Prefazioni e polemiche/VI. Prefazioni al dizionario delle lingue italiana ed inglese (1760)/I.


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VI. Prefazioni al dizionario delle lingue italiana ed inglese (1760) VI. Prefazioni al dizionario delle lingue italiana ed inglese (1760) - II.

[p. 145 modifica]I do not think it very needful minutely to inform the studious of the several advantages that this work may justly boast above ali former compilations of Italian and English words. However, that I may not incur the blame of too much carelesness about a long and toilsome performance, it will not be improper to apprise the few who give themselves the trouble of inquiring into the labours of lexicographers, of what I have done towards facilitating the way to the acquisition of the two best living languages. The dictionary of Altieri was hitherto the largest and least contemptible work of this kind. The man certainly went a good way farther than his predecessors Florio and Tornano; yet many of his definitions awakened often my risibility. Those «aquatick birds», called «halcyons» by the poets, he converted into so many «fishes». The «carnei» was in his opinion the «largest of quadrupeds», and the «snail» he ranked amongst the «insects». The «cochineal» he called «a berry», and the «indigo», «a stone». The «onyx» and the «calcidonius» with him were not «gems», but «kinds of alabaster», and the «leaves» were «excrements of trees». He thought that «orb» meant «a hollow sphere», and made «the ninth heaven perform its course in four and twenty hours from cast to west». These and many other tokens of the ignorance of an author whose labours were the ground- work of mine, I would have passed over in silence, as he does not appear to have aimed at any reputation but that of an indefatigable compiler, had he G. Baretti, Prefazioni e polemiche. io [p. 146 modifica]

not often provoked my indignation by his love of obscene words and phrases, of which he collected a large number, as well as of scurrilous sayings and senseless proverbs in depreciation of the female sex.

But if in many places his ridiculous diligence gave me much cause for blots, in many more he left me room for additions; so that I can honestly assure the reader that my dictionary contains above ten thousand words or significations of words not to be found in his, in spite of his pompous and false declaration that the Italian part of his performance contained «many hundred more words than the vocabulary of the Academicians della Crusca».

These considerations, and my having retranslated a large number of his phrases, rectified endless accents that he had misplaced in the Italian, accented ali the English, and expunged numberless superfluities, made me resolve to prefíx my name instead of his to this edition; and should any body think me wrong in so doing, as the whole of this work cannot be properly called mine, let him do as much for the advantage of the studious to Baretti ’s dictionary, as Baretti has done to Altieri ’s, and he shall bave my full leave to efface my name from its frontispiece, and place his own in the stead.

To the dictionary I bave prefíxed two grammars, one for an Englishman who learns Italian, the other for an Italian who learns English. They are both very short, but I hope they both contain enough to conduct any learner of tolerable capacity through the dark labyrinth of a new tongue.

Only three grammars of these two languages were hitherto generally used. One by Messieiirs of Port Royal, translated from the French, a second by Altieri, and a third by Venero ni. Which is the worst of the three is not easily to be determined. The Messíeurs were unacquainted with the tongue they pretended to tèach tò ah astonishing degree. The Italian authot from whom they h’áve drawn the greatest part of their examples, was John /^j -Baptist Marino, a poèt as proverbially branded in Italy for the uncorrectness of his language as for the fustian of his thoughts.

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Altieri was no less in the dark as to the beauties of his native language. He had not the least sparkle of poetical fire in his soul ; and lihpoetical people ought~hevér tb assume the ~n[gEt of teachingr^eiides, he wrote for bread, and thought

apparently of nothing but of multiplying rules, which for the greatest part are either fault>- or unintelligible, that he might swell a book into a convenient sum of money.

Veneroni ’s method is indeed a little better than the other two; but his precepts are no less trifling and no less false for the greatest part, and he was stili below Messieurs and Altieri in point of ignorance of the classical Italians.

The learners therefore ma}- be assured that the two grammars I here offer them are not raked together from those three works, as that of one Palermo lately published. Mine, such as they are, are entirely new. That of Mr. Samuel Johnson prefixed to his English dictionar}-, and that of Buonmattei were my guides. The performances of these two accurate philosophers I bave generally followed, and often translated; and as to the Italian prosody, my short attempt may perhaps be called the first of that kind; for although the Italian nation be reputed eminently poetical, yet whatever be the reason of such strange neglect, no prosody of their language has hitherto appeared amongst them since criticism fixed her seat in Italy.