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History of English Dictionaries


Xiaoting Huang

on 19 July 2013

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Transcript of History of English Dictionaries

A Dictionary of the English Language
1538: Oldest dictionary
Latin English “wordbook” by Sir Thomas Elyot
Dedicated to Henry VIII.
1542 saw an enlarged second edition

1582: The Elementarie
-Composed by Richard Mulcaster
-Mulcaster's focus was on spelling, he left the words in his list undefined

1611: Italian-English dictionary by John Florio
Also known as Queen Anna's New World of Words

1857: Work began for the Oxford English Dictionary (lasted till (1928)

1933: Reprinted as 12 volumes (1st edition)

1988: 1st electronic dictionary

1997: The Oxford English Dictionary Additions Series,
published in 20 volumes plus 3 supplement volumes

2000: Online dictionaries were made available

2011: 3rd edition (describes approximately 75,000 words)

Samuel Johnson
Poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer

Expected himself to complete the dictionary within 3 years, but turned out to be a whopping 9 years

Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1755 - "one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship."
described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history"

Interesting facts
Oxford English Dictionary
Author: John Simpson

Definitive record of the English language, featuring 600000 words, 3 million quotations, and over 1000 years of English

First Editor, Herbert Coleridge, died of tuberculosis.
Furnivall then became the next editor. He then approached James Murray, who accepted the post of editor.

The full title of the first OED was A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society. Sold only 4,000 copies

Johnson introduced humour or prejudice into some of the dictionary definitions eg -
1. " lexicographer" - a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words
2. " oats " a grain in England generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people

" take" had 134 definitions, running 8000 words, over 5 pages

The dictionary comprises of 4 volumes, and each volume was 25.4cm tall, 9.5 kg
1746: Work on A Dictionary of English begins

1747: Johnson completed his Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language, which spelled out his intentions and proposed methodology for preparing his document.

1753: Letter to Chesterfield

1755: Publication of A Dictionary of English (by Samuel Johnson)

1760: Giuseppe Baretti, johnson’s friend, created the Italian-English Dictionary based on Samuel Johnson’s dictionary as a model

1784: (30 years after publication of first issue of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary )
Dictionary had run through five editions
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