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Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary

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Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

By the early 18th century, France and Italy had impressive lexicons, but there was no authoritative dictionary of English. Sensing the deficit, and impelled by a mixture of national pride and commercial expedience, the prodigious polymath Samuel Johnson embraced the task, turning over the garret of his London home to the creation of his own giant dictionary.

Johnson imagined that he could complete the job in three years. But the complexity of English meant that his estimate was wildly inadequate. Only after he had expended nearly a decade of his prime on the task did the dictionary finally appear — magisterial yet quirky, dogmatic but generous of spirit, and steeped in the richness of English literature. It would come to be seen as the most important British cultural monument of the 18th century, and its influence fanned out across Europe and throughout Britain's colonies — including, crucially, America.

Brilliantly entertaining and enlightening, Defining the World is the story of Johnson's heroic endeavor, 250 years after the first publication of the Dictionary. In alphabetically sequenced chapters, Henry Hitchings describes Johnson's adventure — his ambition and vision, his moments of despair, the mistakes he made along the way, and his ultimate triumph.

Review:

"The story [Hitchings] tells is multifaceted...Anyone who can get lost in a dictionary will devour this sparkling, heady brew of a book." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Hitchings’s delightful book is infused with details about the history of lexicography and the English language, and he places the dictionary in the context of Johnson’s difficult life and the fame that followed." Bookmarks magazine

Review:

"A first-rate synthesis of one of literary history's most astonishing endeavors." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[T]he dictionary is an extraordinary work from a polymath of the first order, and Hitchings does it great service by delivering a readable, thoroughly researched, and carefully documented study." Library Journal

Synopsis:

In 1746, Samuel Johnson undertook the Herculean task of writing the first comprehensive English dictionary. Imagining he could complete the job in three years, Johnson in fact took more than eight, and the dictionary itself turned out to be as much a work of literature as it was an invaluable reference. In alphabetized chapters, from "Adventurous" to "Zootomy," Henry Hitchings tells of Johnson's toil and triumph and offers a closer look at the definitions themselves, which were alive with invention, poetry, erudition, and, at times, hilarious imprecision. The story of Johnson's adventure into the essence of words is an entertainment that "sparkles on every page" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

Synopsis:

 
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year

 

In 1746, Samuel Johnson undertook the Herculean task of writing the first comprehensive English dictionary. Imagining he could complete the job in three years, Johnson in fact took more than eight, and the dictionary itself turned out to be as much a work of literature as it was an invaluable reference. In alphabetized chapters, from "Adventurous" to "Zootomy," Henry Hitchings tells of Johnson's toil and triumph and offers a closer look at the definitions themselves, which were alive with invention, poetry, erudition, and, at times, hilarious imprecision. The story of Johnson's adventure into the essence of words is an entertainment that "sparkles on every page" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

About the Author

Henry Hitchings was born in 1974. Educated at the universities of Oxford and London, he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Samuel Johnson. Defining the World is his first book. He lives in London and contributes to a wide range of newspapers and periodicals.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312426200
Author:
Hitchings, Henry
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
General
Subject:
Historical - British
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Subject:
Biography-Historical
Subject:
English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Subject:
Europe - Great Britain
Subject:
Etymology
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20061031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 16 black-and-white illustration
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.26 x 5.6 x 0.78 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
Reference » Books on Books

Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$17.00 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426200 Reviews:
"Review" by , "The story [Hitchings] tells is multifaceted...Anyone who can get lost in a dictionary will devour this sparkling, heady brew of a book."
"Review" by , "Hitchings’s delightful book is infused with details about the history of lexicography and the English language, and he places the dictionary in the context of Johnson’s difficult life and the fame that followed."
"Review" by , "A first-rate synthesis of one of literary history's most astonishing endeavors."
"Review" by , "[T]he dictionary is an extraordinary work from a polymath of the first order, and Hitchings does it great service by delivering a readable, thoroughly researched, and carefully documented study."
"Synopsis" by , In 1746, Samuel Johnson undertook the Herculean task of writing the first comprehensive English dictionary. Imagining he could complete the job in three years, Johnson in fact took more than eight, and the dictionary itself turned out to be as much a work of literature as it was an invaluable reference. In alphabetized chapters, from "Adventurous" to "Zootomy," Henry Hitchings tells of Johnson's toil and triumph and offers a closer look at the definitions themselves, which were alive with invention, poetry, erudition, and, at times, hilarious imprecision. The story of Johnson's adventure into the essence of words is an entertainment that "sparkles on every page" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).
"Synopsis" by ,
 
A Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year

 

In 1746, Samuel Johnson undertook the Herculean task of writing the first comprehensive English dictionary. Imagining he could complete the job in three years, Johnson in fact took more than eight, and the dictionary itself turned out to be as much a work of literature as it was an invaluable reference. In alphabetized chapters, from "Adventurous" to "Zootomy," Henry Hitchings tells of Johnson's toil and triumph and offers a closer look at the definitions themselves, which were alive with invention, poetry, erudition, and, at times, hilarious imprecision. The story of Johnson's adventure into the essence of words is an entertainment that "sparkles on every page" (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

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