The Source Dictionaries

Whereas the HT uses as its main source material the word senses compiled by the editors of the OED, the complementary Old English slips were made from standard Anglo-Saxon dictionaries[1]. This procedure ensured that the separate Old English slips would not be made so as to match up with the decisions of the OED editors. The more fully edited materials of the OED have greater authority than the Bosworth-Toller listings, and the temptation to accept OED decisions might easily have gone against straightforward recording of the often uncertain evidence for Anglo-Saxon usage. The TOE is therefore largely dependent upon the definitions to be found in the Bosworth-Toller and Clark Hall dictionaries. These definitions are as far as possible accepted, a principle shared with the HT, which reflects OED definitions.

Given that so many Old English words lack the twenty to forty citations that a lexicographer might ideally hope for before arriving at a meaning, it would have been ill-advised to neglect the inherited wisdom of Anglo-Saxon scholarship. During compilation of the slips, it was usually necessary to check on word use in at least six places in the Bosworth-Toller dictionaries: headwords in both volumes, headwords prefixed by ge- in both volumes and again in the Campbell Addenda. For not a few forms, as many as ten or twelve places was more like the norm, because of the unsettled nature both of Anglo-Saxon spelling and of editorial choice in headwords. In our turn, we have not attempted to be wholly consistent in the use of headwords chosen. Although we have for the most part adopted the forms to be found in Clark Hall, in all fairness it must be noted that the Clark Hall spellings are not always followed. Sometimes it seemed inappropriate to normalize a nonceword. Often the usual variations (for example, i, ie and y or æ and ea) were so much part and parcel of the Bosworth-Toller entries that it seemed best to aim at fullness of cover and to excerpt meanings for forms that might very well be spelling variants one of another. Spelling doublets, it was felt, could be discarded later, and inconsistency was to be preferred to loss of evidence for word meaning[2]. The Meritt supplement to Clark Hall's Dictionary was invaluable in giving access to more recent work, especially on glossaries. Here the Campbell Addenda provided a useful second witness to newer information, particularly to place-name elements. The attempt was made to list all senses recorded in these base dictionaries, and to indicate informally if the word forms themselves appeared to be restricted in distribution. The TOE is not, it must be emphasized, a new listing of Anglo-Saxon words, but it depends upon the information to be found in the major completed Old English dictionaries. Scrutiny of its contents in the light of Toronto Dictionary of Old English (DOE) is obviously very necessary[3]. Until that is possible, a working thesaurus compiled from available dictionaries must be viewed as the research tool it is. Fuller information, for example on the infrequent or restricted distribution of individual word senses or, in particular, on the use of names for people and places, must wait for the completion of the DOE.

Five letters had been edited by the DOE team when the first printing of the TOE went to press[4]. In the final stages of preparation of the TOE, spot checks were made on some words beginning with these letters, but it has not been possible to give such careful attention to the bulk of the word senses contained in our classification. Use of the invaluable research tools so generously made available by the DOE team allowed us to check eyecatching forms, at the same time making us only too aware of the thorough checking still needed to underpin detailed lexical field studies for Old English[5]. With this in mind, two parts of the TOE, 02.04 Body and 04.01 Eat, were scrutinized with particular care, in a project to establish working procedures for supplying further annotations to the TOE database. We sometimes went back to texts themselves, but not as often as we could have wished. If it is borne in mind that a separate investigatory scrutiny of the files for 04.01 Eat took five weeks of full-time work for one person, the reasons why will be evident. Essentially therefore the TOE reflects the information to be found in the Bosworth-Toller and Clark Hall dictionaries. Fortunately, Waldorf’s examination of the words noted as infrequent in Clark Hall is a useful tool to put alongside Bosworth-Toller, although it too needs to be checked in the light of the DOE research materials[6]. Even the two sets of fiches which together make up the Microfiche Concordance to Old English (MCOE) were not themselves exhaustive. The standard dictionaries occasionally yielded evidence for forms not included in the preliminary materials published by the Toronto team: alternative readings for words in, for example, the Dialogues, the Old English Bede, the Leechdoms, or the Parker Laws, which are to be found represented in the published fascicules of the DOE.

[1] J. Bosworth and T. N. Toller, ed., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, London 1898; T. N. Toller, ed., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: Supplement, London, 1921; A .Campbell, ed., An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary: Enlarged Addenda and Corrigenda, Oxford, 1972; J. R. Clark Hall and H. D. Merritt, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th ed., Cambridge, 1960.

[2] It must be noted that many of the inconsistent spellings of the source dictionaries remain in this research tool. For ð/þ we have adopted þ throughout.

[3] For the early history of this project see A Plan for the Dictionary of Old English, ed. Roberta Frank and Angus Cameron, Toronto, 1983. Publication of edited dictionary entries began with the letter D in 1986.

[4] Fasc. D, 1986; Fasc. C, 1988; Fasc. B, 1991; Fasc. Æ, 1992; Fasc. Bēon, 1992; Fasc. A, 1994. See now Angus Cameron, Ashley Crandell Amos, and Antonette diPaolo Healey, eds. The Dictionary of Old English: A to G online. Toronto: Dictionary of Old English Project, 2007.

[5] A Microfiche Concordance to Old English, ed. Antonette DiPaolo Healey and Richard L. Venezky, Toronto, 1980; A Microfiche Concordance to Old English: The High-Frequency Words, ed. Richard L. Venezky and Sharon Butler, Toronto, 1985. We were particularly grateful to Professor Healey and her colleagues for a CD version of their files (1988), now superseded by DOE Corpus. Antonette diPaolo Healey, ed. Dictionary of Old English Web Corpus. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009. Vic Strite, in Old English Semantic-Field Studies, American University Studies, Series IV: English Language and Literature, 100, New York, 1989, provides a useful introduction to published and current work in progress on Old English lexical fields; see also C. P. Biggam's review of Strite in Anglia, 109 (1991), 116-19.

[6] N.O. Waldorf, 'The hapax legomena in the Old English vocabulary: a study based upon the Bosworth-Toller dictionary', Stanford University PhD dissertation, 1953.