Specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias, 1650-1800: a tribute to Frank Kafker

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the number of specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias grew from a trickle to a flood, while the number of disciplines they were devoted to grew from a handful to dozens, representing many varieties of knowledge. Specialized dictionaries – as most were called, whether lexical or encyclopedic – were far more numerous than general encyclopedias. Yet despite their importance – as sources of knowledge, for example, and as definers of disciplines – they have not been much studied. Drawing on Frank Kafker’s methods for studying the period’s general encyclopedias, as pioneered in Notable Encyclopedias of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (1981), this volume examines specialized dictionaries as commercial products, collections of content, and cultural artifacts. Specifically, it complements a wide-ranging, analytical introduction sketching out the characteristics of specialized dictionaries in general with a series of individually authored but standardized case studies. The latter deal with dictionaries on a variety of disciplines, from the Bible to mining, and in five European languages. The volume concludes with an essay on Frank Kafker’s influence on historiography.