Making Glossaries in the Vernacular

Schedel, Hartmann. Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, VII 1493).
Chetham’s Library: Mun.I.8.2, f. 84r.

The Nuremberg Chronicles Making glossaries

 By kind permission of the Chetham’s Library.

All Our Chronicles

The majority of Latin copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle included in this exhibition were annotated in Latin, sometimes with additional notes in the vernacular.  This copy of the Chronicle, however, was annotated entirely in English by a Lancashire gentleman, Thomas Gudlawe (d. 1606).  Gudlawe also equipped this book with a comprehensive Latin-English glossary, a fragment of which we can see on this page. The right margin is filled with short entries in alphabetical order for the letter ‘A’ – from ‘Augustodunum’ (‘the citie of Augston in Frannce’) to ‘Aurora’ (‘the daughter of Tytan & Terra’). The bottom margin contains longer entries for the letter ‘M’ (‘Mandanis’ and ‘Messala Corvinus’), while the upper margin comprises the only marginalia to refer to the printed text on the page – an entry on the ‘noble Citie’ of Mantua, which is depicted on the woodcut. In this manner, separating short and long entries, the glossary runs throughout the whole Chronicle.

“Gudlawe’s glossary actually presented an innovative type of a monolingual encyclopaedic word-list.”

Gudlawe himself was neither a compiler, nor a translator. He borrowed this entire glossary from a Latin-English dictionary Thesaurus linguae Romanae & Britannicae (1565), first published by Thomas Elyot and then revised by Thomas Cooper . This dictionary had an innovative feature: all entries on history, biographies, and other proper names were moved to a separate section. This was the section that Gudlawe copied into the margins of the Chronicle. When separated from the context of the dictionary, Gudlawe’s glossary  presented a monolingual encyclopaedic word-list, a type which would not appear in print in England until the early 17th century.


The copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle that we have gathered here have been read by people across Western and Eastern Europe – fittingly so for a History of the World.  Different readers across Europe looked for different information in their copies of the Chronicle, but despite the geographical spread the mode of reading was often very similar.