JOHNSON, Samuel (1709-1784). A Dictionary of the English Language. London: W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton, T. and N. Longman, C. Hitch and L. Hawes, A. Millar, and R. and J. Dodsley, 1755.
2° (409 x 245mm). Titles in red and black. Printed in double column. (Vol. I: TIv-T2r with dried flower petals adhering or leaving stains, Z2v-2A2 with small soil marks, 3S2 with tear into text, repaired on verso, 4R1-5D2 lightly browned, 5Z1-6B1 and final two leaves with blue ink spots. Vol. II: title spotted, 15U1 with corner torn away, 26S1 to end with worming in lower margin. Occasional marginal spotting and soiling in both vols.) Contemporary speckled calf, gilt spine compartments and morocco letterng-pieces (extremities rubbed and chipped, joints cracked, spines with internal cracking and old repairs at head and foot).
FIRST EDITION. Johnson and his successive amanuenses took nine years to complete the Dictionary published on 15 April, 1755, in an edition of 2000 copies. The final delay was so that the letters 'A.M.' could appear beside his name on the title-page. As his preface made clear, the difficulties in production were many for it 'was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of academick bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow'. Its success as a dictionary was unprecedented. For it was 'the first in England to combine in one reliable work the various functions we now demand of a dictionary' (James Clifford, Dictionary Johnson, 1979, p. 145). Johnson's methodology was vastly superior, and his use of illustrative quotations was something altogether new in an English dictionary, though his view of the language was in fact deeply conservative, with Teutonic words preferred to Gallic. Together the two volumes contain over 116,000 quotations largely drawn, as he said, 'from the writers before the restoration, whose works I regard as the wells of English undefiled, as the pure sources of genuine diction.' Courtney and Smith p. 54; Chapman and Hazen p. 137; Fleeman 55.4D/1a; PMM 201; Rothschild 1237. (2)