Sunday, October 28, 2012

Asking the way in early-modern Europe

One of my favourite unknown early-modern books is Colloquia et dictionariolum septem linguarum: Belgicae, Anglicae, Teutonicae, Latinae, Italicae, Hispanicae, Gallicae (Conversations and mini-dictionary in seven languages: Dutch, English, German, Latin, Italian, Spanish, French). It seems to have been printed first in Antwerp (one of the great mercantile cities where all seven of the languages could be heard spoken), but there are also editions from Liège and Padua, and perhaps elsewhere.

The fourth chapter of this much-reprinted early-modern phrasebook is entitled “For to aske the way: With other familiar communications.” The English version of the chapter runs as follows (quoted here from the Liège, 1610 edition, which is neither the first nor the last, with obvious misprints corrected but otherwise in the original spelling):

A. God save you maister Robert.
B. Sir, God geeve you a good life.
A. How doth your health, since I sawe you?
B. So so.
A. Me thincketh that yo doo not so well as you were wont.
B. How knowe you that?
A. By your face which is so pale.
B. I have had five or six fittes of an ague, which have much weakened mee, and have taken away all my stomack.
A. It is an evell sicknesse. Whither ride you so sely?
B. To Antwerp, to the Sinxson* fayre.
A. And I also: if you wil, we will go together.
B. It pleaseth mee very well, but you ride a little too fast for mee.
A. Let us ride as you will, it is all one for mee, for my horse ambleth very easely.
B. And mine doth trot to hard. Now let us ryde in Gods name: what folke be they that do go before us?
A. I knowe them not trulye, they be marchants: let us pricke our horses for to overtake them, for I am afrayde that wee be out of our way.
B. We be not, be not afrayde.
A. Yet it is good to aske it.
B. Aske of that shee sheapherd.
A. My shee freend, where is the right way from hence to Anwerp?
C. Right before you, turning nether on the righte nor on the left hand, till you come to an high elme tree, then turne on the left hand.
A. How many miles have we from hence to the next village?
C. Two miles and a half, and a little more.
A. Now let us go at leasure, for I am out of doubt: I see the tree wherof shee hath tolde us. It is very dustie, the dust doth put out my eyes.
B. Take this taffeta to put before your face, and it will keepe you from the dust, and from the sunne.
A. It is no neede, for the sunne goeth downe: I am afraide that we shall not come by day light to the towne.
B. Yes forsooth. But the worst is, that this way is daungerous because of theeves, they did rob thother day a riche marchant hard by this tree, the which maketh mee afrayde to be robbed, except wee take heede.
A. I see the steeple of the towne, except I be deceaved.
B. Truly, it will be late before wee come thether. I doubt, that wee shall not get in.
A. Yes forsooth, they do not shut the gates before nyne of the clock.
B.  It is the better for I would not lie gladly in the suburbs.
A. Nor I too.
B. Let us aske of these folks for the best inne of this towne.
A. Take no care for that, I know well the best lodging of the towne, it is in the red lion in the camerstrate. Let us make hast I pray you, for mee thinke they take upp the drawbridge.
B. I am so weery that I can not go any farder, and moreover my horse halteth, I do thinke that a naile doth pricke him, or hee is hurt upon the backe and then this cawsie** is so hard, that it bruseth mee altogether.
A. Let us ride in then.

*Sinxson = calque of Dutch ‘Sinksen’, Pentecost
**cawsie = calque of Dutch ‘kassei’, cobblestone

1 comment:

Paul said...

It seems that the collection grew from Noel de Berlaimont's Vocabulare (Antwerp, 1511), which was initially just a Dutch/French phrasebook that from mid-century onwards was cannibalized as the basis for more ambitious collections.