Dictionary of the English Language


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JOHNSON, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language… Dublin: Thomas Ewing, 1775. Two volumes. Large thick quarto, modern full brown morocco gilt, raised bands, marbled endpapers.

Fourth edition—first Irish edition, and first quarto edition—of Johnson's monumental Dictionary, the work that "had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics" (Noah Webster), handsomely bound.

"Johnson performed with his Dictionary the most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography… The preface ranks among Johnson's finest writings… 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" (PMM 201). "The existence of an annotated copy of the fourth edition [1773] shows that Johnson was indeed preparing for still another revised edition sometime before his death [on December 13, 1784], making changes as if for a printer to follow" (Reddick, 173). Most of these revisions first appeared in this sixth edition, which, along with the seventh later the same year, saw print "immediately following Johnson's death in order to compete with rival editions… now that the copyright for the Dictionary had lapsed, and to take advantage of the increased attention being paid to Johnson's works… The advertisements… emphasized the great advantage that they held over any rivals: they would print their dictionary 'from a copy in which there are many additions and corrections, written by the author's own hand, and bequeathed by him to Sir Joshua Reynolds, who has… indulged the proprietors with the use of it, that the public may not be deprived of the last improvements of so consummate a lexicographer as Dr. Johnson" (Reddick, 175-76). The fourth edition first appeared in London in 1773; this first Irish edition was printed from that fourth edition, and states "Fourth Edition" on the title page. Volume I with "Advertisement to This Edition," "Preface," "The History of the English Language," and "A Grammar of the English Tongue." Bound without half titles; with four-page list of subscribers in Volume I. Courtney & Smith, 56-57. See Grolier 100.

Repaired closed tear to title page of Volume I. Only occasional mild foxing or toning to text. Full morocco bindings attractive and fine.

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