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by Simon. Winchester

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7,806174430 (3.8)276
Authors:Simon. Winchester
Info:Viking (1998), Hardcover, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:bio, read 1998

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The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester (1998)

19th century (112) biography (730) books (79) books about books (114) British (66) crime (41) dictionaries (132) dictionary (267) England (131) English (101) English language (119) etymology (68) fiction (55) history (1,125) insanity (73) language (430) lexicography (198) linguistics (93) literature (52) mental illness (116) murder (55) non-fiction (1,060) OED (192) own (45) Oxford English Dictionary (181) read (123) reference (43) to-read (126) unread (57) words (92)

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Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)

Yet another in a string of good and interesting reads. A story I knew nothing about, the creation of the OED, and the odd contributions of Dr. Minor, who was an American incarcerted at Broadmoor. Lots of diversions into interesting stories, not only of Dr. Minor but also Murray, the main editor of the OED, and the history of dicitionaries, the Civil War, mental illness, Victorian London, so many other things. Light in some ways but a pleasure to read. 2010 is starting much better on the reading front than 2009.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
Simon Winchester is not a linear writer. Instead, he likes to weave back and forth from the main story to different background stories that do end up coming back to the main story...eventually. What I found fascinating was the background story of two men that were geniuses that come from opposite backgrounds and end up having a twenty year friendship. At times I felt bogged down and this is not a book to be read in a week end.

"I am nobody, treat me as a solar myth, or an echo, or an irrational quantity, or ignore me altogether". Throughout the book, it is clear we can not ignore a man like James Murray. He left school at the age of fourteen, became self taught through numerous books, tried to teach Latin to cows, he was fluent in several languages including many dead languages, he taught himself geology, biology, entomology, and because of his love for words among being a very learned man, was instrumental in creating the greatest dictionary of our time.

William Chester Minor was also a genius but was also insane. Throughout the book, we get to see a background of his life growing up, what he saw as a doctor in the Civil War during a battle called "The Wilderness". Perhaps this is what threw him over the edge into insanity, although I would guess that it was a perfect storm of circumstances throughout his life that drove him over the edge into insanity, perhaps it was in his mind all along.

What I found fascinating about this book was the history of the dictionaries before the OED. I have learned so many things in this book of 242 pages that seemed more like an 800 page book. The Irish who fought in the Civil War (I have a new appreciation for the Irish and a better understanding of why so many deserted), Sri Lanka, the history of the dictionary, lexicography, branding in the civil war...the list goes on and on.

It is a book I can only read once, however it is a book that I own so I can go back to it for reference from time to time. I am in awe of the men and women who volunteered their time, James Murray, William Minor and the men who came before them who were the stepping stones before the OED. The OED took seventy years to complete! For those that love words, love history, love the OED, this book is for you! ( )
1 vote allgenresbookworm | Jun 24, 2014 |
Fascinating story, but a bit wandering, and the author's tendency to freely make stuff up (like the theory that the subject had an affair with his victim's wife, which even the author admits is based on zero evidence) left a bad taste in my mouth. ( )
  ellen.w | Jun 1, 2014 |
Fascinating story, but a bit wandering, and the author's tendency to freely make stuff up (like the theory that the subject had an affair with his victim's wife, which even the author admits is based on zero evidence) left a bad taste in my mouth. ( )
  ellen.w | Jun 1, 2014 |
This is an amusing account of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, a mental marvel enjoyed by millions. Now, since the OED is online, the massive book is gaining many new fans. The particular episode described here is also an illustration that a form of mental illness is no great bar to some forms of scholarship.
I'll reread, but under its real Title "the PROFESSOR and the Madman"! (can someone fix this, please?) ( )
  DinadansFriend | May 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)
Here, as so consistently throughout, Winchester finds exactly the right tool to frame the scene.
added by John_Vaughan | editPowells, Dave Weich (Oct 1, 2001)
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To the memory of
G. M.
First words
Popular myth has it that one of the most remarkable conversations in modern literary history took place on a cool and misty late autumn in 1896, in the small village of Crowthorne in the county of Berkshire.
One word --and only one word-- was ever actually lost: bondmaid, which appears in Johnson's dictionary, was actually lost by Murray and was found, a stray without a home, long after the fascicle Battentlie - Bozzom had been published. It, and tens of thousands of words that had evolved or appeared during the forty-four years spent assembling the fascicles and their [twelve] parent volumes, appeared in a supplement, which came out in 1933. Four further supplements appeared between 1972 and 1986. In 1989, using the new abilities of the computer, Oxford University Press issued its fully integrated second edition, incorporating all the changes and additions of the supplements in twenty rather more slender volumes. [220]
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UK title: The Surgeon of Crowthorne:a tale of murder, madness and the Oxford English dictionary

US title: The Professor and the Madman
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A wonderful story...It has all the ingredients of one of Patrick McGrath's icily stylish novels: madness, violence, arcane obsessions, weird learning, ghastly comedy - John Banville, Literary Review

Two distinguished-looking Victorians, both learned and serious, yet from very different worlds: one a brilliant polymath, the other a madman and a murderer.

Dr James Murray, erudite and pious, who broke free from an impoverished childhood to become a towering figure of British scholarship and editor of the great Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr W.C. Minor, lascivious, charismatic, a millionaire American Civil War surgeon and homicidal lunatic. Confined to Broadmoor Asylum he pursued his passion for words and became one of the OED's most valued contributors.

Their lives and unlikely friendship are unravelled in Simon Winchester's classic work of detection.

In this elegant book the writer has created a vivid parable, in the spirit of Nabakov and Borges - full of suspense, pathos and humour - Wall Street Journal

A jewel of a book, scholarly, beguiling and moving - as gripping as any thriller - Scotland on Sunday

A cracking read - Spectator
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060839783, Paperback)

The compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary, 70 years in the making, was an intellectually heroic feat with a twist worthy of the greatest mystery fiction: one of its most valuable contributors was a criminally insane American physician, locked up in an English asylum for murder. British stage actor Simon Jones leads us through this uncommon meeting of minds (the other belonging to self-educated dictionary editor James Murray) at full gallop. Ultimately, it's hard to say which is more remarkable: the facts of this amazingly well-researched story, or the sound of author Simon Winchester's erudite prose. Jones's reading smoothly transports listeners to the 19th century, reminding us why so many brilliant people obsessively set out to catalogue the English language. This unabridged version contains an interview between Winchester and John Simpson, editor of the Oxford dictionary. (Running time: 6.5 hours, 6 cassettes) --Lou Schuler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:55 -0400)

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Looks at the making of the Oxford English dictionary.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140271287, 0141037717

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