A New Year: An Old Dictionary to Explore

For those of us who are true word nerds, there are few things more exciting than a new dictionary. Unless it’s an old dictionary. 😉

In this post, I’m pleased to share PDF scans of two Cree dictionaries built upon the same foundation, that have also contributed significantly to the dictionaries we rely upon most heavily today.

The first is the 1865 A Dictionary of the Cree language as Spoken by the Indians of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territories, Compiled by the Rev. E.A. WatkinsThe link to this edition – via Saddle Lake Cree Nation – was provided by Brenda Menard via Solomon Ratt. This edition is commonly referred to as the Watkins dictionary.

The second is a major revision of the same dictionary, “revised, enriched and brought up to date” in 1938. This edition is commonly referred to as the Faries, or Watkins-Faries dictionary.  It is titled: A Dictionary of the Cree language as Spoken by the Indians of the Provinces of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. This pdf was located at Toronto Public Library.

Perhaps the most significant advance in this new edition was the recruitment of first language speakers of Cree to actively shape and edit the edition. As J.A. Newnham, Bishop of Moosonee writes in the Foreward (1938:ii):

… the work of re-producing a reliable dictionary could not be entrusted to more skilled men than the Right Reverend J.G. Anderson, Bishop of Moosonee, Ven. Archdeacon [Richard] Faries, and Canon E[dward] Ahenakew. All three had known the Cree tongue from their childhood, and spoke it with ease.

Since both editions of the book are now in the public domain they are free of copyright restrictions. You are welcome to download a copy for your own use if you choose. (Although these dictionaries predate the development of SRO, word nerds will enjoy the challenge presented by their English-based, yet very regular, spelling.)

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