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.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Folio - over 12 - 15" tall. Very Good. Item #003081
From the estate of Marsha & Robin Williams. Two parts in two volumes. Folio (400 x 254 mm). Unpaginated. Collation: vol. I: [A]2 B-K2 a-d2 (-d2) 2B-13A2, with terminal singleton 13B-14Z (12O and P missigned); vol. II: *2 (-*1, blank) 15A-31C2, with singletons at the end of alphabetical sections as follows: 17A-17Z, 22F-Z and 27E-28Z. Bound without the blank leaves *1 and d2 as usual. Title-pages printed in red and black, main text in double columns, ornamental woodcut tailpieces. Modern full brown calf, covers with gilt rules and floral cornerpieces, spines with raised bands in six compartments, gilt-lettered red and green morocco labels to second and third, all with gilt rules, marbled endpapers. Cream cloth-covered board clamshell cases, gilt-lettered brown morocco labels to spines. Text little browned mostly at outer margins, scattered light foxing mostly to margins of a minority of pages, a few dog-ears. In vol. I the title-leaf soiled at margins and mounted on stub, leaf d1 with wedge-shaped cut-off at blank fore-margin outside text area; in vol. II old repair repair at fore-margin of one leaf, minor dampstaining to lower corner of a few leaves, title creased at lower corner. Provenance: the late Robin Williams, American actor and comedian (1951-2014), and his wife Marsha. Attached to this set is a copy of the auction catalogue by Sotheby's, Creating a Stage: The Collection of Marsha and Robin Williams, 4 October 2018. This is lot 304 of this single owner sale. ---- PMM 201; Chapman and Hazen p.137; Fleeman I, p.410; Rothschild 1237; Grolier, 100 English, 50. FIRST EDITION of Johnson's greatest literary achievement and "the most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography. Adam Smith in one of the earliest reviews of the book in the Edinburgh Review, 1755, compared it favourably with the best international dictionaries of modern languages then available, those of the French Academy and of the Accademia della Crusca, both of which 'were composed by a numerous society of learned men and took up a longer time in the composition than the life of a single person could well have afforded'; whereas the English dictionary was 'the work of a single person and composed in a period of time very inconsiderable when compared with the extent of the work'. In fact, it took Johnson less than ten years from writing his first prospectus in 1746 to publication day, 14 June 1755, when the two folios went on sale at £4.10s. The Dictionary was originally the project of a group of publishers and booksellers and the great Scottish printer, William Strahan. They recognized that the time was ripe to bring to fruition the idea of a standard English dictionary which the Royal Society had entertained as far back as 1664. In that year it appointed a committee for the improvement of the English language... Johnson's Dictionary is divided into four parts: the preface, in which he expounds ... the aims and problems of lexicography; a history and a grammar of the English language, both sections being of interest only in that they show the vast ignorance of eighteenth-century philologists before Sir William Jones and his successors in this field; and finally the dictionary proper. The preface ranks among Johnson's finest writings; the history and the grammar, which did not interest him in the least, are dull rehashes of older compilations. 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; and he adduced extensive and apt illustrations from a wide range of authoritative writers." (PMM 201). Johnson and his successive amanuenses took just over eight years to list the 40,000 words found in the Dictionary. He illustrated his definitions with over 114,000 quotations sourced from the classics of English literature, even rewriting some to fit his purposes. This first edition of the complete Dictionary was published on 15 April, 1755, in a print run of 2000 copies.
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