17 November 2004
JOHNSON, Samuel (1709-1784). A Dictionary of the English Language. London: W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton [and others], 1755.
2 volumes, 2° (410 x 256mm). Titles in red and black, woodcut tailpieces. (Some minor soiling or spotting to first and last leaves of each vol. and occasionally elsewhere, occasional light browning, short marginal tear to 3P2.) Contemporary mottled calf (worn, volume II with boards detached). Provenance: John Clevland (c. 1707-1763; printed booklabel) -- by descent to the present owners.
FIRST EDITION. 'Dr Johnson performed with his Dictionary the most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography' (PMM, 201). After years of labour the Dictionary was published on 15 April 1755. Apparently, '[w]hen Robert Browning adopted literature as his profession 'he qualififed himself for it by reading and digesting the whole of Johnson's Dictionary' (Courtney/Smith). Of the original edition of 2000 copies, priced at £4-10s, 'it is likely that more than half' have survived. John Clevland, the owner of this copy, was MP for Saltash and Sandwich, and also Secretary of the Admiralty. Rothschild 1237; PMM 201; Fleeman I, 55.4D/1a; Courtney/Smith, pp. 54-5. (2)
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