A glossary of words used in the neighbourhood of Sheffield/Catholicon Anglicum

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During the compilation of the glossary I frequently consulted old dictionaries, of which I have a considerable collection. The dic- tionaries which, in the first instance, I usually took from the shelf were the Promptorium Parvulorum and the Catholicon Anglicum, as edited by Way and Herrtage. Without being conscious of the reason why it was my practice to consult the Catholicon first, as I had found from experience that the word which I wanted was more likely to be found there than in the Promptorium. It will be observed that a considerable number of quotations from the Catholicon have been cited in illustration of the words contained in the glossary. There appeared to be such a resemblance between the words of the Catholicon and the dialect of this district that I thought it desirable to quote from this book, inasmuch as it occurred to me in the pro- gress of my work that the author might have been a native of this district.

Both Mr. Way and Mr. Herrtage are of opinion that the author of the Catholicon was a Yorkshireman. Mr. Herrtage (Introduction, p. xx) believes the compiler of it to have been a monk on the ground of 'his intimate knowledge of ecclesiastical terms, as evidenced throughout the work, as well as such slight but significant entries as didimus for vn-Trowabylle.' Mr. Herrtage goes on to say :

The mention of Heckbetts or Heckboats is more to the purpose, as these appear to have been peculiar to the river Ouse in Yorkshire. So also with Scurffe, which appears to obtain principally on the Tees. So again, we have the curious expres- sion Gabrielle racks, which still exists in Yorkshire. Further, the author speaks of the Wolds, which he renders by Alpes. On the whole it is probable that the work was compiled in the north portion of the East Riding of Yorkshire : more exactly than this it is now impossible to fix the locality. The reader will notice the large number of words occurring in our work, which are illustrated by quota- tions from the Wills and Inventories published by the Surtees Society, and from Henry Best's Farming and Account Book. Many of these, such as Rekande, Spene, Bery, Scurffe, Ley, Staith, Mosscrop, and others, are peculiar to Yorkshire, or at least to the most northern counties.


I do not think that the word heckboats furnishes any argument for fixing the locality in any particular part of Yorkshire, for they would be as likely to be used on the Don as on the Ouse ; nor does scurffe, a kind of trout, appear to be a Yorkshire word at all. Gabrielle rache appears in this glossary as Gabriels hounds. As regards the wolds, y e walde in the Catholicon is rendered by Alpina. The word occurs in the Promptorium and is known south of Yorkshire. Rekande will be found in this glossary as Rackan Hook. Spene, which appears in the Catholicon as spayn, or spam, to wean, is well known in this district, and it also occurs in the Promptorium. Bery, to thresh, is, I believe, unknown in this district, and the same may be said of ley, a scythe.* Staith, or stathe, is also unknown in this district, but it occurs in the Promptorium, and therefore no argument can be founded upon it. Mosse croppe, called in botany pedicularis palustris, is well known in this district. If, however, the author of Catholicon is to be probably identified with a teacher of grammar who 'came' as a stranger to Rotherham, as will be argued below, it would be natural to suppose that he would import a few words pecu- liar, if indeed they were peculiar, to his own district, which may have been the north of Yorkshire.

Mr. Herrtage's edition of thp Catholicon is founded upon the manuscript of Lord Monson, with readings and additions from another MS. of the work in the British Museum known as Addit. MS. 15,562. Mr. Herrtage says: 'The Addit. MS. appears to have been originally written in a purer northern dialect than Lord Monson's MS., but it has been constantly altered by the scribe. This is shown by the order in which we find the words. Thus spoyn was originally written spune, as is clear from its position. Again we have "scho" or "Ho" in A [i.e., the Addit. MS.], where Lord Monson's MS. reads "sche." I could point out many instances which show that the Addit. MS. is written in a purer northern dialect than Lord Monson's MS. For instance in Lord Monson's MS. coal is written cole, where the Addit. MS. has coy He.'

In Sheffield a spoon is still called a spune, and the surname Spooner is pronounced Spewner or Spunner. Both ' Ho' and ' Scho'

  • See, however, lay in in the Addenda.


are still used for 'she' in Sheffield, ' ho' being more common on the Derbyshire than on the Yorkshire side of the Sheath. The fact that both these forms of the personal pronoun occur appears to point to ' the place of origin ' of the dictionary being on the borderland of the counties of York and Derby. The word fox-fire, which occurs in the Cathoticon, meaning ignis fatuus, and also phosphorescent touchwood, is found in the Sheffield district, but rather on the Derbyshire than the Yorkshire side of the Sheath. I believe this word has not been recorded in any modern English word-book.

If the Catholicon was compiled by a native of, or a resident in, this district,* we should expect to find words relating to the manu- facture of knives, scythes, and other instruments of iron. Let us see whether such is the case. I extract the following entries :

f An arowhede ; barbellum, catella [p. 13].

A bak of a knyfe; ebiculum [p. 18]. f-To blawe belows ; follere, follescere [p. 34].

A buttyr ; scalprum, scalprus, scaber, scabrum [p. 50].

A chape of a knyfe ; vomellus [p. 58],

A pare of cysors ; forpex, forpecula [p. 65], fA cutler (Cultelere, A); cultellarius [p. 88]. t A dirsynge knyfe (Dyrsynge knyffe, A) ; spata [p. 100].

To forge; vbi, to smethe (A) [p. 138].

fTo glaysse a knyffe ; polire, Erubiginare &> cetera', vbi, to polyche or dense (A) [p. 158].

An hefte; manubrium, manutentum [p. 179].

To hefte or to make heftis; manubriare [p. 180].

A knyffe (knyfe A) cultellus ; versus : Artauos, kinpulos, adiunge nouacula,

cultros, Cultellosque, spatas, rasoria iungimus istis [p. 205]. fA martinett ; irristiticus 6 dicitur de irriguo (A) [p. 229].

A sekelle ; falx, faldcula [p. 328].

A sekylle maker ; fafrarzus [p. 328].

A schapynge knyfe; ansorium [p. 333].

Asyke\le;fatx,fakuuta [p. 339].

A sykelle maker ; falcarius [p. 339].

tTo smethe; fabricare, cudere, con-, ex-, re-, pre-, fabricare, de- (fabricari A) [P- 346].

A smethynge ; fabricatura [p. 346].

Asmythe; cudo, faber, faberculus, fabrialis (fabrilis, A) [p. 346]. tSmythe wyfe; fabrissa [p. 346].

A smythyj/^rzVa, confiatorium [p. 346].

  • o In ? t u her !! am be Veri g d smithes for a11 cuttin e e tooles.' Leland's Itinerary, ed. 1711,

v., p. 85. Ther be many smithes and cuttelars in Halamshire.' Ibid., p. 89.


A stythy (Stidy A); incus, -cudis, producto -cu-, in obliquis ; jncudineus

[p. 365].

A tange of a knyfe; parasinus [piramus, A] [p. 378]. A paire of tanges; jn plurali numero tenalia (forceps fabri est, forcipula,

formicales, plurales, masculini generis. A) [p. 378]. A paire of tanges for a smyth; forceps , forcicula, formicales pluraliter

[p. 378].

A thwytelle ; dolabrum [p. 388]. fA vyne knyfe; falx, falcicula (A) [p. 402].

fA verelle of a knyffe; spirula; uel virula secundum quosdam (A) [p. 400]. f-A vyrelle of a knyfe ; spirula (A) [p. 402].

The words in the foregoing list (printed literatim from Mr. Herrtage's edition) which are marked with a dagger (t) do not, according to him, occcur in the Promptorium.* The list as a whole shows that the author of the Catholicon was familiar with a district containing smithies, grinding-wheels, and the workshops of cutlers and sickle-makers. The words marked (A) only occur in the Addit. MS. referred to above, and they are remarkably charac- teristic of this district. The arrow-head, the blow-bellows, the cutler and his forge, the smith, the smith's wife, and the technical processes of 'smithying' and glazing, the 'pair of tangs' (still in use) by which the smith takes the heated blade from the fire, the 'stiddy,' and the ' martinet ' or the iron forge worked by the water-wheel on the stream all these things point to the conclusion that the author of the Catholicon was familiar with this district. The 'dirsynge knyfe' of the Catholicon appears to be represented by the dicing sleeker used by the tanner for scraping hides.

I have never seen a MS. of the Medulla Grammalice, but Mr. Herrtage (p. xxii) observes: I would especially draw attention to the very great similarity which we find in many words between the Catholicon and the Medulla pointing clearly to the fact of a common origin.' If it be true that the Medulla and the Catholicon had a common origin, or a common authorship, I shall show that the

  • I do not find ' a buttyr ; scalprum? and ' thwytelle,' or any variant thereof in the Prompt.

Parv. The words in the Prompt. Parv. corresponding to those in the above list are : ' Bakke of egge toole ; Ebiculum.' ' Chape of a schethe ; spirula.' ' Cysowre ; Forpex' ' Toonge of Smythys ; fabrateria.' ' Knyfe ; cultellus, cutter.' ' < $>y\ty\\falcillus,falcicula.' 'Schapynge knyfe; scalprum.' ' Schapynge knyfe of sowtarys ; ansorium.' ' Smythe ; faber, ferrarius.' ' Smythy ; fabricia.' ' Stythe, smyths instrument; incus? 'Tongge of a knyfe ; pirasmus.' ' Smythys tongge ; tenella'


Catholicon must be considerably older than the date of Lord Monson's MS. of the work viz., i 4 8 3 -unless we are to suppose that the author compiled the Medulla before the year 1438, and the Catholicon* in 1483, or forty-five years afterwards. The following extracts from York Wills, edited by Canon Raine for the Surtees Society, will prove this :

James Bagule Rector of All Saints Northstrete in the city of York by his will dated 19 July 1438 bequeathed 'unum librum vocatum Medullam Gramatic&S (Test. Ebor., ii. 79.)

John Fernell of York, chaplain, by his will, dated 1st Sep. 1466, bequeathed t o Robert his nephew 'unum librum Grammaticalem,' and he also gave to Richard Warde 'librum vocatum Medullam Grammatics cum aliis libris Gram- maticalibus.' (Ibid., ii. 275.)

William Boston of Newark, co. Notts, chaplain, by his will dated 21 March 1466 made the following bequest: 'Lego communitati ejusdem loci [Newark] meum jurinale, ita quod sit in custodia senescalli ejusdem loci, et lego eidem loco librum meum vocatum Medulla Grammatics' (Ibid., ii. 282.)

Robert Lythe, chaplain at the Altar of St. Stephen in the church of York, by his will dated 19 October, 1479, gave to Robert Tranholm ' Portiforium novum vocatum Medulla Grammatical (Ibid., iii. 199, footnote.)

Here we have four wills, dating from 1438 to 1479, m which this old Latin-English dictionary is mentioned; clearly it must have been a popular and valued work. It is to be hoped that such an ancient dictionary of English will before long be edited. In the usual course the Latin-English would precede the English-Latin dictionary.

Although at the time when the Catholicon was compiled there must have been other teachers of grammar t in Yorkshire, there is the clearest evidence to show that about the year 1435 a famous scholar or teacher of 'grammar' lived and, indeed, taught a school at Rotherham. Thomas Scott, alias Rotherham, Archbishop of York and sometime Lord Chancellor of England, was, as he tells us in his

  • In 1452 William Duffield, canon residentiary of York, bequeathed amongst other books a

book called 'Catholicon.' The entry in the inventory is : 'De iiij Ii. de pret. libri Catholicon.' Test. Ebor., iii. 132. The Catholicon of Johannes de Janua was first printed at Mayence in 1460. It is not clear what the hook mentioned here is.

t There was a grammar school at Hedon in Holderness in 1465. See will of John Elwyn in Test. Ebor., ii. 270. The oldest Yorkshire school mentioned in a list of schools given by Mr. Furnivall in Early English Meals and Manners, p. liii, is Kingston-upon-Hull, founded in 1486.



will,* born in the little town of Rotherham, about six miles from Sheffield. By that will, dated August 6, 1498, he declares:

Tertio, quia natus fui in villa de Rotherham, et baptizatus in ecclesia parochiali ejusdem villae, et ita ibidem natus in mundum, et etiam renatus per lavacrum sanctum effluensalaterejhesu ; Cujus nomen O si amarem ut deberem et vellem ! ne tamen horum oblitor ingratus videar, volo quod unum col- legium perpetuum de nomine Jhesu erigatur in villa prsedicta, in eodem loco quo in festo Sancti Gregorii, anno vicesimo secundo regis Edwardi Quarti, ponebatur fundamentum ; in quo etiam natus fueram; in quo etiam loco unus informator grammaticse Rotherham veniens, nescio quo fato, sed credo quod gratia Dei illuc pervenit; qui me et alios puberes docebat, unde alii mecum ad majora venerunt: proinde gratias Salvatori reddere cupiens, et causam illam magnificare, ne ingratus viderer, et oblitor beneficiorum Dei, et unde veni, statui mecum primo eruditorem grammaticse ibidem sempiternis tempo- ribus stabiliri, gratis docentem omnes. Et quia vidi sacerdotes cantariales ibidem singulos in singulis locis laicorum commensare, ad eorum scandalum et ruinam aliorum, volui, secundo, eis locum communem facere. Ita motus, incepi erigere collegium in nomine Jhesu, ubi primus doceret grammaticam, et alii similiter viverent et pernoctarent.

Thirdly, because I was born in the town of Rotherham, and baptized in the Parish Church of the same town, and so at that same place was born into the world, and also born again by the holy bath flowing from the side of Jesus (whose name, O, if I loved as I ought and would !), lest I should seem an ungrateful forgetter of these things I will that a perpetual college of the name of Jesus be raised in the aforesaid town in the same place in which the foundation was laid on the feast of St. Gregory, in the 22nd year of King Edward the Fourth; in which place also I was born. In which place also was a teacher of grammar, who came to Rotherham by I know not what fate, but I believe that it was by the grace of God he came thither, who taught me and other youths, whereof others with me reached higher stations. Therefore desiring to return thanks to the Saviour, and to magnify that cause, lest I should seem ungrateful, and forgetful of the benefits of God, and of whence I came ; I have determined with myself, firstly, to establish there, for ever, an Instructor in Grammar, teaching all persons gratuitously. And because I have seen the chantry priests there boarding separately in laymen's places, to their scandal and the ruin of others, I have willed, secondly, to make a common place for them. Thus moved I have begun to rear a College in the name of Jesus where the first should teach grammar and the others in like manner should live and lodge.

  • Test. Ebor., iv. 138. The Latin original, in the parallel columns, is taken from this work.

The translation is with one or two slight variations that given in Guest's Rotherham, p. 136. This translation is well done. The translator has rendered the words 'in quo etiam natus fueram' ' in which place also I had been born.' This, though literally right, does not appear to me to express the sense. The college, of which a few fragments are left, adjoins the church, and I take the Archbishop to mean that he was born on this very spot..


The foundation stone of Jesus College in Rotherham had already been laid on the Feast of St. Gregory Gregory the patron of scholars in the year 1482,- and a body of statutes! drawn up. A translation of these is printed in Guest's Rotherham (p. 106). In the preamble of the statutes the Archbishop states, as in his will, that he was born at Rotherham, 'where also with others passing our youth we were without letters, and we should have remained so untaught and unlettered and rude to a greater age, but that by the grace of God a man learned in grammar came, by whom, as from the first fountain, we were instructed; God willing and (as we believe) pro- viding us a training, we have come to the estate in which we now are, and many others have come to great things.'

According to an authority cited in Guest's Rotherham (p. 88), the Archbishop was born August 24, 1423, and he is there said to have been the son of Sir Thomas Scot, alias Rotherham, Knight, by Alice his wife. The Poll Tax Returns for 1379 show that in that year the two following persons then living in Rotherham paid the small tax of fourpence each :

Adam Skotte Beatrix vx' ejus. iiijd. Robertas de Roderham Alicia vx' ejus. iiijd.

There is no other mention of either of these two names, and as 4d. was the lowest amount of tax paid, it is clear that both Adam Scott and Robert de Rotherham were people of the humblest rank. In the returns for Ecclesfield for the same year are the following entries :

Johannes Scote. iiijd.

Johannes Scot' & Margareta

vx' ejus. Arusmytft vjd.J

Johannes Scot', Taytour, &

Isabella vx' ejus. vjd.

John Scott, the arrowsmith, and John Scott, the tailor, were doubt- less the kinsmen of the archbishop, for in his will he says: ' I will that John Scott, my cousin (consanguineus meus), who has an

  • William Greybern, S.T.P., was appointed the first provost in 1482-3. Guest's Rotherham

p. 120. It may be noted that Lord Monson's MS, of the Catholicon is dated 1483. t See Hearne's Liber Niger Scaccarii, 2 nd ed., ii. 683.

t The Cath. Angl. has 'an arowhede ; barbellum, catella,' the word not occurring in the Promptonum.


inheritance, however small, in the parish of Ecclesfield, successively descending in the same name and blood from a time beyond the memory of man, that it may be increased, I being bettered by the grace of God, shall have for himself and the male heirs of his body lawfully begotten my manor of Bernes' [Barnes Hall], &c. It is hot material in this place to inquire whether the Archbishop's true name was Scott or Rotherham. Evidently he was of humble origin, and I suspect that he was the son of some respectable tradesmen living and carrying on business in Rotherham, near the church of that town. There was a fine church in Rotherham, and the Poll Tax Returns show that in 1379 it was a place of some importance.

Assuming that the Archbishop was born in 1423, he would be fifteen years old in 1438, and ready for the University. Now we have seen that the Medulla grammaticcs is mentioned in a Yorkshire will dated 1438, and that Mr. Herrtage believes the Catholicon and the Medulla to have had a common author. As regards the two MSS. of the Catholicon^ it seems to me that the one in the British Museum is the oldest, and it may be, after all, that the Catholicon and not the Promptorium is the oldest English Dictionary.

The scholar, ' informator grammatical or schoolmaster, who taught the Archbishop and others, * came,' as we are told, to Rother- ham. Evidently he settled there and taught, as we are told in the preamble of the college statutes, ' many.' With regard to those schoolfellows of the Archbishop's, who, with him, ' reached higher stations,' the Rev. Joseph Hunter observes: 'Among those who having been initiated into good letters at Rotherham under this good schoolmaster attained to eminent stations in the church and state were probably the three Blythes of Norton, two of whom became bishops, Henry Carnebull the Archdeacon of York, and perhaps Rokeby, of the family of Thundercliffe Grange, who was afterwards Archbishop of Dublin.' (South Yorkshire, ii., p. 6.) Norton is in Derbyshire, about four miles to the south of Sheffield. It is about ten miles from Rotherham. A half-timbered house of about the middle of the fifteenth century is yet standing at Norton, and is said on what authority I know not to have been the property of these Blythes. 'In the parish church [of Norton] ,' says Lysons, 'is the


monument, without inscription, of the father and mother of John Blythe, Bishop of Salisbury, and Geoffrey Blythe, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry; and the tomb of their elder brother Richard, with a mutilated inscription of which the name only remains. These prelates appear to have been natives of Norton. The monument above-mentioned was put up by the survivor of the two brothers, Bishop Geoffrey Blythe, who founded a chantry for the souls of his parents.' (Derbyshire, p. 221.) In a footnote Lysons observes William Blythe, the father, who appears to have made a fortune in trade, had a grant of arms in 1485.' Richard Blythe was probably head of the family at Norton. He remained ' in the world,' whilst his brothers attained to dignities in the church. Whilst searching in the Probate Office at Lichfield a few years ago I copied the will of this Richard. It is as follows :

Testamentum Ricardi Blithe.

In the name of god Amen. The thridd day of Aprill in the yere of our lorde god MDxxiiijti. I Richard blythe of norton in the Countie of Derbie, gent. , hole in mynde and memorie, louyng be to god, entendinge the welth of my soule and my goods trulie to be ordered and disposed after my decease, bequeth my soule to allmyghtie god and our ladie saynt mari his blessyd mother and all the companie of heuen, and my bodie to be buried wzV/in the chapell of Saynt Katherin newlie buylditt at norton &c. Item I bequeth to my mortuarie, as the custom is, and to the churche of norton vjs. viijd., to the abbot and couent of beacheff vjs. viijd., to eyther of the cathedral churches of Coventry and \\c\ifield, xijd., to the reparation of the high ways wzVAin the parishe of norton xxs. Item I will that my wyff and children haue and enjoe the porc/ons of my goods as they (sic) law will by the orderinge of my executor. The residue of all and singular other my goods I wyll that they be at the disposic/on of the Reucfrend father in god lord Geffry by the grace of god busshop of Couentrey and \\c\\field whom I make and ordeyn my executor. These being wytness: Sir Thomas gilbert, vicar of norton, John Roper, priste, Robt. Clarke, priste, Richard maluwz.* giuen at norton the day and yere abouvesayde. [Proved at Lichfield by the executor aforesaid, 4th Aug., 1524.]

It will be noticed that the will contains no mention of Rother- ham College. The chapel of St. Catherine is now called 'the Blythe Chapel.' The arms of the Blythes are ' ermine, three roe- bucks trippant, gules, attired, or.' Until the recent 'restoration' of the church these arms were to be seen on the left-hand pillar of a doorway leading into the chapel of St. Catherine.

  • Maleham.


Carnebull died in Rotherham College in 1512, and by his will, lately published by the Surtees Society (Test. Ebor., v., p. 28), he made bequests to the provost and fellows of that foundation, and desired to be buried in the adjoining church. He seems, like his master the Archbishop, to have been grateful for benefits received at Rotherham. Archbishop Rokeby's will is printed in the same volume (p. 140), but it contains no mention of Rotherham.

It appears from the note or colophon at the end of the Catholicon that it was composed by a schoolmaster for the use of his pupils, * and this circumstance has some weight in identifying the author of the dictionary with the learned ' grammarian,' or informator gram- matictz, who kept a school at Rotherham, and whose well-taught pupils rose to eminence in the world.

It is not pretended that the evidence which goes towards proving this identification of the author of the Catholicon with the Rother- ham tutor is complete. It wilr, however, be admitted that the evidence is very considerable. There are points of resemblance in dialect which I have not noticed in this Introduction, and it may be mentioned that the word Urelaw, which does not occur in the Promptorium, affords some proof that the Catholicon could not have been written in a part of England where there are no birelaws.