Thank you.

  4. The University of Virginia libraries, which Virginia residents may borrow books from, have quite a lot of books in circulation that are this old or older. Not too long ago, I checked out a book from one of the UVA libraries that still had uncut pages, even though the book had been printed nearly 100 years ago.

  5. Many hated rules in English grammar and spelling come from Latin, so I feel OK in pointing out the it’s/its error.

  6. No idea of what a treasure that book is, or how eagerly educated people would seek one. No idea of what’s been lost, and what’s lacking in education today. No concept of our history; no understanding of Western civilization.

    Not even any understanding of how to write a possessive pronoun–in English. Well, that’s librarians these days, I guess.

  7. Our on site storage actually has an 1850 copy of this available! It’s not in the main collection and is part of a collection of Pre-1901 materials that are stored in the basement, though. Plus, we’re a university library, so sometimes weird stuff like that comes in handy.

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