Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Levens, Peter

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LEVENS, PETER (fl. 1587), scholar and medical writer, was born ‘at or near Eske in Yorkshire,’ and proceeded to Oxford in 1552, apparently to Magdalen College. He was admitted B.A. 6 July 1556, was elected probationer-fellow of Magdalen ‘into a Yorkshire place,’ 19 Jan. 1557, and became ‘true and perpetual fellow,’ January 1559. He supplicated for M.A. February 1559–60, but the date of his admission is not known. He subsequently ‘taught a grammar school and practised physic.’ Wood styles him ‘an eminent physician.’

He published: 1. ‘Manipulus Vocabulorum. A Dictionarie of English and Latine wordes, set forthe in suche order, as none heretofore hath ben, the Englishe going before the Latine, necessary not onely for Scholers that want varietie of words, but also for such as use to write in English Meetre. Gathered and set forth by P. Levins, Anno 1570. Imprinted at London by Henrie Bynneman, for John Waley.’ The dictionary contains a preface to the reader and a dedicatory letter to ‘the right worshipful M. Stanley,’ treasurer of the mint. It is valuable for the light it throws on the contemporary pronunciation of English words, and has been reprinted by the Camden Society (1867, 4to) and the Early English Text Society (1867, 8vo), under the editorship of Mr. H. B. Wheatley. Mr. Wheatley supplies a preface and alphabetical index to both editions. The value of the dictionary was first pointed out in Mr. A. Way's edition of the ‘Promptorium Parvulorum’ (Camd. Soc.). 2. ‘A right profitable Book for all Diseases, called the Pathway to Health; wherein are most excellent and approved Medicines of great virtue; as also notable Potions and Drinks, and for the distilling of divers Waters, and Making of Oils, and other comfortable Receipts,’ London, 1587, 4to. This has a preface defending the use of the vulgar tongue in a learned work. It became popular, and was reprinted in 1596, 1608, 1632, 1644, 1654, 1664.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 548; Fasti, i. 149, 156; preface to E. E. T. Society's edition of Manipulus Vocabulorum.]

R. B.