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Introduction to De Proverbio


Introduction to De Proverbio

The publication in 1965 of Proverbium: Bulletin d'Information sur les Recherches Parémiologiques by the Society for Finnish Literature in Helsinki gave par(o)emiology enormous impetus. Scholars working in isolation and scattered around the world found a platform wherein to express themselves; research programs were channelled towards a more coherent goal, and many young researchers took up paremiology enthusiastically. But, as often happens, all good things come to an end, and Proverbium ceased publication in 1975 for financial reasons. A few years later, a new Proverbium was born, this time in the New World of the United States of America, where in 1984 a proverb scholar of German origin, Professor Wolfgang Mieder of the University of Vermont, edited the first issue. Since then paremiologists from the four corners of the world have had a highly scholarly journal in which to publish their findings, and a generous-spirited scholar of world-wide renown to look up to.

Things change however, and technology, as we experience it every day, has changed our lives dramatically in the last few years. As paremiology becomes more and more a field of research interrelated with other disciplines like psychology, sociology, folklore, literature and mass-media, there is a need to explore new outlets which are offered by today's technology. De Proverbio (Latin: About the Proverb) intends to do that, but in the process it does not aim to replace existing publications on the subject; on the contrary, it will support them, and will in turn seek their support. The Editorial Board and the editor feel that De Proverbio will be able both to reach a wider audience, and hence to propose paremiology as a field of study to more researchers than traditional journals have thus far been able to do, and also to attract a readership which perhaps is not familiar with the term paremiology. Fast communication and easy access provided by computer technology will allow De Proverbio to focus attention on the proverbs and, metaphorically speaking, to re-present them to those who use them on a daily basis. Because, although De Proverbio is a refereed scholarly journal, we know that there are many people out there interested in proverbs for their own sake. In order to acquaint them with what is going on in proverb studies today, a novel structure has been devised for this journal, a structure which allows De Proverbio to reprint in THE MASTERS section all the important work of present and past scholars who have contributed to the advancement of paremiology.

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As editor, I feel very privileged to be able to devote THE MASTERS section of this historic first issue to the writings of Professor Wolfgang Mieder, who has published more than 60 (SIXTY!) books on the subject, and is, in the words of Alan Dundes, "the world leading authority on the proverb" and "... it is clear that one day when the comprehensive history of paremiology is written, there will have to be at least one full chapter devoted to the extraordinary productivity and to the many exceptional achievements of this remarkable scholar."

Another important section of the journal, titled CURRENT RESEARCH, is designed to be a platform for the most recent scholarly findings of paremiologists around the world. All articles published here will be peer-reviewed. In this first issue I am very happy to offer such seminal articles as The Perception of Proverbiality by Shirley L. Arora, Foundations of Semiotic Proverb Study by Peter Grzybek and Semantic Potential of Comparative Paremiology by Ariella Flonta.

But De Proverbio is not only a scholarly journal: it becomes an electronic book publisher as well. With its associated section De Proverbio Database, it aims at publishing studies and collections of proverbs in some of the main languages of the world. This will provide a wealth of sources, all stored in one place, for the benefit of both general and comparative paremiologists. De Proverbio thus hopes to encourage paremiologists and paremiographers everywhere to start editing, in a scholarly fashion, all the important collections and writings on proverbs in their own language, and to propose them for publication. For the time being, texts in the following languages will be accepted: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian. In the future, when technology permits, or when we become more acquainted with its full capabilities, Russian and other languages will be added to this initial list. Perhaps it sounds ambitious, but we can do it!

With this first issue we have published in the Database the invaluable International Bibliographies which Professor Mieder compiles every year, and which he so generously puts at the disposal of paremiologists and the general public. In addition, we have published two books, both prepared by the editor. One is Lettera in proverbi written by an Italian humanist in the sixteenth century, and the other is the second edition of a bilingual English-Romanian Dictionary of Equivalent Proverbs, first published in 1992, and now out of print.

While De Proverbio the journal is scheduled to have two issues a year (around February-March and September-October), for De Proverbio the book publisher, I envisage an ongoing activity; in other words, when a volume is ready for publication it will be published without having to wait for the next issue of the journal.

An enterprise of this kind cannot ever be the result of the efforts of just one person. I would like to thank all those people at the University of Tasmania who have helped me enormously in unravelling the secrets of the HTML: Anne Hugo from the University Library who gave me the first lessons, and continued to help until publication; Linda Forbes, also from the University Library, who provided me with the list of Latin special characters and with some theoretical background for the HTML, and Doone Jones from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, who installed both Netscape and Mosaic on my computer. Without the help of Justin Ridge of Information Technology Services, who provided detailed and constant assistance with BBedit and HTML, and who is virtually the technical editor of this first issue, the publication of the journal would have been much delayed. To Steve Bittinger, Manager of User Services, ITS, University of Tasmania, whom I approached first when thinking of entering this venture, and who not only ensured I had all the help I needed from start to finish, but who also planted the idea of the proverb Database in my mind as early as 1992, I owe my heartfelt thanks.

My appreciation goes also to that supportive and enthusiastic group of friends, who are all former students of mine, for their help in proofreading all the material published in this first issue. Their names are duly listed under Editorial Assistants.

Last, but not least, I am most grateful to all members of the Editorial Board who have responded to this initiative right from the beginning with proverbial enthusiasm. In these last three months we have not only discovered together the enormous advantage that computer technology offers, but we have also become good friends without ever having met! As we live, in most cases, at "tyrannical" distances from one another, I consider this in itself a wonderful achievement.


 Teodor Flonta
Department of English and European Languages and Literatures (Italian)
University of Tasmania

© Teodor Flonta

March 1995


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The banner illustration is a fragment of Pieter Bruegel's painting "The Netherlandish Proverbs", 1559