DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, in Which the Words are deduced from their Originals...To Which are Prefixed a History of the Language and An English Grammar
DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, in Which the Words are deduced from their Originals...To Which are Prefixed a History of the Language and An English Grammar
DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, in Which the Words are deduced from their Originals...To Which are Prefixed a History of the Language and An English Grammar

DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, in Which the Words are deduced from their Originals...To Which are Prefixed a History of the Language and An English Grammar

(London: Printed by W. Strahan, For J. and P. Knapton; T. and T. Longman; C. Hitch and L. Hawes; A. Millar; and R. and J. Dodsley, 1755).

RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT, THE TRUE FIRST EDITION OF SAMUEL JOHNSONíS MASTERWORK AND A WONDERFUL CLEAN AND LARGE COPY. "The most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography (PMM). Begun in 1747 and printed over five years, Johnson's DICTIONARY set the standard for all subsequent lexicographical work. Its excellence was immediately recognized in all quarters and the first edition of two thousand copies sold quickly.
What set Johnson's DICTIONARY apart from earlier efforts was his reliance on the examples of English literature rather than his own intuition or previous word lists or dictionaries, a method that has been the standard ever since, from Richardson and Webster to the Oxford English Dictionary. Johnson, in undertaking this vast work, set out to perform single-handed for the English language what the French Academy, a century before, had attempted for French. He hope to produce "a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated;" and though, of course, no language can be frozen in time, by aiming at fixing the language he succeeded in giving the standard of reputable use. As Noah Webster stated, his work "had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics."
Johnson presumed to finish the work for the Dictionary in three years by his own labor, but he underestimated the work required and it eventually took nine years to complete (though not all of his time was spent upon the Dictionary, as he was also the editor of The Rambler at this time) and required the assistance of six amanuenses--five of whom, to Boswell's satisfaction, were Scotsmen.
"Johnson's achievement marked an epoch in the history of the language. The result of nine years labor, it did more than any other work before or since towards fixing the language. The preface ranks among Johnson's finest writings. The most amazing, enduring, and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography" (Printing and the Mind of Man).
"The most important British cultural monument of the eighteenth century" (Hitchings); "the only dictionary [of the English language] compiled by a writer of the first rank " (Robert Burchfield) and first genuinely descriptive dictionary in any language. "Johnson's writings had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics" (Webster).
"It is the fate of those that toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be ... punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward. Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries ... Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach" (Johnson, preface to the present work).
Samuel Johnson's monumental work, which drew on all the best ideas and aspects of earlier dictionaries, was published on April 15, 1755 in an edition of 2000 copies. The price was a high one £4 10s, or £3 10s to the trade. The group of publishers whose names appear in the imprint were joint proprietors, having paid Johnson £1575 in installments for copy which took him eight years to complete, although in the final months publication was held back for the granting of his Oxford M.A. (Feb. 20, 1755). Some of Johnson's advance was used to rent the well-known house in 17 Gough Square, where the garret became his "dictionary work-shop." He called on the assistance of six amanuenses, five of whom, Boswell proudly records, were Scotsmen, and who were almost derelict when he hired them. "With no real library at hand, Johnson wrote the definitions of over 40,000 words...illustrating the senses in which these words could be used by including about 114,000 quotations drawn from English writing in every field of learning during the two centuries from the middle of the Elizabethan period down to his own time" (W. Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson (New York, 1977), p.247. "It is the dictionary itself which justifies Noah Webster's statement that Johnson's writings had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics. Johnson introduced into English lexicography principles which had already been accepted in Europe but were quite novel in mid-eighteenth-century England. He codified the spelling of English words; he gave full and lucid definitions of their meanings (often entertainingly colored by his High Church and Tory propensities); and he adduced extensive and apt illustrations from a wide range of authoritative writers...but despite the progress made during the past two centuries in historical and comparative philology, Johnson's book may still be consulted for instruction as well as pleasure" (PMM).
The Dictionary was issued with two titlepages, identifying the volumes as "I" and "II," and is usually divided between the letters "K" and "L," as here. Although Fleeman estimates that "more than half" of the 2000 copies survive, their condition is extremely variable. The great weight of the work ensured that when standing upright and even when stoutly bound, the covers were likely to detach with time. Once the covers were loose, damage to the titles and the other outer leaves was almost inevitable.

. Item #31260

2 volumes. First Edition. Title pages printed in red and black, woodcut tailpieces. Royal folio (410 x 260 mm.), expertly bound to style in full polished speckled calf, spines with raised bands creating seven compartments, ruled in gilt on either side of each band, the bands with fine gilt toolwork, two compartments with contrasting red and green morocco lettering pieces gilt, five compartments with full gilt panel decorations incorporating elaborate borders and central tooling, the covers with double gilt fillet rules at the borders, all edges dyed as original and without further trimming. Collation: Vol. I [A]2, B-K2, a-c2, d1,2B-2K, 2L-13A2, one leaf signed 13B-14Z; Vol. II [-]1, 15A-16Z2, one leaf signed 17A-17Z, 18A-22E2, one leaf signed 22F-22Z, 23A-27D2, one leaf signed 27E-28Z, 29A-31C2 . A very handsome copy beautifully preserved. The bindings in superb condition. The text-blocks both clean and unpressed and with fine impressions. a large copy with fine margins. A beautiful copy in excellent condition. and an unusually fine, handsome and clean set.

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Price: $22,500.00