Giovanni Iamartino University of Milan and Giulia Rovelli University of Insubria A Physical Dictionary of 1655: When translating medical science is not enough.”


This paper analyses the lexicological and lexicographical characteristics of A Physical Dictionary, a 13-page medical glossary appended to the English edition of Lazare Rivière’s Praxis Medica, translated, among others, by Nicholas Culpeper, and published by Peter Cole as The Practice of Physick in 1655. Notwithstanding a few inconsistencies in the form of variant spellings, repetitions, and inaccuracies, the glossary can be described as a useful addition to Rivière’s treatise as evidenced by its inclusion in the following editions of the English text. With its generally short (often one-word) definitions which tend to present the literate but not highly educated readers of Rivière’s book in English with easier language equivalents of the many technical terms that are part and parcel of a medical book of this kind, A Physical Dictionary can, indeed, be described as further evidence of Nicholas Culpeper’s long-lasting activity as a translator and popularizer of medical discourse.

Keywords: specialized lexicography, historical medical lexicography, vernacularization, medical popularization, knowledge dissemination, Nicholas Culpeper.

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