(Roughly) Daily

A word a day, the Doctor’s way…

The Good Doctor

In celebration of the three hundredth anniversary of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s birth in 1709 (September 18th), Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is posting a definition from the first edition of Johnson’s Dictionary* each day for readers’ lexiconic delight.  The fun began on January 2, 2009, with “ABRO’ACH. adv.“. Words are taken from the annotated proof copy of the first edition (so Johnson’s and his helpers’ occasional manuscript corrections are visible):

Johnson completed his work in 9 years with little help.  (By contrast, the Académie Française had forty scholars spending forty years to complete its dictionary.)  Johnson’s Dictionary was not the first, but it was the accepted authority for 150 years– until the appearance of the Oxford English Dictionary.

* A Dictionary of the English Language (London: Printed by W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton, [1755])

Update: From Kathryn James, D.Phil.. the Assistant Curator, Early Modern Books and Manuscripts & the Osborn Collection, at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University:

Thanks so much for your comment on the Johnson dictionary blog.  I wanted to mention that the blog actually started on January 1, with “ABA’CKE, adv.,” as I found myself counting back on my fingers over the breakfast table this morning with some consternation, wondering whether I’d somehow missed New Year’s Day (alien abduction? a Boswellian revision?).  Somehow wordpress archived this as December 21.

“Abacke” is what your correspondent was taken…  Thanks, Kathryn, for the correction; readers can find that first post (as your correspondent now has) here.

As we choose our words a bit more respectfully, we might observe a moment of silence for The Reverend Charles Dodgson, the cleric, logician, mathematician, photographer, and author better known as Lewis Carroll.  He died on this date in 1898.

Lewis Carroll, as Charles Dodgson

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 14, 2009 at 1:01 am

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