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Folio Archives 94: Johnson’s Dictionary 2006 Limited Edition

Folio Society devotees

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Jan 10, 9:36pm Top

Johnson’s Dictionary by Samuel Johnson 2006 Limited Edition

This is a magnificent, and very heavy, facsimile of the first edition that was originally published in 1755. It is described as being peculiarly readable, because of the slightly (and sometimes very) eccentric definitions, and its example samples of poetry and prose.

Johnson himself described his sources as a “fortuitous and unguided excursions into books”, and the dictionary maps his learning of the intricacies of the English language and its many peculiarities. The use of the defined word in text examples was a first, as earlier (and much smaller) dictionaries, merely attempted a definition with no examples. Johnson also standardised English spelling, which previously had been extraordinarily varied, and the same word may have been spelt in different ways even within the same paragraph in some printed matter.

The library of every educated person in 18th. Century England had a copy of Johnson’s Dictionary, or one of its many abridgements, on its shelves. It was the standard reference book for the language for over a century until the arrival of the Oxford English Dictionary in the 1880s.

The two volumes are quarter bound in dappled brown calfskin with leather corners and hand marbled sides and all page edges by Ann Muir. It is printed on cream toned paper and housed in a brown cloth double slipcase with a paper front label. Enclosed is a 12-page leaflet by John Mullan on “The Making of the Great Book of English”.

It was limited to 1,000 copies and is a massive 43.5x28x17.5cm. There is a numbered colophon page at the back of both volumes. There are no illustrations and the endpapers are plain cream. The original price was £590.

With a weight of 12.9 Kg. for the 2 volumes in their slipcase, it is the heaviest book ever published by the Folio Society.

An index of the other illustrated reviews in the "Folio Archives" series can be viewed here.

Jan 10, 9:56pm Top

This is a special publication, (and despite his Southern bias) he was by most accounts a remarkable man, erudite and articulate. I enjoyed reading his tour of Scotland, and Boswell produces a lovable figure in his biography.

One perhaps to sneak into my collection when I'm older and have more time and cash to justify.

Jan 10, 10:35pm Top

And despite his Southern bias five of his six assistants who did the legwork were Scots. Not surprising when the Scots provided universal education well before the English. William Cobbett, who made his living from writing in the 19th century, didn't bother teaching his son to read and write until he was a teenager and needed it for a job.

Jan 10, 10:59pm Top

Wow. What gorgeous marbling. Exceeds my budget at present, but must be a wonderful work to dip into.

Jan 10, 11:24pm Top

I regret not being a Folio member before this one vanished. Just magnificent

Jan 11, 4:49am Top

>4 wdripp: Wow. What gorgeous marbling.

You're right. A magnificent work in every respect but the top prize goes to Ann Muir for her marbling. I acquired this not so very long ago from another Devotee (Edal) who hand-delivered it to me.

Jan 11, 7:45am Top

A beautiful work, I'd love to have a copy!

Jan 11, 9:11am Top

This is the one that got away for me--it did not sell out immediately (indeed, I think it took over a year). But I was then in the habit of not buying any facsimiles in preference for original LEs by FS. A stupid prejudice I now have atoned for by purchasing the FS LE Japan at the last LE sale (and there are still a few copies left--I would highly recommend picking one up before they are sold out).

Jan 11, 11:08am Top

Any chance of the Folio Society publishing a cut-down not so Limited Edition?

I would buy it like a shot.

Jan 12, 4:18am Top

>9 Chawton:
I would think that this is highly unlikely.

Jan 12, 12:54pm Top

This is, as >1 wcarter: describes, a beautiful volume and a definitive effort in the attempt to corral the English language into a nice little box from which it would never escape.


What I love about this one, apart from the very personal nature of it (beautifully parodied in an episode of Blackadder 3), is the introduction which describes the English language as if it is some unruly child or interloping foreigner, completely without rules or any concern for the niceties of polite society. Metaphor? Nah!

If you can get hold of it, do so :-)

Jan 16, 10:30pm Top

>9 Chawton:

I think there are a couple of cheaper facsimiles from other publishers if you are interested. Search around on Abebooks.

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