While I’m at it, I might point out that some of the oddities from Johnson’s Dictionary are being displayed, one word per day throughout 2009, on a blog kept here.

The entries are from the Sneyd-Gimbel copy of the Dictionary, which is at Yale:

This project offers readers a daily browse through the English language, as read and recorded by Samuel Johnson in the mid-eighteenth century. Because the entries are drawn from a working draft of the Dictionary of the English Language, it also presents a glimpse into the production and revision of Johnson’s Dictionary and its later editions.

The entries and images for this blog are taken from an annotated copy of the first edition of Johnson’s Dictionary held in the collections of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This so-called “Sneyd-Gimbel” copy (named after two of its owners, Ralph Sneyd and Colonel Richard Gimbel) was a copy used by Johnson and his amanuenses during the process of revision for the fourth edition of the Dictionary, and includes both annotations by Johnson and his helpers and hand-written slips with further entries and quotations.

Lexicographical enthusiasts can find further information on the making of Johnson’s dictionary in Allan Reddick’s The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746 – 1773 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Henry Hitching’s Dr Johnson’s Dictionary: The Extraordinary Story of the Book that Defined the World (London: John Murray, 2005).

The blog itself is fascinating: a daily ramble through some old and disused words illustrated with beautiful photographs of the Sneyd-Gimbel copy. I missed the sesquicentennial of the Dictionary in 2005 because I had this little matter of a dissertation to finish, but if I live to be an old coot I’ll make the tercentennial in 2055. Chances are I won’t make it to the tercentenary of Johnson’s death in 2084, however.

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