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The Professor and the Madman by Simon…

The Professor and the Madman (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Simon Winchester

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8,694204349 (3.8)340
Title:The Professor and the Madman
Authors:Simon Winchester
Info:Harper (1998), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Surgeon of Crowthorne : A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words by Simon Winchester (1998)


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Showing 1-5 of 197 (next | show all)
I really wish Goodreads would let us give half-stars! Another 3.5 book for me. I never gave a moment's thought to how a dictionary is created. But it is really a fascinating topic. And both the professor and the madman were interesting, as well. I just couldn't stick with the writing though. Sometimes it was engrossing and sometimes I felt like the author got stuck and pulled out his thesaurus, which brought my reading progress to a halt. A friend pointed out some editing lapses, as well. So, I generally enjoyed the book and thought it was interesting. Maybe even a little nerdy? If you enjoy words and sometimes search for just the right one, and if you enjoy learning about a different subject, I definitely think you should give this book a try. If you are looking for the next big thriller and were attracted by the word "Madman" in the title, you should move along. ( )
  400mom | Nov 23, 2016 |
The evolution of the disctionary and the crazy guy who built it. Fascinating. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
An entertaining, easy to read, fast paced, (non-fiction) tale of how W.C. Minor with schizophrenia (most likely) helped Sir Murray write large portions of the Oxford English Dictionary. Minor's story is sad, and sad all around, but at least out of his 'insane asylum' incarceration, and his mental disease and the unfortunate murder of George Merrett, a lot of good came out of it - in the sake of his extreme help in quote gathering and writing for the OED, without him it most likely wouldn't have gotten completed. Even still it took some 70-71 years for it to get accomplished. ( )
  BenKline | Aug 7, 2016 |
3.5 stars

This is the story of how the Oxford English Dictionary was put together. It is also part biography of the editor (the “professor” in the title) and the convicted murderer living in an insane aslyum, who was one of the most prolific people helping find quotations for the dictionary.

It was quite interesting to learn how early dictionaries were compiled. I guess I'd never really thought about how much work it took to take on such a task. Also, very interesting to learn about Minor, the man in the asylum. I didn't rate it higher because I was too easily distracted at some points while reading, so I did tend to skim a bit and miss a few things. At the same time, I did find other parts quite interesting. Overall, I'm rating it “good”. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jun 11, 2016 |
What I loved about this book:

The book itself, with its cover & opening pages resembling an actual dictionary, with all its addendums, is beautiful. It's a reminder of what we lose with a move to digital content.

I loved that it started as a Gothic tale, haunting, promising the revelation of dark secrets.

I loved that there were words for me to look up in every chapter :) A book about the dictionary that did not employ some of the more descriptive, obscure words at its disposal would be a very shallow time, indeed.

I loved that it wasn't too long - it was concise, while still being engaging & thorough.

I loved that it made me think about something I'd never thought much about before - the lexicon of the language I love. I'm a rule-follower when it comes to language, spelling, & grammar. But this book showed me how fluent language has been and can be, while still showing me how the rules developed & who developed them.

What I didn't like about this book:

The chapters on the actual making of the dictionary were very, very dry. I appreciate that making the OED was a painstaking process. And I can usually get through some tedium in any read; in a book about why it took 70 years to finish a task like this, some of the tedium of the work involved should find its way onto these pages - it's a great illustration of what they were up against. However, it really became too much at times.

And the idea that we find out that the preface is just a romanticized re-telling of this tale feels like a tease. Once you get about 150 pages in, you find out the first meeting between Drs. Minor & Murray was much more mundane & happened much sooner than the prevailing gossip puts forth. It makes me wonder if much fewer people would have hung in there as long if the truth had been presented much earlier.

On the strength of the first 50 pages or so, I was raving about this book, & recommending it. But after the tedium of some of the chapters & the switcheroo on the opening pages, I'm left feeling a bit unsatisfied. I still have to give it a solid 3 stars - maybe even 3.5 - because the writing & scholarship are superior. But as an overall read, once it loses its edge, it's hard to stick with this one. ( )
1 vote LauraCerone | May 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 197 (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 editionscalculated
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
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:04 -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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