Wörterbuch of Siegfried and Stade (in 1892-3), but in England and America there has not been heretofore even so much as a serious attempt.
The present Editors consider themselves fortunate in thus having the opportunity afforded by an evident demand. Arrangements have been made whereby the rights connected with 'Robinson's Gesenius' are carried over to the present work, and exclusive authority to use the most recent German editions has been secured. They have felt, however, that the task which they had undertaken could not be rightly discharged by merely adding new knowledge to the old, or by substituting more recent opinions for others grown obsolete, or by any other form of superficial revision. At an early stage of the work they reached the conviction that their first and perhaps chief duty was to make a fresh and, as far as possible, exhaustive study of the Old Testament materials, determine the actual uses of words by detailed examination of every passage, comparing, at the same time, their employment in the related languages, and thus fix their proper meanings in Hebrew.
In the matter of etymologies they have endeavoured to carry out the method of sound philology, making it their aim to exclude arbitrary and fanciful conjectures, and in cases of uncertainty to afford the student the means of judging of the materials on which a decision depends. They could not have been satisfied to pursue the course chosen by Professors Siegfried and Stade in excluding the etymological feature almost entirely from their lexicon. This method deprives the student of all knowledge as to the extra-Biblical history and relationship of his words, and of the stimulus to study the cognate languages, and lessens his opportunity of growing familiar with the modes of word-formation. It greatly simplifies, of course, the task of the lexicographer. The Editors acknowledge, at once, that their labours would have ended much sooner if they had not included the etymology of words, and they are sensible of the exposure to criticism at a thousand points which results from their undertaking to do so. They have cheerfully assumed this burden, and are ready to accept this criticism, from which they hope to learn much. Here, if anywhere, it is certain that results must, in many cases, long remain provisional. They have preferred to make what contribution they could to the final settlement of these difficult questions. For like reasons they have been unwilling to follow Buhl in excluding the explanation of the meaning of proper names, hazardous as such explanations often are.
- The eleventh German edition appeared in 1890, the year before the First Part of the present Lexicon was issued, under the editorship of Professors Mühlau and Volck, of Dorpat, who had prepared the eighth, ninth, and tenth also. The twelfth edition, in 1895, marked an era in the history of this useful dictionary, for with it began the careful editorship of Professor Frants Buhl, of Copenhagen, then at Leipzig, who issued the thirteenth edition, also, in 1899, and, after very thorough revision, the fourteenth in 1905. None of these editions had the exact scope of the present work, and non of them absolved the Editors in any degree from personal investigation of the entire material. The Editors have, however, derived much benefit from the German work, and especially from the contributions to it of Professor Buhl and his co-labourers, Professors Socin and Zimmern. Unfortunately the present Lexicon—with the exception of the Appendix—was almost entirely in type when the fourteenth edition appeared, and adequate use of its new material, especially its extensive references to current philological literature must be reserved for a later opportunity.