JOHNSON, Samuel (1709-1784). 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. London: W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton, and others, 1755.
2 volumes, 2° (418 x 254mm). Titles in red and black, woodcut tail-pieces. (Title of vol. 1 with light browning in margins, some light spotting, occasional light creasing.) Contemporary tree calf (the spines expertly rebacked to style, corners lightly rubbed). Provenance: R.D. Steedman, bookseller (label) -- John Charlesworth (lawyer, author).
FIRST EDITION OF JOHNSON'S GREATEST LITERARY LABOUR and 'the most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography' (PMM). As his use of 114,000 illustrative quotations shows, Johnson clearly intended to combine lexicography with entertainment and instruction. Descriptive rather than prescriptive, Johnson included 'the entire sweep of words from the crude and demotic to ... recent fanciful forms imported from other languages' (DNB). The national pride taken in the dictionary was expressed by the poet Christopher Smart when he wrote in the Universel Visitor: 'I look upon [it] with equal amazement, as I do upon St. Paul's Cathedral; each the work of one man, each the work of an Englishman' (quoted by Henry Hitchings, Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, London, 2005, pp. 199-200). Alston V, 177; Courtney and Smith p. 54; Chapman and Hazen p. 137; Fleeman I, p. 410; Grolier/English 50; PMM 201; Rothschild 1237. (2)