Compendious Dictionary


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WEBSTER, Noah. A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. Hartford: From Sidney's Press, for Hudson & Goodwin, 1806. Small octavo, contemporary full brown marbled sheep, red morocco spine label.

Scarce first edition of "the first great American dictionary" (Rosenbach), most desirable in contemporary American sheep binding.

"Webster's Compendious Dictionary of the English Language was altogether more ambitious than any of its American predecessors. Whereas they had been intended to fill a gap at the bottom end of the market… Webster aimed at producing something that would appeal to his countrymen because it was American, as well as being bigger and better than the English pocket dictionaries" (Micklethwait, 142). "Webster was an ardent nationalist and he wanted to stress the political separation from Britain by the cultivation of a separate American language. Under the influence of his friend Benjamin Franklin he turned his attention to 'a reformed mode of spelling'; and although he rejected the radical phonetic innovations proposed by Franklin, he went far enough to give many printed American words a distinctive appearance. The 'American' spelling appeared first in the Compendious Dictionary of the English Language and was henceforth adopted by American printers" (PMM 291). "At the end are included a list of the Post Offices in the United States, the number of inhabitants in the United States, with the amount of exports, and a chronological table. In the Preface are criticisms of some of the definitions included in Johnson's Dictionary. A most important American first edition" (Rosenbach 28:484). Without front free endpaper (blank). Sabin 102347. Ellsworth & Skeel 577. Evans 11831. Cordell, 183. Early owner signatures in ink and pencil on rear flyleaves.

Faint marginal dampstain and minor offsetting to first few leaves, text generally clean, contemporary sheep in excellent condition. Most desirable in contemporary American binding.

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