Books about dictionaries

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Books about dictionaries

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Sep 23, 2006, 5:17 pm

Anyone find books written about the author(s) and construction of dictionaries such as The Oxford English Dictionary and Johnson's Dictionary?

Sep 23, 2006, 5:41 pm

Well, there are several biographies of Noah Webster and Johnson available, but others you may want to look for include Ring of Words (J.R.R.Tolkien, OED), _The Dictionary Men_ (various) by R.W.Holder, Caught in the Web of Words (J.A.H.Murray, OED), Pierre Larousse et son temps, and The Warden of English (H.W.Fowler).

Sep 23, 2006, 6:35 pm

I highly recommend The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. It is about the writing of the OED and I found it absolutely fascinating. He wrote another one, called The Meaning of Everything also about the OED. I haven't read that one.

Sep 23, 2006, 6:41 pm

Also, though I don't own them yet, Defining the World: the extraordinary story of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, by Henry Hitchings or Johnson's Dictionary and the Language of Learning by Robert DeMaria, Jr. are another couple you might find of interest on the subject of Johnson's work. The former is high on my list of wanted books.

Sep 24, 2006, 9:40 am

Aside from those already mentioned (particularly the Winchester and Hitchings) there's also Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made by Jonathon Green, which is on my 'to be read' pile.

Sep 25, 2006, 1:38 pm innocent question and now I've got another 3 books to get and read.

Jan 30, 2007, 4:45 pm

Those interested in Johnson should buzz over to the blog here: "The world’s greatest Samuel Johnson collection, one book at a time. " The blogger works for Harvard and is cataloguing the collection. Extremely cool for Johnson fans.

Mar 9, 2007, 8:51 pm

#3> Coloradoreader, those books are brilliant!

Mar 26, 2007, 12:47 am

By the way - I did, after all this time, acquire Defining the World, which I'm finding immediately engaging, elegantly and even pungently written, and oriented beautifully toward the dictionary. It's a fine book (at least the first third of the way through). Recommended, even as an introduction to Samuel Johnson. It immediately sent me to the shelves for The Major Works and Jack Lynch's abridgement of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary.

Mar 26, 2007, 8:03 am

I'm using this theme for a "reading project" in my Reference class at present, and have recently read Chasing the Sun and Caught in the Web of Words. Both were good, and I actually found that I liked Caught in the Web of Words better than Simon Winchester's books on the OED. Defining the World is next up!

Note: Caught in the Web's touchstone doesn't want to work; sorry.

May 7, 2007, 4:45 pm

or Lempriere's Dictionary by Norfolk

12jarka First Message
May 22, 2007, 8:25 pm

It has been two months since I finished reading S.Winchester's The Meaning of Everything. I am just getting over the mind-numbing logorrhea floating throughout more than half the book.
At present I am reading The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. Beside being a novelist, he reviewed a number of books during the 30's. If he were alive to comment on Mr. Winchester's book, he would be merciless about content, style, and the annoying abuse of adjectives for their own sake. In short, he would call this book "tripe".
My interest in the subject eventually overcame the sound of my grinding teeth, and I did learn something about the monument to the English language.
In other words, I'm raising "DETOUR" signs around Simon Winchester's book.

May 1, 2008, 11:21 pm

Yes, but The Professor and the Madman was fascinating. I'd highly recommend that one.

Edited: Jun 2, 2009, 12:42 am

The Professor and The Madman one of the best books I have ever read. Also, The Meaning of everything is wonderful as well. The content is fascinating.

Edited: Jun 4, 2009, 4:21 pm

Heading my way is a softcover copy of Anniversary Essays on Johnson's Dictionary, edited by Jack Lynch and Anne McDermott, first published in hardcover in 2005. You can preview the scholarly articles on Google Books.

Next on my reading pile is a copy of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary. Essays in the Biography of a Book by James H. Sledd and Gwin J. Kolb, Chicago, 1955. I had read a Rylands Library offprint of their essay, The Reynolds Copy of Johnson's Dictionary and wanted to read more by them.

Jun 11, 2009, 11:04 am

Starnes' Renaissance Dictionaries is fascinating, if you can track down a copy.

Jul 12, 2009, 10:15 pm

I just finished reading The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester last week and I have to disagree with jarka. This is the first book by Simon Winchester that I have read but I am searching now to find some of his other books. Yes, there may be a few extra words in the story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and there may be a few extra sentences here and there and there may possibly be an extra paragraph somewhere, but I found the book to be a page turner with great characters, many simple and many obtuse word mysteries and a fascinating drama of a seventy year quest to complete the meaning of all the words in the English language. And yet I have to give serious consideration to jarka’s assessment of the book because a person owning three collections of Ezra Pound poetry must have some valid and legitimate (adjective Etymology: Middle English legitimat, from Medieval Latin legitimatus, past participle of legitimare to legitimate, from Latin legitimus legitimate, from leg-, lex law Date:15th century, Merriam-Webster On-Line Distionary) points.

Feb 16, 2011, 3:24 am

There is also a german book about this subject, named Kleine Geschichte großer Lexika by Werner Lenz.

Feb 16, 2011, 3:07 pm

#5: Chasing the Sun was one of my favorites, in part because it gave a broad spectrum overlook of the English dictionary, instead of the narrow emphasis on one dictionary or author. I'll mention Dictionary Days, if just to warn you against it. You can read my review on it, but in summary it's a bunch of essays that don't really touch on dictionaries much at all.