7 June 2006
Sold to benefit Repton School, Derbyshire
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° (415 x 255mm). Titles printed in red and black, Anglo-Saxon, roman and italic types, double-column. (First title trimmed and mounted, second leaf and second title guarded, spotted, some browning, neat marginal tear in one leaf.) Modern calf. Provenance: I. Greaves (stamp on title) -- Repton School, Derbyshire (stamps).
FIRST EDITION of "the most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography' (PMM). Commissioned by a group of booksellers in 1746, Johnson laboured for 9 years with a small team at Gough Square on the monumental task. Its publication on 15 April 1755 was delayed a few weeks for Oxford to confer an MA on Johnson (who had left Pembroke College in 1729 after only one year), and the degree is cited on the title-pages. Its success was immediate, with a second edition printed the same year, and it quickly became a standard authority, notable for its originality and comprehensiveness. His methodology was vastly superior, and his use of illustrative quotations something altogether new in an English dictionary; descriptive rather than prescriptive, he included "the entire sweep of words from the crude and demotic to ... recent fanicful forms imported from other languages" (DNB). Courtney and Smith p. 54; Chapman and Hazen p. 137; Fleeman 55.4D/1a; Rothschild 1237. (2)
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