Thesaurus Linguæ Romanæ & Britannicæ

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by Thomas Cooper

Thomas Cooper (c.1517–1594), theologian and bishop of Winchester,[1] was master of Magdalen College at Oxford University from 1549 to 1568.[2] In 1546, he was convinced to continue, and “assume authorship” of, the recently deceased Thomas Elyot’s Latin dictionary and thesaurus.[3] Upon publication, the thesaurus bore a tribute to the initial author. Cooper published three revised versions of Elyot’s work through 1559, and then published his own Thesaurus Linguæ Romanæ & Britannicæ in 1565, which he revised in four versions through 1587.[4]

In a note to the reader in early editions (written in Latin), Cooper expressed his reservations about being skilled or knowledgeable enough with languages to be qualified to write this thesaurus, alluding to the criticism Elyot received on mistakes in his original book.[5] Cooper’s 1565 publication initially enjoyed a superior reaction, perhaps due to Cooper's not coincidental speedy rise in authority through the Church of England from dean of Christ Church in 1567 all the way to Bishop of Winchester in 1584.[6] His reputation would not remain unscathed though, with accusations quickly arising by multiple authors and scholars that Cooper copied either large sections of other Latin dictionaries and thesauri or paraphrased (perhaps even simply transcribed) entire works.[7] This controversy continued for over four centuries, yet the “instances of borrowing” do not negate the improvements Cooper made on Elyot's initial work.[8]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Thomas Cooper.

Title: Thesaurus Linguæ Romanæ & Britannicæ: tam Accurate Congestus, vt Nihil Penè in Eo Desyderari Possit, Quod Vel Latinè Complectatur Amplissimus Stephani Thesaurus, Vel Anglicè, Toties Aucta Eliotæ Bibliotheca.

Publication Info: Londini: Quondam Bertheleti, cum priuilegio Regiæ Maiestatis, per Henricum W. Vykes, 1565.

Edition: First edition; [1812] pages.

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.


  1. Margaret Bowker, "Cooper, Thomas (c.1517–1594)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed Oct. 7, 2013]
  2. DeWitt T. Starnes, “Thomas Cooper’s Thesaurus: A Chapter in Renaissance Lexicography,” The University of Texas Studies in English 28 (1949): 15.
  3. D. T. Starnes “Thomas Cooper and the Bibliotheca Eliotae," The University of Texas Studies in English 30 (1951): 40.
  4. Starnes, “Thomas Cooper’s Thesaurus: A Chapter in Renaissance Lexicography,” 16.
  5. Starnes, “Thomas Cooper and the Bibliotheca Eliotae," 40.
  6. Starnes, “Thomas Cooper’s ‘Thesaurus’: A Chapter in Renaissance Lexicography,” 16.
  7. Ibid, 17.
  8. Starnes, “Thomas Cooper and the Bibliotheca Eliotae, 40-43.