This is the introductory material from Robert Cawdrey's 1604 dictionary A Table Alphabeticall. See the main entry under A Table Alphabeticall for details about the content.
To the right honourable, Worshipfull, vertuous, & godlie Ladies, the Lady Hastings, the Lady Dudley, the Lady Mountague, the Ladie Wingfield, and the Lady Leigh, his Christian friends, R. C. wisheth great prosperitie in this life, with increase of grace, and peace from GOD our Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord and onely Saviour.

By this Table (right Honourable & Worshipfull) strangers that blame our tongue of difficultie, and uncertaintie may heereby plainly see, & better understand those things, which they have thought hard. Heerby also the true Orthography, that is, the true writing of many hard English words, borrowed from the Greeke, Latine & French, and how to know one from the other, with the interpretation thereof by plaine English words, may be learned and knowne. And children heerby may be prepared for the understanding of a great number of Latine words: which also will bring much delight & judgement to others, by the use of this little worke. Which worke, long ago for the most part, was gathered by me, but lately augmented by my sonne Thomas, who now is Schoolemaister in London.

The Epistle

Now when I had called to mind (right honorable and Worshipfull) the great kindnesse, and bountifulnes, which I found in that vertuous & godly Lady, Lucie Harington, your Honours and Worships mother, and my especiall friend in the Lord. When, and at such time as the right Worshipfull Sir James Harington Knight, your Ladiships brother was my scholler, (and now my singuler benefactor) when I taught the Grammer schoole at Okeham in the County of Rutland: In consideration whereof, and also for that I acknowledge my selfe much beholding and indebted to the most of you, since this time, (beeing all naturall sisters) I am bold to make you all joyntly patrons heereof, and under your names to publish this simple worke. And thus praying, that God of his unspeakeable mercies, will blesse both your Honors and Worships, I doe with all good wishes to you all, with all yours, as to mine owne soule, humbly take my leave. Coventry this xxvii of June. 1604.

Your Honors and Worships, ever ready in Christ Jesus to be commaunded, Robert Cawdrey.

To the Reader

Such as by their place and calling, (but especially Preachers) as have occasion to speak publiquely before the ignorant people, are to bee admonished, that they never affect any strange ynckhorne termes1, but labour to speake so as is commonly received, and so as the most ignorant may well understand them: neyther seeking to be over fine or curious, nor yet living over carelesse, using their speech, as most men doe, & ordering their wits, as the fewest have done. Some men seek so far for outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mothers language, so that if some of their mothers were alive, they were not able to tell, or understand what they say, and yet these fine English Clearks, will say they speak in their mother tongue; but one might well charge them, for counterfeyting the Kings English. Also, some far journied gentlemen, at their returne home, like as they love to go in forraine apparrell, so they will pouder their talke with over-sea language. He that commeth lately out of France, will talk French English, and never blush at the matter. Another chops in with English Italianated, and applyeth the Italian phrase to our English speaking, the which is, as if an Orator, that professeth to utter his minde in plaine Latine, would needs speake Poetrie, & far fetched colours of strange antiquitie. Doth any wise man think, that wit resteth in strange words, or els standeth it not in wholsome matter, and apt declaring of a mans mind? Do we not speak, because we would have other to understand us? or is not the tongue given for this end, that one might know what another meaneth? Therefore, either wee must make a difference of English, & say, some is learned English, & othersome is rude English, or the one is Court talke, the other is Country-speech, or els we must of necessitie banish all affected Rhetorique, and use altogether one manner of language. Those therefore that will avoyde this follie, and acquaint themselves with the plainest & best kind of speech, must seeke from time to time such words as are commonlie received, and such as properly may expresse in plaine manner, the whole conceit of their mind. And looke what words wee best understand, and know what they meane, the same should soonest be spoken, and first applied, to the uttrance of our purpose. Therfore for this end, foure things would chiefly be observed in the choise of wordes. First, that such words as wee use, should be proper unto the tongue wherein we speake. Againe, that they be plaine for all men to perceive. Thirdly, that they be apt and meete, most properly to set out the matter. Fourthlie, that words translated, from one signification to another, (called of the Grecians Tropes,) be used to beautifie the sentence, as precious stones are set in a ring, to commend the gold. Now such are thought apt words, that properly agree unto that thing, which they signifie, and plainly expresse the nature of the same. Therefore, they that have regard of their estimation and credite, do warily speake, & with choise, utter words most apt for their purpose. In waightie causes, grave wordes are thought most needfull, that the greatnes of the matter, may the rather appeare, in the vehemencie of theyr talke. So likewise of other, like order must be taken. Albeit some, not onely doe not observe this kind of aptnesse, but also they fall into much fondnes, by using words out of place, and applying them to divers matters, without all discretion. If thou be desirous (gentle Reader) rightly and readily to understand, and to profit by this Table, and such like, then thou must learne the Alphabet, to wit, the order of the Letters as they stand, perfecty without booke, and where every Letter standeth: as (b) neere the beginning, (n) about the middest, and (t) toward the end. Nowe if the word, which thou art desirous to finde, begin with (a) then looke in the beginning of this Table, but if with (v) looke towards the end. Againe, if thy word beginne with (ca) looke in the beginning of the letter (c) but if with (cu) then looke toward the end of that letter. And so of all the rest. &c.

And further understand, that whereas all such words as are derived & drawne from the Greek, are noted with this letter, (g) . And the French are marked thus (f) but such words as are derived from the latin, have no marke at all.

1 An "ynckhorne" is an inkhorn, or inkwell, and "ynckhorne termes" are the kind of arcane or obscure words and phrases which a scholar might use, but which never turn up in normal speech. -- explained at

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