“THE MOST AMAZING, ENDURING AND ENDEARING ONE-MAN FEAT IN THE FIELD OF LEXICOGRAPHY”: THE FINAL EDITION OF JOHNSON’S DICTIONARY EDITED BY HIM, 1785
JOHNSON, Samuel. A Dictionary of the English Language… London: Printed for J.F. and C. Rivington, et al., 1785. Two volumes. Large thick quarto, contemporary full brown calf rebacked, raised bands, red and black morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers.
Sixth edition of Johnson’s monumental Dictionary—the work that “had, in philology, the effect which Newton’s discoveries had in mathematics” (Noah Webster)—the last edition to be prepared by Johnson himself, 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  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). Issued in both this quarto edition and a one-volume folio edition. With engraved frontispiece portrait of Johnson after Sir Joshua Reynolds. Bound without half titles. Courtney & Smith, 54. See Grolier 100. Rothschild 1237. Bookplates, owner inscription. Map affixed to first leaf of Volume II.
Scattered infrequent light foxing; minor marginal dampstaining to lower margins. Light dampstaining to endpapers and frontispiece of Volume I; expert paper repairs and cleaning to frontispieces and title pages.