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A Dictionary of the English Language

A Dictionary of the English Language. A Dictionary of the English Language. A Dictionary of the English Language.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
A Dictionary of the English Language... New York: AMS Press, 1967. Originally printed by W. Strahan for J. and P. Knapton et al, 1755.
(SPL) PE 1620 .J6 1967

This landmark lexicon finally came to fruition after being contemplated by the Royal Society since 1664. Johnson’s dictionary codified the spelling of English words, as well as providing complete and helpful definitions of their meanings. The principle of standardized spelling had already been accepted in Europe, but this notion was considered quite novel in mid-18th century England. While Dr. Johnson was scholarly in his approach, to a modern reader, his dictionary would still seem rather idiosyncratic. For example, Johnson offers a self-referential definition for a lexicographer as “a harmless drudge.”

Johnson’s dictionary was sponsored by a “conger,” or cooperative group, of seven booksellers. Congers commonly banded together, especially early in the century, to share the financial risks involved in publishing; membership could change for each particular title. But as individual publishers began to amass fortunes and the risks were no longer so daunting, the practice of congers diminished.