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Samuel Johnson's Dictionary: Selections from the 1755 Work That Defined the English Language [Hardcover]

Jack Lynch
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 14 2004
Samuel Johnson's 1755 two volume, 2,300 page dictionary marked a milestone in language. The work of a great reader and writer, and an earnest compiler, it was England's definitive dictionary for over 150 years until it was superseded by The Oxford English Dictionary. This new edition contains more than 3,100 selections faithfully adapted from the original. Bristling with quotations, the Dictionary offers a treasury of memorable passages on subjects ranging from books and critics to dreams and ethics. For those who appreciate literature and love language, this is a browser's delight - an encyclopaedia of the age and a dictionary for the ages. fribbler n.s. [from the verb.] A trifler A fribbler is one who professes rapture for the woman, and dreads her consent. Spectator No. 288 to lisp v.n. [hlisp, Saxon.] To speak with too frequent applauses of the tongue to the teeth or palate, like children. Come, I cannot cog, and say, thou art this and that, like a many of these lisping hawthorn buds, that come like women in mens apparel and smell like Bucklersbury in sampling time. Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor urinator n.s. [Urinateur, Fr. Urinator, Lat.] A diver; one who searches under water. The precious things that grow there, as pearl, may be much more easily fetched up by the help of this, than by any other way of urinators. Wilkins Math. Magic. abnormous adj. [abnormis, Lat. Our of rule] Irregular, misshapen. Afterclap n.s. Unexpected events happening after an affair is supposed to be at an end.

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From Publishers Weekly

Here is a real treat for word lovers: 3,100 selections from Dr. Johnson's historic dictionary, with definitions, etymologies and usage illustrations. To buss is charmingly defined as "To kiss; to salute with the lips." And laced mutton, readers learn, is "an old word for a whore." The excerpts from the dictionary itself are complemented by the inclusion of Johnson's earlier "Plan of a Dictionary" ("of all the candidates for literary praise, the unhappy lexicographer holds the lowest place," he opines) and three appendixes: one of Shakesperean citations in the dictionary, one of additional literary citations and a third of "piquant terms." ("Ape: A kind of monkey remarkable for imitating what he sees.") In his introduction, Lynch, a Rutgers University Johnson scholar, dispels the myth that this was the first dictionary. It was, however, the first standard dictionary, the one used by Wordsworth, Austen and George Eliot-and this edition of it is fascinating.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A fine new condensed version…it still rewards browsing far more than any other dictionary on the market.”—David Kipen, San Francisco Chronicle
“If a dictionary can be said to have a personality, this one does…the great pleasure of such a book, [is] the way it returns language to us, expanding our ideas of what, exactly, English is…Lynch makes this monumental work manageable.”—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“An immensely useful tool for any Johnsonian, whether scholar or general reader, and performed with Lynch’s well-known learning and precision.”—Paul Fussell, author of Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing and The Great War and Modern Memory
“Through the years I was working on John Adams, I kept an original edition of Johnson’s Dictionary at hand, as I became increasingly aware that the meanings of words in his time were often very different than in our day. I think this new edition has done all present-day lovers of the English language and of the incomparable Dr. Johnson a great service.”—David McCullough
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
Though at heart I'm strictly an OED man, and at work I tend to use the more practical Merriam-Webster's, I've always had a special place in my heart for Samuel Johnson's masterpiece, and I've cherished my facsimile copy (never had the $10,000 an original copy would set me back).
I'm a huge fan of the quirky charm and literary excellence that went into this unabashedly biased dictionary, so I giddily anticipated this new edition. After flipping through it at the bookstore, however, I was a little disappointed that it didn't offer much over my old facsimile copy. Though the new edition does include Johnson's original "Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language," I have that printed in another volume, and the reduction of the book to "selections" really cuts the book too short to warrant my buying it again.
That said, the entries that made the cut are still fabulous. You have to love a lexicographer ("a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge") who had the courage, interest, and patience to write an entire dictionary by himself but also had the modesty to admit that any mistakes were due to "ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars An all-star book available again for browsing Sept. 29 2003
Format:Hardcover
.
In the 18th century, dictionaries weren't just consulted, they were browsed. That was largely thanks to Samuel Johnson's mammoth 1755 achievement, wherein he defined not just the difficult words, but also common words found in everyday speech; to their definitions, he added illustrative quotations from the finest works -- creating a volume that was a pleasure to read, an education, and one which provoked the reader down long paths. If you have the AMS reprint of Johnson's Dictionary (reprinted in the 1970's) you know it's a heavy volume, and not easy to sit in your lap. But Jack Lynch has extracted over 3,000 of the entries into a volume you can not only hold in your lap, but enjoy reading: the print is not tiny, so it's no strain. And it's a pleasure to read.
Jack Lynch has also provided an informative, breezy introduction, which puts Johnson's Dictionary in the context or prior efforts and those that followed, describes Johnson's task and process, and tells you the impact that Johnson had. A wonderful addition is in the back, wherein there are some great footnotes (such as, Johnson's definition of war was part of a US Supreme Court decision regarding the US decision to bomb Kosovo) and a reverse index of the types of words to be found... Jack Lynch ALSO provides a special Shakespearean index -- so you can look up which words Johnson supported with quotations from The Bard.
I already had the 1970s reprint, as well as the Cambridge CD-ROM, and wasn't sure I needed this. But I'm glad I bought it, it's wonderful to have, even for me.<P...
(By the way, I am not related to Jack Lynch, so it's not like I'm a family member trying to boost his sales.)
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An all-star book available again for browsing Sept. 29 2003
By Frank Lynch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
.
In the 18th century, dictionaries weren't just consulted, they were browsed. That was largely thanks to Samuel Johnson's mammoth 1755 achievement, wherein he defined not just the difficult words, but also common words found in everyday speech; to their definitions, he added illustrative quotations from the finest works -- creating a volume that was a pleasure to read, an education, and one which provoked the reader down long paths. If you have the AMS reprint of Johnson's Dictionary (reprinted in the 1970's) you know it's a heavy volume, and not easy to sit in your lap. But Jack Lynch has extracted over 3,000 of the entries into a volume you can not only hold in your lap, but enjoy reading: the print is not tiny, so it's no strain. And it's a pleasure to read.
Jack Lynch has also provided an informative, breezy introduction, which puts Johnson's Dictionary in the context or prior efforts and those that followed, describes Johnson's task and process, and tells you the impact that Johnson had. A wonderful addition is in the back, wherein there are some great footnotes (such as, Johnson's definition of war was part of a US Supreme Court decision regarding the US decision to bomb Kosovo) and a reverse index of the types of words to be found... Jack Lynch ALSO provides a special Shakespearean index -- so you can look up which words Johnson supported with quotations from The Bard.
I already had the 1970s reprint, as well as the Cambridge CD-ROM, and wasn't sure I needed this. But I'm glad I bought it, it's wonderful to have, even for me.<P...
(By the way, I am not related to Jack Lynch, so it's not like I'm a family member trying to boost his sales.)
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still a Masterpiece, Just Wish This Ed Had More "Selections" Nov. 14 2003
By Brian Sawyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Though at heart I'm strictly an OED man, and at work I tend to use the more practical Merriam-Webster's, I've always had a special place in my heart for Samuel Johnson's masterpiece, and I've cherished my facsimile copy (never had the $10,000 an original copy would set me back).
I'm a huge fan of the quirky charm and literary excellence that went into this unabashedly biased dictionary, so I giddily anticipated this new edition. After flipping through it at the bookstore, however, I was a little disappointed that it didn't offer much over my old facsimile copy. Though the new edition does include Johnson's original "Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language," I have that printed in another volume, and the reduction of the book to "selections" really cuts the book too short to warrant my buying it again.
That said, the entries that made the cut are still fabulous. You have to love a lexicographer ("a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge") who had the courage, interest, and patience to write an entire dictionary by himself but also had the modesty to admit that any mistakes were due to "ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish edition, unworthy of a great work Aug. 5 2007
By A bookish fellow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
It's great fun to see a portable edition of the 'dixonary' as Thackeray's headmistress called it. However, this edition from the purveyors of the upscale office furnishings catalog needs a lot more editing and polishing. The Greek in the derivations, for one thing, is atrociously copyedited, replete with mistranscribed letters and spelling mistakes, and completely missing accentuation. This is unforgivable; Johnson, though no Classical scholar, tried to be scrupulously correct in his Greek spelling and accentuation. Johnson's English orthography is mostly updated to 21st century conventions, except when it randomly isn't. (The introduction says no updating has taken place. This is not true.) There is no information given about the editor, or his methods, which makes the whole work a bit suspect.

There are much better editions of the 'Dixonary' out there. Please, find a better one!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of logomachious fun, great for classes! June 25 2005
By J. Davenport - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is by far the best selection of entries from Johnson's famous Dictionary available in print today. The difficult choice from among Johnson's many thousands of entries is well done, focusing on words we no longer use, or whose meaning has changed: this provides a window onto changes in English language and the character of 18th century thought, often with political and philosophical significance. Many of the entries are also intrinsically fascinating and/or humorous, making the book lots of fun. The book's introduction is first-rate, laying out the history and significance of this great lexicographic event in the history of our language. This combination makes the book useful for college courses. The author is a leading Johnson scholar and keeper of the primary website on 18th century English literature. He is also the author of a book on Johnson's insults, which I've found can come in very handy at department meetings.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Samuel Johnson's Dictionary-by Jack Lynch June 18 2005
By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The advent of the 18th century required a formal English dictionary for the keepers of the language. The Samuel Johnson Dictionary served as the authority until the Oxford English Dictionary was first published. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary has an extensive index of literary citations. There are sarcasms; such as, " That one English soldier will beat 10 of France" by Gerrick.

The volume has classic words and sayings of the 18th century .

For instance, the following words are defined:

- to aberuncate is to pull by the roots

- abba is Syrian for father

- bisson means blind

- to blood-let is to bleed

- cit is a city inhabitant

- ciliary belongs to the eyelids

- crinigerous is hairy

- dalliance is fondness

- epulation is a banquet or a feast

This work would be valuable for any student of fine English

literature and early American literature. Every literary library

should have at least one copy or more for research purposes.

The volume is easy to read and reasonably priced.
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