Charles du Fresne, sieur Ducange
Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae Latinitatis
Osmont, Paris, 1733.
Binding: 27x 39.5×5.5cm. Calf binding, banded with gilt tooling and red title labels on spine.
Written by Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange or Ducange (1610 –1688), a distinguished philologist and historian of the Middle Ages and Byzantium, who also served as Treasurer of France. His most important work is his Glossarium mediae et infimae Latinitatis (Glossary of medieval and late Latin, Paris, 1678), still consulted by scholars.
Ducange is described in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as ‘our sure and indefatigable guide in the Middle Ages and Byzantine history’. Du Cange’s pioneering work distinguished medieval Latin from its earlier classical forms, marking the beginning of the methodological study of the evolution of languages.
The volume here is the First Volume of a 6-volume revised and corrected edition from the workshop of Charles Osmont, Rue S. Jacques, Paris in 1733, produced in a transitional Roman type, with the text laid out in two columns. The title page has copper engraving of Minerva with the olive tree (supposed to be the gods’ most useful gift to humanity), and a frontispiece by Sebastien Le Clerc (1637-1714), featuring the true spirit of Latin weeping at the sack of Rome and the burning of books.
The volume includes a biographical sketch of Ducange by Eusebius Renaudot (1648-1720), himself a celebrated Orientalist and apologist for Catholicism, accompanied by a gorgeous portrait engraving of Ducange by P. Giffart, a relatively unknown engraver who worked in a ‘Dutch’ style, as here.
There is also an essay by Ducange, On the Causes of the Corruption of Latin, which acts as a preface to the glossary proper. Osmont produced a presentation copy of this book on vellum for Prince Eugene of Savoy, which is now lost.