Description

    The Great American Dictionary Uncut in Original Boards, with a Four-Page Manuscript in Webster's Hand Concerning Word Origins

    Noah Webster. An American Dictionary of the English Language: Intended to exhibit, I. The origin, affinities and primary signification of English words, as far as they have been ascertained. II. The genuine orthography and pronunciation of words, according to general usage, or to just principles of analogy. III. Accurate and discriminating definitions, with numerous authorities and illustrations. To which are prefixed, an introductory dissertation on the origin, history and connection of the languages of western Asia and of Europe, and a concise grammar of the English language. In two volumes. New York: Published by S. Converse. Printed by Hezekiah Howe..., 1828.

    First edition. Two large quarto volumes (11.75 x 9.25 inches; 298 x 235 mm). Engraved frontispiece portrait by A. B. Durand after the portrait of Webster painted by S. F. B. Morse, printed by J. R. Burton. With the final leaf of "Additions" and "Corrections" at the end of Volume II, which is often lacking. 'Advertisement' leaf at the beginning of the first volume. Laid into this copy is one bifolium (four pages) of manuscript lexicographical notes in Noah Webster's hand. It comprises a working copy (with numerous corrections) of an alphabetical list of 126 words, listed from A to W, with the origin of each word written next to it (for example: "testimony...tystiolaith"). Leaf measures 7.875 x 13.125 inches (200 x 334 mm) folded once to make four pages. Noah Webster manuscripts related to his dictionary are noteworthy as they are exceedingly scarce.

    Uncut in original boards, newer printed paper spine labels. Spines mostly perished but volumes still solid and tight. Some expected wear and scuffing to boards and a small amount of browning to text. Chemised and housed in slipcases of gilt quarter tan morocco over marbled boards. A wonderful and very clean copy, very scarce in the original boards.

    "'The most ambitious publication ever undertaken, up to that time, upon American soil.' Webster began work on his Dictionary in 1800. Along the way he produced his fat duodecimo Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, New Haven, 1806 ... and an abridgement of this for schools in 1807, and by 1813 he had learned twenty languages, seven of which were Asiatic or dialects of the Assyrian, to which twenty he later added Portuguese, Welsh, Gothic and the early dialects of English and German. He spent a year abroad in 1824-25 to perfect the work, and began printing May 8, 1827 ... Webster set a new standard for etymological investigation, and for accuracy of definition ... and included 70,000 words, as against the 58,000 of any previous dictionary. There were 2,500 copies printed, in boards uncut or full calf...Webster wrote every word of the manuscript of the dictionary himself" (Grolier, 100 American).

    "This dictionary, which almost at once became, and has remained, the standard English dictionary in the United States, was the end-product of a stream of spelling books, grammars, readers and dictionaries which flowed from the pen of the industrious Noah Webster ... Webster's great dictionary, all the 70,000 entries of which he wrote with his own hand, has been reprinted and brought up to date innumerable times ... the book marked a definite advance in modern lexicography, as it included many non-literary terms and paid great attention to the language actually spoken. Moreover, his definitions of the meaning of words were accurate and concise (Sir James Murray, editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, called him 'a born definer of words') and have for the greater part stood the test of time superbly well" (Printing and the Mind of Man).

    Grolier, 100 American, 36. Printing and the Mind of Man 291. Sabin 102335. Skeel 583.


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