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We have already shown that the discovery of the primary meaning of a word, and the tracing of the connection between it and its sometimes numerous secondary significations, is frequently rendered so difficult by the disappearance of those which were intermediate, that the possession of the acutest reasoning powers aided by the most comprehensive views of language will not invariably ensure success. This holds true, and to a still greater extent, of the attempt to find out and exhibit the connection between the various derivatives from a single root-an attempt whose difficulty is sometimes rendered almost insurmountable from the multiplicity of changes both internal and external, to which words are subjected in the process of derivation, and furthermore from the fact that the primitive word itself frequently becomes lost, and thus leaves them without any common point of reference. Here comparative philology comes to the aid of the lexicographer, by presenting him from the cognate languages, and sometimes from those which are more remote, the roots and significations which have disappeared from that which forms the subject of his labors. Yet the lexicographer must be careful in an especial degree to guard against the error, so prevalent at the present day, of hunting out far-fetched illustrations from foreign tongues, to the neglect of those sources of information which each language presents in greater or less abundance for the explanation of its own phe
The above are the principal points to which the lexicographer must direct his attention in the illustration of words separately considered; but as in actual speech they are placed together in every possible kind of relation, it becomes necessary likewise to state the various modifications of meaning which thence result, together with the manner in which they are produced.
Let us now briefly sum up the duties which the lexicographer of the present day is called upon to perform. First he must collect all the shades of signification pertaining to each individual word, arranging them in the order in which they arose, and explaining on philological grounds the mode in which one has proceeded from the other. In addition to this historical developement of particular words, he must point out the primitive of each group or family of words, showing in what manner its derivatives were formed from it, and by what means they are enabled to convey their respective meanings as modifications of
the original idea. Finally, he must indicate the variations of meaning to which a word is liable when construed with others, and point out the mode in which these variations are produced. Should the lexicographer have fully met these requisitions, whose fulfilment the advanced state of philological science so absolutely demands, he may rest under the conviction of having completed his undertaking, and answered all reasonable expectations. And should he, without failing in any of these essentials, proceed still further, and exhibit the wonderful connection existing between languages that have heretofore been regarded as containing little or nothing in common, he will communicate to his reader both instruction and delight, while to himself may be applied the words of Horace :
"Omne tulit punctum qui miscuit utile dulci."
Having now given in outline the objects whose attainment the lexicographer should propose to himself, and having enumerated the excellencies which at present so happily characterize the lexicons of the classical and of many modern tongues, we will now turn to our principal subject, the lexicography of the Hebrew, and endeavor to show in how far the existing lexicons of this language come up to the requirements of the age. And it may well form a subject of self-congratulation to every lover of this venerable tongue, which for twenty-three centu ries has existed only in books, and the scantiness of whose remains so much enhances the difficulties inevitably attending the acquisition of a dead language, that its lexicography now stands upon a footing equal if not superior to that of the Latin or the Greek itself.
For this pleasing state of things we are mainly indebted to the critical mind, the vast erudition, and the unwearied exertions of Wilhelm Gesenius, who, having applied himself from his earliest youth with uninterrupted assiduity to the pursuit of Onental learning in all its branches, and being surrounded by his situation with "every implement and means of art," has placed himself foremost in the ranks of Hebrew lexicographers, and, by the perspicuity of his writings, the depth and accuracy his researches, and a felicitous use of the materials so abundantly furnished him by his predecessors, Kimchi, Buxtorf, Simonis, Winer, and others, has raised this department of Oriental philology, which he has made so peculiarly his own, to the high pitch of excellence it now exhibits.
Notwithstanding the high tone of commendation we have here employed in reference to Gesenius, and which we feel is scarcely adequate to express those feelings of generous admiration which the literary character of this distinguished scholar is calculated to excite in every mind capable of appreciating real merit, we do not mean to assert that he has absolutely left no room for further improvement. On the contrary, we are of opinion that the etymological comparisons which he has instituted between the Hebrew and other languages, especially those of the Indo-European stock, although exhibiting a fund of ingenuity and learning, are susceptible of being extended much further, and that many families of words which he has attributed to two or three distinct stems might with propriety be reunited and arranged under a single primitive. It is not however our intention to enter at present into the history of Hebrew lexicography, or to point out precisely how far and in what respects Gesenius has been enabled to improve upon the labors of his predecessors, or in what his own may be regarded as deficient; since his work has been rendered accessible to all by means of the accurate translation of Professor Robinson reviewed in the twenty-fourth No. of this journal. We therefore proceed at once to a consideration of the respective merits of the two works whose titles are placed at the head of this article, and which, having but recently appeared, have not yet, it may be presumed, become known to the public in general. This we will do with all candor and impartiality, bearing in mind the celebrated saying of Pythagoras:
“ ἢν σὺ κακῶς δικάσης σε θεὸς μετέπειτα δικάσει.”
Both of these works we have examined with some care. The former, written in German and published in Germany, is called a "School Dictionary;" accordingly we expected to find it defective in some particulars, and containing few or no essential improvements on the larger works that had preceded it. The latter, written in English and published in America, bears the imposing title of "A Complete Critical and Pronouncing Dictionary on a New and Improved Plan ;" leading us to anticipate that in it the deficiencies of former lexicons would be at least in some degree supplied. The result, however, as is not unfrequently the case when judgments are based upon mere externals, has proved entirely the reverse of our expectations. On proceeding with our examination, we found the School
VOL. XI. No. 30
Dictionary to be a work according completely in its general features with the latest results of philology, and executed with admirable accuracy in its details, while on every page its author exhibits a perfect familiarity with every department of Hebrew literature both biblical and rabbinical, a knowledge of the kindred dialects as uncommon as it is desirable, and that inquiring and philosophical turn of mind the want of which no extent of mere learning can supply. All these advantages have com bined to bestow on M. Biesenthal's work a character that will enable it to bear a favorable comparison with the much admired lexicon of Gesenius itself. In fine, this work so unpretending in its appearance, while well calculated to become the tyro's guide through the intricacies of the language, is also capable of communicating much that is new and interesting to the critical scholar, and may justly be regarded as a most important addition to the treasures of Hebrew lexicography.
The Complete Critical and Pronouncing Dictionary appears on the contrary to have been undertaken on no settled principle whatever, while its entire execution betrays a degree of carelessness unpardonable in a work of the kind, and, what is of still greater consequence, an almost total ignorance, not only of the Shemitish languages in general, but even of the first principles of Hebrew grammar. In short the book, instead of being a desirable acquisition to Oriental philology, will prove, if not cast at once into its merited obscurity, a reproach to the literary character of the country in which it was produced.
The expression of unqualified disapprobation is painful in the extreme; and the reviewer would here state once for all, that nothing but a sense of duty to the public, combined with the urgent solicitations of some of the most zealous promoters of sound learning, could have induced him to take upon himself the invidious task of placing before the world in its true colors so audacious a piece of charlatanism. He will now proceed to a more particular description of the principal features of M. Biesenthal's work; after which he will adduce some examples in support of his assertions, and compare with them the corres ponding portions of the Dictionary of Mr. Roy.
The chief object which the author of the School Dictionary had in view, was to furnish the students in the gymnasia of Germany with a manual containing the sum of all that is valua ble in the latest discoveries in Hebrew lexicography without detailing the steps by which they have been arrived at, and
which should thus hold a middle rank between a mere vocabulary and the elaborate production of Gesenius, for whose use the beginner is not yet prepared. Were this the whole extent of M. Biesenthal's labors, he would deserve the thanks of all lovers of Oriental literature for removing from the hands of the student those skeleton dictionaries which can afford him no real insight into the formation of the language, and at the same time relieving him from the necessity of perusing the entire history of a word in all its ramifications before he can arrive at the meaning which forms the object of his search. The author of the School Dictionary, however, has done more than this. Uniting as he does a profound knowledge of his subject to a penetrating mind, he has frequently been enabled to bring together roots with their inherent ideas which Gesenius and his predecessors had regarded as totally unconnected, (see for example the words and below.) He has also succeeded in a number of cases in discovering the primary signification of a word within the limits of the Hebrew itself, where others have thought it necessary to have recourse to the Syriac or Arabic, and in thence deducing the secondary meanings in a manner so natural and perspicuous as at once to delight the critical reader and afford a grateful assistance to the student's recollection (see below.) In order that his work may afford to the learner not yet familiar with the details of the grammar every assistance, its author has given at the head of each article all the parts of imperfect verbs which occur in the Bible, the construct state of nouns singular and plural, and the form assumed by these latter on the reception of suffixes (see below the verbs,
, etc. and the nouns and .) He has likewise been careful to note in every instance the position of the accent, and has constantly pointed out with far greater minuteness than any of his predecessors, Gesenius not excepted-the number of times and the places in which uncommon forms occur, with copious references to the smaller Hebrew grammars of Gesenius and Ewald and to the Chaldee grammar of Winer. Another distinguishing excellence of the work consists in the scrupulous accuracy employed in indicating the various shades of meaning presented by verbs according to the particles with which they are construed; a particular in which Hebrew lexicography is already so much indebted to Gesenius (see n,, etc. below.) In the definition of words, in addition to the published works of the most eminent Jewish lexicographers and commen