Old Wisdom: The Highly Relevant Lexicographical Knowledge Obtainable from a Specialized Dictionary from 1774

Sven Tarp


There is little doubt that lexicography has experienced important progress during the years, especially when one compare the lexicographical works from the various centuries. How­ever, history should not be viewed as an ever-growing progress but as a process with its ups and downs. In this respect, some old lexicographical works, especially from the Age of Enlightenment, are in some aspects extremely advanced even compared with present-day dictionaries. Malachy Postlethwayt's Universal Dictionary of Trade and Commerce from 1774 is one such example. The article provides a general presentation of this rare and interesting dictionary which was published in various editions in the 18thcentury. The presentation includes a detailed description of the objective, functions, structure, and content of this impressive work. The article then focuses on its cognitive and operative functions, and the way they are integrated into one and the same refer­ence work. Upon this basis, the article shows how modern lexicography can use past experiences in order to meet the real and practical needs of present-day users.


lexicography, historical lexicography, function theory, opera­tive functions, cognitive functions, dictionaries of economics, inter­discipli­nary vocation of lexicography, information tools

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5788/23-1-1221


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ISSN 2224-0039 (online); ISSN 1684-4904 (print)

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