Withals, John (DNB00)

WITHALS or WHITHALS, JOHN (fl. 1556), lexicographer, probably a schoolmaster, was author of an English-Latin vocabulary for children. The English words, with their Latin equivalents affixed, were classified under such headings as ‘skie,’ ‘four-footed beastes,’ ‘the partes of housinge,’ ‘clothinge and apparell,’ ‘instrumentes of musicke,’ and the like. A list of adjectives in alphabetical order is given at the end. The words reach a total of six thousand—a small number when compared with the nineteen thousand in Palsgrave's ‘Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse’ (1530), an English-French dictionary, or with the twenty-six thousand in Richard Huloet's ‘Abecedarium Anglo-Latinum,’ 1552, or with the nine thousand in Peter Levins's English-Latin ‘Manipulus Vocabulorum’ (1570).

According to Herbert's edition of Ames's ‘Typographical Antiquities,’ the work was first printed by Wynkyn de Worde ‘in the late house of William Caxton’ about 1510, and was reissued in 1554 by Thomas Berthelet. No copies of these dates have been met with, and it seems doubtful if the book was sent to press before 1556. In that year the earliest edition now discoverable was published under the title: ‘A Short Dictionarie for Yonge Beginners, gathered of good authours, specially of Columell[a], Grapald[i] and Plini. Anno 1556.’ The colophon ran: ‘Thus endeth this Dictionarie very necessarie for children. Compiled by Jhon Whithals. Imprinted at London by Jhon Kington for Jhon Waley and Abraham Vele, 1556’ (4to, Brit. Mus.). The author claimed no personal acquaintance with his patron, Sir Thomas Chaloner the elder [q. v.], to whom the work was dedicated, but Chaloner was invited to aid in ‘the finishing of this little book’ ‘after the manner of Sir Thomas Elyote.’ The aim of the book was to ‘induce children to the Latin tongue’ and familiarise them in adult years ‘bothe in disputacion’ and familiar conversation with ‘the proper and naturall woord.’

Withals's ‘Short Dictionarie’ became a standard school book. After being reissued by Wykes in 1562 and 1568, it was reprinted for the first of many times by Thomas Purfoot in 1572 with an appendix of phrases by Lewis Evans (fl. 1574) [q. v.] The volume now bore the title, ‘A Short Dictionarie most profitable for Yong Beginners. The seconde tyme corrected, and augmented with diverse Phrasys and other thinges necessarie thereunto added: by Lewys Euans.’ Evans addressed a dedication to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester. Purfoot's edition reappeared without change in 1581, ‘the third time corrected.’ In 1586 it was reissued with a second appendix, by Abraham Fleming [q. v.], of ‘more than six hundred rythmicall verses, wherof many be prouerbial, some heretofore found in olde authours and othersome neuer before this time seene or read in the Latine tongue, as hauing their originall grace in English.’ There was added to Evans's dedication to Leicester a Latin address by Fleming, ‘Ad Philomusos de isto Dictionariolo nunc recens aucto,’ and there were commendatory verses by Thomas Newton and S. H. This edition reappeared from Purfoot's press in 1599 and 1602. In 1608 a new edition, printed again by Purfoot, supplied a further appendix by William Clerk. In 1616 a reissue, which received final additions from an anonymous pen, bore the title, ‘A Dictionarie in English and Latine deuised for the capacity of children and young Beginners. At first set foorth by M. Withals, with Phrases both Rhythmical and Prouerbial: recognised by Dr. Euans; after by Abr. Fleming, and then by William Clerk. And now at this last impression enlarged with an encrease of Words, Sentences, Phrases, Epigrams, Histories, Poeticall Fictions, and Alphabeticall Proverbs; with a Compendious Nomenclator newly added at the end.’ This was reissued by Purfoot in 1623 and 1634. No later edition is known.

[Withals's Dictionarie in Brit. Mus. Library; H. B. Wheatley's Chronological Notices on the Dictionaries of the English Language in Philological Society's Transactions, 1865; British Bibliographer, ii. 582.]

S. L.