The first significant German-Russian dictionary

WEISMANN, Erich and others

Teutsch lateinisch und Russisches Lexicon, Samt Denen Anfangs-Gründen der Rußischen Sprache. Nemetsko-Latinskii i Ruskii Leksikon kupno s pervymi nachalami ruskago iazyka

Publication: Skt. Petersburg, Kayserl. Academie der Wissenschaften, 1731.

WEISMANN, Erich and others, Teutsch lateinisch und Russisches Lexicon, Samt Denen Anfangs-Gründen der Rußischen Sprache. Nemetsko-Latinskii i Ruskii Leksikon kupno s pervymi nachalami ruskago iazyka

Fresh example of this rare, imposing and early German-Latin-Russian dictionnary, one of only 11 Russian works printed in Russia that year. One of the earliest works in German printed in Russia.

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Our Notes & References

Most likely the first grammar of Russian published in Russia, and what is known as “the first attempt to publish a German-Russian dictionary in Russia” (Guberti, but see below) – and one of the earliest works in German printed in Russia.

Very rare on the market: the only copy appearing at auction since WW2 seems to have been in 1985, and it was incomplete.

As the preface mentions, this Lexicon, printed by the prestigious Akademiia Nauk in St. Petersburg, originated from the influential dictionary Lexikon bipartitum latino-germanicum et germanico-latinum by the theologian Erich Weismann (1641-1717) and published much earlier, in 1674 in Stuttgart. According to the Svod. Kat., the Russian translation was added to Weismann’s basis by a group of Russian academicians: Ilinskii, Satarov and Gorlitskii; however some earlier scholars ascribed the preparation of the edition to Vasilii Adodurov (1709-80, see below for grammatical work), and some even suggested that the translation was made in the 17th century because a dated orthography and grammar used here for Russian words, while the preface seems contemporary to 1731 (Bakmeister, quoted by Guberti).

The bibliographer Guberti wrote in the 1870s: “although all the editions of Weismann’s Lexicon in German and Russian are long forgotten, this first edition of 1731 by the Academy of Sciences will always remain remarkable as the first attempt to publish a German-Russian dictionary in Russia” (our translation here and elsewhere). We could however trace a Grammatika nemetskaia; Die Teutsche Grammatica, published in St Petersburg a year earlier and containing a small vocabulary (about 500 words only) that yet was added primarily to illustrate the German orthographic principles. In parallel, an Amsterdam-based man of letters, Ilia Kopievskii, published there in 1700 a Nomenclator in lingua latina, germanica et russica, before two St. Petersburg editions in 1718 (200 copies) and 1720 (600 copies) as Vokabuly ili rechi na slavenskom, nemetskom i latinskom iazykakh [Vocabularies or speeches in Slavonic, German and Latin], before being published again in 1732. Kopievskii’s work was however only about 100-page long, in the 8vo format.

As a result, Guberti’s description should be nuanced and completed: with almost 800 pages, 14,000 words including everyday expressions and idioms, a 4to format and a 2500-copy printrun, Weismann’s Russian version reaches a completely different, much more important scale than the couple of its predecessors. “It soon became a bibliographic rarity” (Makeeva), and remained an important reference work for the whole 18th century: a second edition came out in 1782 (without preface), and two other ones in 1799.

Our edition also includes one of the earliest printed works on Russian grammar, ie. non-Slavonic. This Anfangs-Gründe der russischen Sprache was written by Vasilii Adodurov, the first Russian adjunct of the Academy of Sciences, educator and teacher. Following  Heinrich Ludolf’s groundbreaking Grammatica Russica (Oxford, 1696) and Ilia Kopievskii’s Manuductio in grammaticam in sclavonico Rosseanam seu Moscoviticam (Stolzenberg, 1706), this work is most likely the first Russian grammar book published in Russia. Adodurov’s 48-page long survey accessibly explains parts of speech, syntax, pronunciation of Russian letters and reasons why some of the letters became obsolete. As Ershova notes, this work “paved the way to the appearance of [Mikhail] Lomonosov’s [famous] Grammar” of 1755-57.

It is worth noting that this dictionary belongs to a very thin corpus of Russian books printed at that time: according to Svod. Kat., only 11 Russian works (incl. ours) were printed in 1731 in the Empire. Our edition was probably intended for the growing population of Germans in Russia, as well as for Russians actively picking up German: under Peter the Great and his successors, the knowledge of European languages became a task of national importance for the developing administrative and military spheres, as well as diplomacy. The increasing Russian interest for the German language was particularly encouraged by Anna Ioannovna who actively appointed Germans to senior posts in her administration and at the Academy of Sciences – which published the dictionary.

A surprisingly fresh, attractive example with provenance. This copy belonged to Henning Adolf Gyllenborg (1713-75), a Swedish diplomat, politician a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences (since 1752); he travelled to St. Petersburg in 1742 to promote peace negotiations with the Russian court in the midst of the Russo-Swedish War of 1741–1743.


Henning Adolf Gyllenborg (inscription to upper fly-leaf).


Svod. Kat. 881; Sopikov 5911; Guberti, III-14; Bitovt 617.

Unbegaun, B. O. “Cards and Card-Playing in Muscovite Russia,” The Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 41, no. 96, 1962, pp. 25–30.

Ershova, E. O. “Leksikograficheskiie raboty F. Geltergofa i E. Veismanna v rasprostranenii russkogo iazyka za predelami Rossii”, Vestnik Cherepovetskogo Gosudarstvennogo Universiteta, vol. 1, no. 3., 2012, pp. 58-61.

Makeeva V. N. “Adiunkt Akademii nauk V. E. Adodurov”, Vestnik RAN, 1974, no.1, pp. 110-117.

Babaeva E., Zapolskaia N., “Iazykovoi kontinuum Petrovski epokhi: obzor grammaticheskikh traktatov pervoi chetverti XVIII v.”, Issledovaniia po slavianskomu istoricheskomy iazykoznaniiu, Izdatelstvo Moskovskogo Universiteta, 1993.

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Physical Description

Two parts in one volume 4to (24 x 19.5 cm). Title, preface leaf, 788 and 48 pp. incl. section title of second part, woodcut head- and tail-pieces.


Full catspaw marbled calf to style, spine with raised bands gilt in compartments, leather label lettered in gilt, gilt turn-ins, contemporary blue marbled edges and marbled endpapers.


Except a couple of marginal stains at beginning, a beautifully fresh, crisp example.

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