I am reading The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. I find mention of a certain text titled

The First Part of the Elementarie which Entreateth Chefelie of the right writing of our English tung

by Richard Mulcaster. Given the archaic nature of this publication (around 1582 AD), I understand the reason for the non-standard spellings (according to modern convention). But I did not understand what "Entreateth Chefelie" means/stands for. It does not seem to match any modern English-equivalent word(s).

An internet search for this text led to this website (and similar others), but nowhere the modern English translation of the book's title is hinted at.

  • I suggest you download that dictionary and look inside it. {on that website}
    – Lambie
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 18:36
  • 5
    Surely "chefelie" is just what we would write as "chiefly". ie, it "deals mainly with" the correct way to write English. Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 19:03
  • 7
    I’m voting to close this question because this question is not about learning English as it is used today. It is a about an early usage of English and would perhaps be on topic at English Language & Usage
    – James K
    Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 19:33
  • 4
    It "treats mainly". Wiktionary shows an obsolete sense of "entreat" - "to deal with, to use". Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 20:37
  • @JamesK I put the question here, based on the answer I found in a [related query] (meta.stackexchange.com/a/394316/1428135) I asked in StackExchange Meta. After I had already the put the query here, a further edit was made to the answer suggesting that English Language & Usage might also be the right place for such queries. Having gone through both the website's Help Centers, I too agree to your point. Commented Oct 30, 2023 at 3:23

1 Answer 1


This is an example of early modern English, although to be fair it seems a little archaic for the time it was written. However, this was often the case with authoritative/scholarly works. The King James bible of 1611 is also smililarly archaic for its time. Anyway, the main problem understanding this is the irregular spelling.

So, the first step is to change the spelling to modern English spelling. This is often sufficient to get the gist of it:

The First Part of the Elementary which Entreats Chiefly of the right writing of our English tongue

Then you need to know that elementary = introduction, entreats = deals with, chiefly = mainly, right = correct, tongue = language. You might need to refer to a good dictionary to find some of these more archaic meanings. Not all dictionaries list them.

So now we have something much more modern:

The first part of the introduction which deals mainly with the correct writing of our English language.

  • +1 great answer.
    – Sam
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 17:24
  • @Sam thank you!
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 17:25

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