Reviews - What do customers think about Lexicon Syriacum?
Sometimes useful Aug 2, 2009
Carl Brockelmann (1868-1956), a brilliant Semitist, published the first edition of this dictionary in 1895, when he was only 27 years old. A second edition was published in 1928. The edition for sale here is the first one. Why did Wipf & Stock choose to reprint the first rather than the second edition? Aside from possible copyright issues, I think the following factors were influential:
1. In both editions Brockelmann chose to put the glosses in this dictionary in Latin, even though by the late 19th century this could no longer claim to be the universal language of scholarship. However, in isolation many of the Latin words are ambiguous, so a few of them are supplemented by English words in parentheses in the first edition. The second edition has a few German disambiguators rather than the English ones.
2. The first edition has two useful indexes: (i) a Latin-Syriac index and (ii) a brief analytical index, which lists the roots of some words for which beginners may have trouble finding the root. The second edition omits both of these indexes.
If you really want the second edition, though, you will have to look for it elsewhere. It is reprinted by Georg Olms Verlag for a high price.
While Brockelmann's dictionary is widely regarded as the most authoritative dictionary of Syriac, its drawbacks (chiefly: Latin glosses and unexplained cryptic abbreviations of literature cited) are such that it is rarely used by students of Syriac. Far more popular and useful to most people are, in the following order, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary and Syriac-English-French-Arabic Dictionary.
There is good news, though! The renowned Aramaic scholar Michael Sokoloff is soon to release a great new edition of Brockelmann's dictionary. The most significant change will be the translation of all Brockelmann's Latin glosses into English. This alone will make the volume worth its price. Also, Sokoloff has spent several years tracking down corrections to the thousands of references to the literature cited in individual entries by Brockelmann. About 5% of these references are incorrect. In addition, Sokoloff is putting all the words in strict alphabetical order, rather than listing them under their triliteral roots. Brockelmann's assignment of words to roots is sometimes hard to fathom, and this makes it difficult for even experts to find them on occasion.
P.S. December 2009: The Sokoloff edition is now out: A Syriac Lexicon.