In the last couple of weeks, I have learnt about the existence of three Very Old Books – all of which have an interesting history and share the theme of language. In order of increasing age they are:
I. The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg (~20 years old)
Found this at a second-hand book fair. Outlines how English emerged and evolved from 500AD to present day.
• Experts in linguistics believe that if you travel to Friesland, Netherlands and listen to the locals talk, you will hear something that closely resembles the ancestor of English.
•Apparently and very importantly, the word ‘cake’ is Old Norse in origin.
• The first English dictionary was A Table Alphabeticall and appeared in 1604. Which brings me to…
II. This tattered dictionary (~32 years)
Almost as old as
A Table Alphabeticall me, this was left at our house by a Roommate of Years Past and appeared during a spring clean.
Going through it, I have learnt that a hyponym is a word for something which falls under a broader category (eg a poodle is a hyponym of dog), and that Dunlop is a Scottish cheese. Sounds yum. Maybe some fellow bloggers have tried it?
III. The Voynich Manuscript (~600 years old)
One of the world’s unsolved mysteries. I learnt about this one while traversing an internet rabbit hole. This book is therefore not in my possession, but rather sitting in a library of ye olde manuscripts and books at Yale University.
You may have heard about it, as it is a famous world mystery. The Voynich Manuscript is a handwritten, hand-drawn handbook and resembles (probably loosely) a Girl Scout’s log of plants and star signs, and written in a weird code, dubbed Voynichese, that linguists and cryptologists have been trying to crack for over five centuries.
The majority of it still remains untranslated, but people have made a tiny bit of progress. I enjoyed the late Professor’s Stephen Bax’s explanations on how how he decoded the word Hellebore, and a few words from there.
This is a very interesting topic to delve into, if you have the time.
Know any fun facts about English/another language? Do you like codes? If you’ve tried Dunlop cheese, would you recommend it, or rather another kind? Have you heard about the Voynich Manuscript? What’s the oldest book you own?