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, T. and T. Longman, C. Hitch and L. Hawes, A. Millar, and R. and J. Dodsley, 1755.
2 volumes, 2° (400 x 250 mm). Titles printed in red and black, woodcut tailpieces. (A few pale stains and spots, approximately 55 leaves with wormhole occasionally touching letters vol.2, a few leaves creased.) Contemporary calf (leather of spines and lower cover renewed, some light wear). Provenance: James Milliken (armorial bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF JOHNSON’S GREATEST LITERARY LABOR 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). 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). Alston V, 177; Courtney and Smith p. 54; Chapman and Hazen p. 137; Fleeman I, p. 410; Grolier English 50; PMM 201; Rothschild 1237.