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by Simon. Winchester

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8,064183398 (3.8)305
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)

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English (176)  Indonesian (2)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (183)
Showing 1-5 of 176 (next | show all)
The Oxford English Dictionary is a amazing achievement, and I don't know how many people ever really stop to consider that. To collect every single word in the English language, compile them, define them, and track their histories, their various forms, their ever-changing meanings and interpretations, is an inconceivably formidable task. Nevertheless, a group of people decided to take it on, and it would take nearly half a century to complete.

I have never really considered what a massive undertaking that must have been. It's funny, how often I have used a dictionary, yet never appreciating the amount of work it took for such a thing to exist. And if that isn't fascinating enough, this book focuses on W. C. Minor, a man who was one of the biggest contributors to the dictionary as a volunteer...and who was also insane, having been convicted of murder during a paranoid delusion. From his room in an insane asylum, he would read obsessively and submit definitions with methodical precision, much to the amazement (and admiration) of the OED team.

The Professor and the Madman has pretty much everything I want in a nonfiction book. It's informing, it's enlightening, it's entertaining, It sheds some light on an untold story, and it will allow me to appreciate something I wouldn't have had I not read it. It's well-written and readable, but for me it had that sense of revelation, opening my eyes to something that now seems terribly important even though I hadn't a clue about it just a week ago. I couldn't ask for much more than that. ( )
2 vote Ape | Mar 5, 2015 |
Fascinating story, even if not an etymologist. ( )
  TFHetrick | Jan 2, 2015 |
Its a fun read - nothing to fantastic, but the story is good. The characters in it are not quite large enough to warrant their own book - if the author focused more on the Oxford dictionary, rather than the two men, I think this book would have been quite awesome.

The writing is tight, the story, while a bit bland, is interesting. I think fans of the OED will like the story. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Dec 21, 2014 |
My second read of this (first time in paperback), and it was just as interesting as I remembered. A tortured mind, Minor, the "Surgeon of Crowthorne" (in the American version he is the Madman of the title) was an American officer who committed murder in London, and who spent his time in an asylum researching and writing entries for the Oxford English Dictionary being compiled by Morris, the professor of the American title. Written in an easy, readable style, this edition is illustrated with photographs and some of Minor's watercolours. It also has interesting endpapers showing Minor's notes in his tiny, precise handwriting. ( )
  overthemoon | Nov 20, 2014 |
A quick and easy read. Each chapter begins with an aposite definition. More about the making of the OED than I ever knew before. Sometimes the writing seems careless; occasionally funny. The crowd-sourcing part was neat, rendering it an early cousin to the open-source movement. ( )
  themulhern | Oct 26, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 176 (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)

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Winchesterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pracher, RickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140271287, 0141037717

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