Cockeram, Henry (DNB00)

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COCKERAM, HENRY (fl. 1650), is known only as the author of 'The English Dictionarie, or a new Interpreter of hard English Words,' which was the first dictionary of the English language ever published. It is a small pocket volume, and, as the title indicates, does not profess to contain all the words in the language, but only those which specially require explanation. The second part, which occupies half the volume, may be called a dictionary for translating plain English into fine English, giving the ordinary words in alphabetical order, with their equivalents in the pompous literary dialect affected by writers of his period. Cockeram himself, however, was no admirer of the grandiloquent diction of his contemporaries, but remarks that he has thought it necessary to insert even ' the fustian termes used by too many who study rather to hear themselves speake than to understand themselves.' On the title-page the author is designated only as 'H. C., Gent.,' but the dedication, to Richard, earl of Cork, is signed with his name in full. In this dedication he states that he was a relative of a Sir William Hull, whom the earl had befriended, but he gives no other autobiographical information. The first edition of the book is said to have been published in 1623, and to have contained some complimentary verses by the dramatist John Webster, addressed 'To his industrious friend, Master Henry Cockeram' (Webster's Works, ed. Dyce, p. 378); but these lines were omitted in the succeeding editions. The second edition appeared in 1626, and the eleventh in 1655. A twelfth edition, 'revised and enlarged by S. C.,' in which the second part is suppressed and material alterations are made in the arrangement, was published in 1670.

[Preface and dedication to the English Dictionarie; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

H. B.