The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary How, over half a century, did Prof. James Murray corral 414,825 words and 1,827,306 "illustrative quotations" into the 15,490 single-spaced pages of the first, 12-volume… The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary How, over half a century, did Prof. James Murray corral 414,825 words and 1,827,306 "illustrative quotations" into the 15,490 single-spaced pages of the first, 12-volume… History
Book Review

The Meaning Of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary (Fall 2003)

EW's GRADE
A-

Details Writer: Simon Winchester; Genre: History

How, over half a century, did Prof. James Murray corral 414,825 words and 1,827,306 ''illustrative quotations'' into the 15,490 single-spaced pages of the first, 12-volume Oxford English Dictionary, ''the finest dictionary ever made in any language''? And how did Winchester wring a second great yarn out of the history of a reference book? His 1998 best-seller, ''The Professor and the Madman,'' a dual character study contrasting Murray with the lunatic who did invaluable OED legwork from his asylum cell, skimmed through some of the material here, but this is the fuller, more peculiarly inspiring account. And Winchester's involving and gregarious narration is nearly Dickensian. Even his footnotes twinkle.

Originally posted Oct 03, 2003 Published in issue #731 Oct 03, 2003 Order article reprints