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I’m trying to track down the first printed use of the word diagram in English. Can anyone tell me the name, author, and date of the publication in question? It would be especially valuable, on top of that, to have an excerpted passage containing the word, in order to infer its intended meaning from its context.

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  • "I’m trying to track down": Can you also include where you looked and what you found so far?
    – Kris
    May 12, 2013 at 6:59
  • diagram (n.) 1610s, from French diagramme, from Latin diagramma, from Greek diagramma "geometric figure, that which is marked out by lines," from diagraphein "mark out by lines, delineate," from dia- "across, out" (see dia-) + graphein "write, mark, draw" (see -graphy). The verb is 1840, from the noun. (etymonline.com/index.php?term=diagram)
    – Kris
    May 12, 2013 at 7:04
  • "A chronicle with diagram from the first reign of Henry VI tracing the descent of the kings of England from Noah, through Brut, and breaking off after the kings Kimbelinus and Arvigarus in the central line of descent and the kings Ingils and Offa in another line left of center." 'Genealogical chronicle fragment of the kings of England to Kimbelinus and Arvigarus' 1450 (books.google.co.in/books?id=yXm4jwEACAAJ&dq=diagram)
    – Kris
    May 12, 2013 at 7:19
  • "On the verso of the last leaf is a Latin verse of eleven lines, containing a description of the winds, with a diagram; ..." Sale Catalogues, Issue 792, American Art Association, Anderson Galleries (Firm), 1590 (books.google.co.in/books?id=vVLQAAAAMAAJ&dq=diagram)
    – Kris
    May 12, 2013 at 7:23
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    @Kris: That '1450' isn't really 1450, it's from a later summary of the book that also mentions an "18th-century inscription". Likewise, the '1590' has this user review: "This is a catalogue to an 1909 auction of rare books, of which the 1590 title page is merely an illustration."
    – Hugo
    May 12, 2013 at 8:35

2 Answers 2

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The OED says it was on page 16 of A astronomicall description of the late comet by John Bainbridge in 1619, occurring in this sentence:

I must entreat you to examine this following diagram.

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  • The way the word appears to be used, without an equivalent of scare quotes, suggests the word was already in circulation.
    – Kris
    May 12, 2013 at 7:01
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    @Kris Google Books also gives an example from 1501. But sometimes it's a good idea to examine the material to see how accurate their dating is.
    – Andrew Leach
    May 12, 2013 at 7:44
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    @Kris: Neither the State of Michigan, nor their Department of State Highways or Testing Laboratory Section existed in 1599, especially as the first Europeans didn't even get there until the next century.
    – Hugo
    May 12, 2013 at 9:05
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    @Kris: Thanks, some of these mentions of "diagram" may be in descriptions of books, rather than the text of the book itself. I have now searched on "Early English Books Online" and found two books predating John Bainbridge of 1619 - namely Robinson, Robert, The art of pronuntiation digested into two parts, London, 1617, and Ridley, Mark, A short treatise of magneticall bodies and motions, London, 1613 May 13, 2013 at 23:02
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    Robinson, Robert, The art of pronuntiation digested into two parts, London, 1617, no page no: "... as in the fourth and last section of the same diagram they are hereafter placed" Ridley, Mark, A short treatise of magneticall bodies and motions, London, 1613, page 126: "A diagram of the needles inclinations to the axis of the earth" May 13, 2013 at 23:17
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Robinson, Robert, The art of pronuntiation digested into two parts, London, 1617, no page no:

"... as in the fourth and last section of the same diagram they are hereafter placed "

Ridley, Mark, A short treatise of magneticall bodies and motions, London, 1613, page 126:

"A diagram of the needles inclinations to the axis of the earth "

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  • Good find! Would you like to contribute these antedatings to the OED?
    – Hugo
    May 14, 2013 at 5:47
  • +1 As Hugo suggested, you should write to the folks at OED.
    – Kris
    May 14, 2013 at 6:00
  • ? quod.lib.umich.edu/e/…
    – Kris
    May 14, 2013 at 6:16
  • good idea, thx for the link .... done May 16, 2013 at 18:45

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