HomeGroupsTalkExploreZeitgeist
Search Site
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Loading...

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making… (1998)

by Simon Winchester

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,109276509 (3.8)445
The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story - a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly - and mysteriously - refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane - and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.… (more)
  1. 40
    Among the Gently Mad: Perspectives and Strategies for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-first Century by Nicholas A. Basbanes (bnbookgirl)
  2. 30
    A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes (bnbookgirl)
  3. 30
    The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett (wrmjr66)
  4. 20
    The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Both concern late-19th C American killers in the backdrop of a bigger social story of advancement (Chicago Fair and Oxford English Dictionary).
  5. 10
    The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester (PuddinTame)
    PuddinTame: Two accounts of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Meaning of Everything is a history of how the dictionary was created. The Professor and the Madman is focussed on a peculiar story: a detailed acccount of the man who contributed the most entries to the Oxford English Dictionary, while living in the Broadmoor Asylum (near Crawthorne) for the Criminally Insane.… (more)
  6. 10
    The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures by Edward Ball (davesmind)
  7. 10
    Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture by Nicholas A. Basbanes (bnbookgirl)
  8. 00
    Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary by K. M. Elisabeth Murray (KayCliff)
  9. 01
    Queen Victoria: From Her Birth to the Death of the Prince Consort by Cecil Woodham-Smith (carlym)
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 445 mentions

English (269)  Indonesian (2)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (276)
Showing 1-5 of 269 (next | show all)
[Herbert Coleridge] died after only two years at work, at the age of thirty-one, not even halfway through looking at the quotations of words beginning with A. He had been caught in the rain on the way to a Philological Society lecture, and he had sat through it in the unheated upstairs room on St. James's Square, caught a chill, and died. His last recorded words were: "I must begin Sanskrit tomorrow."

Now that's my kind of stiff upper lip. Herbert Coleridge is my spirit nineteenth-century-British-philologist. ( )
  zinama | Sep 22, 2022 |
Have you ever stopped to think about what would have been required to compile the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary? Each entry required a carefully researched etymology, a clear and precise definition, and supporting examples of usage and changes in usage over time. The first requirement was to read every printed word up to the time of its inception--every word.

In order to pull off this gargantuan feat, the participation of an army of volunteer readers and researchers was required, and among their number was a man whose contributions made a marked difference to the compilation. He was an American soldier, guilty of murder and committed to an insane asylum just outside of Oxford. The relationship that resulted between this man, W.C. Minor, and the editor of the OED, James Murray, was both interesting and unique.

Much of this book was fairly dry, consisting of lists of persons involved in the dictionary and descriptions of the procedures set up for the work at hand. While this portion of the book was necessary and fascinating, I felt myself wanting to get on to the story of the men. Minor’s story was more captivating. It is amazing how intricate the mind can be, that someone so obviously insane could be so profoundly intelligent.

An interesting thought occurred to me while reading this book. One of the greatest compliments I can pay a fictional book is to say it reads as if it could have happened, and of a non-fiction book, that it reads as smoothly and interestingly as if it were fiction. That was the element that was missing in this account for me, the seamless slipping into the story.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
https://www.instagram.com/p/ChBJBlVLT_4/

Simon Winchester - The Professor and the Madman: A little sensationalist, a little misogynistic, a little long-winded. #cursorybookreviews #cursoryreviews ( )
  khage | Aug 8, 2022 |
An interesting historical tale that read like a fictional story. I'm not much for the non-fiction category because the language and writing gets too heavy. This was not the case here, I found the book easy to digest. I often couldn't put it down because I wanted to know what happened next. ( )
  christyco125 | Jul 4, 2022 |
This book is too long-winded and takes way too long to get to the actual story, which is the making of the OED. The author spends a good third of the book telling the life stories of people we don't care about without telling us how they relate to the subject. I couldn't finish it.
  JosephVanBuren | May 17, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 269 (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 (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Winchester, Simonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hood, PhilipIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Out, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pracher, RickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
To the memory of
G. M.
First words
[Preface 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.
The word (murder) has not been found in any Teut. lang. but Eng. and Gothic, but that it existed in continental WGer. is evident, as it is the source of OF. murdre, murtre (md. F. meurtre) and of med. L. mordrum, murdrum, and OHG.
[Postscript] And why this book is offered as a small testament to the late George Merrett of Wiltshire and Lambeth, without whose untimely death these events would never have unfolded and this tale could never have been told.
[Author's Note] But she won, and a grandfather I never met made a thousand guineas, all because of a word that briefly took his fancy.
Quotations
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]
Defining words properly is a fine and peculiar craft. There are rules—a word (to take a noun as an example) must first be defined according to the class of things to which it belongs (mammal, quadruped), and then differentiated from other members of that class (bovine, female). There must be no words in the definition that are more complicated or less likely to be known than the word being defined. The definition must say what something is, and not what it is not. If there is a range of meanings of any one word—cow having a broad range of meanings, cower having essentially only one—then they must be stated. And all the words in the definition must be found elsewhere in the dictionary—a reader must never happen upon a word in the dictionary that he or she cannot discover elsewhere in it. If the definer contrives to follow all these rules, stirs into the mix an ever-pressing need for concision and elegance—and if he or she is true to the task, a proper definition will probably result.
He would index and collect and collate words and sentences from each of the books, until his prison desk was heavy with the quires of paper, each one containing a master-list of the indexed words from his eclectic, very valuable and much valued little gem of a library.... He had made a key, a Victorian word-Rolodex, a dictionary-within-a-dictionary, and instantly available.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
UK title: The Surgeon of Crowthorne
US title: The Professor and the Madman
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC
The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story - a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly - and mysteriously - refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane - and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.

No library descriptions found.

Book description
Haiku summary

Popular covers

Quick Links

Rating

Average: (3.8)
0.5 2
1 18
1.5 6
2 108
2.5 39
3 562
3.5 181
4 1043
4.5 90
5 456

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140271287, 0141037717

 

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 177,162,767 books! | Top bar: Always visible