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    "The Most Amazing, Enduring and Endearing One-Man Feat in the Field of Lexicography" (PMM)

    Samuel Johnson. 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. To which are prefixed, a history of the language, and an English grammar. London: Printed by W. Strahan, for J. and P. Knapton..., 1755. First edition of "the most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography" (PMM). Two folio volumes . Approximately 16.75 x 9.75 inches. Unpaginated. Text in double columns. Title-pages printed in red and black. Decorative woodcut tail-pieces. Contemporary full brown calf, spines ruled and tooled in gilt in compartments, black gilt morocco lettering labels, six raised bands. Skillfully rebacked and re-cornered, retaining most of the original spines. Some rubbing, mild soiling to bindings, some toning, dampstaining to text (especially in the first several and last several text leaves), some dampstaining and wear to endleaves, leaf 20Z in volume II is bound out of order, some leaves toned, some minor worm damage to the last few pages of both volumes, bookplate of Thomas Middlemore of Hawkesley on both front pastedowns, ownership signature of "Jno. Shuckburgh Coll: Trin. Oxon/1762" on each front free endpaper. Still, a fine copy of this monumental work.

    "Begun in 1747, and printed over five years, Johnson's Dictionary at once put to shame every other dictionary that had ever been written and set the standard for every dictionary that has been written since. Its genius was at once acknowledged by every hand, and the first edition of two thousand copies was instantly sold out...Perhaps the greatest innovation in Johnson's work was his consistent reliance not on earlier word-lists and dictionaries, not on his own intuition, but on English literature itself-the vast, wonderful treasury of words that, well chosen and properly sorted and accurately quoted, became in itself almost a dictionary of the language. Indeed, after Johnson showed the way by quoting from English literature at every turn, it was even suggested that a great dictionary might be written without definitions at all-if the quotations were plentiful enough and well enough chosen and edited. This insistence on real examples from the real language as it has been really used has informed every serious dictionary every since-from Richardson and Webster to the new OED" (The Collection of The Garden Ltd., Sotheby's New York, November 9 and 10, 1989, lot 148). Courtney and Nichol Smith, pp. 54-55. Grolier, 100 English, 50. Printing and the Mind of Man 201. Rothschild 1237.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2013
    10th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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