Article published in:Grammarians, Skalds and Rune Carvers I
Edited by Robert Nedoma and Michael Schulte
[NOWELE 69:1] 2016
► pp. 95–112
William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877) and the “Interim Period” in the history of English etymology
Henry Fox Talbot, the father of photography, was a polymath, and among his many publications we find works on mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, archeology, ancient history, mythology, and Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions. He was also at home in botany. In 1847 he brought out a thick book titled English Etymologies. His archive at Cambridge allows one to trace the preparatory stages for this work. Talbot’s book is instructive as an example of how some talented, brilliantly educated, and industrious Englishmen in the forties of the nineteenth century went about discovering the origin of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English words. Talbot was aware of sound correspondences but did not feel bound by them. A list of his sources gives a good idea of the state of the art in England. Talbot’s etymologies are interesting only from this point of view. They should be studied as we study the efforts of much earlier researchers, that is, as part of the history of science.
Published online: 15 March 2016
I. The Books Mentioned in Talbot 1847
Adelung, Johann C.
Donaldson, John W.
Forbes, D. & S. Arnot
Halliwell, James O.
Schleusner, Johann F.
Thorlacius, Skúli, Þórðarsson
1844-1846. On Onomatopoeia. Proceedings of the Philological Society 2. 109–118.
II. The Works Mentioned in the Paper (an asterisk marks the title occurring in I, above)
Junius = Francisci Junii Francisci filii Etymologicum Anglicanum
Liberman, A, with the assistance of A. Hoptman and N.E. Carlson
OED = The Oxford English Dictionary
. James A.H. Murray, et al. eds. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press 1884-1928 (2nd ed. 1992; 3rd, continuing ed. online: www.oed.com.)
Skeat, Walter W.
TBP = William Henry Fox Talbot beyond photography