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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From span to the South Seas

I have to confess I love dictionaries, and look forward to receiving my Oxford English Dictionary's word of the day. When the word "span" showed up with the earliest quotation from Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine, I wondered if I could find an online edition--not only did I find William Falconer's Dictionary of the Marine, but the address in my browser caught my eye: "" "Southseas?"

The South Seas : Voyaging and Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Pacific (1760-1800) site is fantastic. From the The National Library of Australia and The Australian National University Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, this is only the first phase, yet it's breadth of resources is staggering:

  • Voyaging Accounts
  • Voyaging Maps
  • South Seas Companion
  • Cultural Atlas
  • Indigenous Histories
  • European Reactions
  • Reference Works
  • Research

It's under "Reference Works" that you'll find Falconer. Think you know what 'span' means? Check out how language changes--and doesn't change--over time. And there's a wealth of fun words (like snotter) and beautiful words like sweeper of the sky.

But the generosity of the NLA doesn't end there--they have also posted the plates from the copy of Falconer belonging to the carpenter on H.M.S. Discovery.

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