A kind correspondent wrote today to supply some obscure words in the ancient catalogue of the Regions of Rome (and their monuments) attached to the Chronography of 354. In the process I learned that a couple of really important dictionaries for Latin have come online in searchable form.
The first of these is Felix Gaffiot’s Dictionnaire Illustré Latin-Français of 1934, which was quite unknown to me despite its importance. Various versions are online, as the Wikipedia article indicates – there is also a downloadable PDF -, but I used this one. Gaffiot is good for very obscure words that other dictionaries do not include. This had entries on such obscurities as “cochlis“, meaning a stair inside a column.
The second of these is Du Cange’s Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis, 1883-7, online here. This is for medieval Latin.
I shall add both as links on the right-hand side in just a moment!
In the 19th century it was unremarkable for a scholar to publish his thesis or book in Latin. Many did so. After all, to obtain admittance to a university every student had to demonstrate competence in Latin. So every scholar should be able to read and write in Latin as easily as his native language.
Let us compare this with the situation today. On the one hand, most students couldn’t compose a verse in Latin to save their lives. On the other hand, academics are forced to learn several other languages in order to study the academic literature. Every respectable modern academic must have a good reading knowledge of English, French, German and Italian.
The standard of too many anglophone PhD theses suggests to me that most of the students writing know only one language, and that English. No doubt when they collect their PhD certificate and obtain a teaching post their command of languages improves instantly.
Wouldn’t it be easier just to learn Latin really well?