JOHNSON, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language: in which the Words are Deduced from their Originals, and Illustrated in their Different Significations by examples from the Best Writers.


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To which are prefixed a History of the Language, and an English Grammar. By Samuel Johnson. Two volumes. London: Folio Society 2006. Folio. pp. (1) 1164 (2) 1164. Titles printed in red & black. Lexicon text in double column. Printed by St Edmundsbury Press on Favini toned paper. Edition limited to one thousand numbered copies of which this is copy number 133. Bound by Smith Settle in three quarter dappled calfskin leather on marbled boards and edges by Ann Muir. Loosely inserted is a copy of Professor John Mullan’s 12 page pamphlet ‘Johnson’s Dictionary: The Making of the Great Book of English, with extracts from the Dictionary’, London: The Folio Society, 2006, in fine condition, together with the original Folio Society prospectus & envelope. Housed in partitioned buckram slip-case with printed paper label.
A fine set.
COPAC locates 3 copies only. Originally published in London by W. Strahan, for J. and P. Knapton [etc.], 1755. Folio Society facsimile of the first edition of Johnson’s Dictionary. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language is one of the most famous dictionaries in history. First published in 1755, the dictionary took just over eight years to compile, required six helpers, and listed 40,000 words. Each word was defined in detail, the definitions illustrated with quotations covering every branch of learning. It was a huge scholarly achievement, a more extensive and complex dictionary than any of its predecessors. In all, there are over 114,000 quotations in the dictionary. Johnson was the first English lexicographer to use citations in this way, a method that greatly influenced the style of future dictionaries. He had scoured books stretching back to the 1500s, often quoting from those thought to be ‘great works’ such as Milton or Shakespeare. Thus the quotations reflect his literary taste and his rightwing political views. Dr. Johnson performed with his Dictionary the most amazing, enduring, and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography It is the dictionary itself which justifies Noah Webster s statement that Johnson’s writings had, in philology, the effect which Newton s discoveries had in mathematics (PMM). To be sure, there had been dictionaries before his. As modern lexicographer Robert Burchfield has observed, “In the whole tradition of English language and literature the only dictionary compiled by a writer of the first rank is that of Dr. Johnson.” Nonetheless, Johnson’s Dictionary stands as an enduring achievement. “More than any other dictionary,” Hitching says, “it abounds with stories, arcane information, home truths, snippets of trivia, and lost myths. It is, in short, a treasure house.”

[L3 5G]


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