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Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd Ed.

I had the pleasure of happening upon a copy of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language, third edition, in a secondhand bookshop today. Although not the original from 1765, it was a verbatim reprint published in 1828. Not bad, for £50 (though some will think it a waste of money). A rare find nevertheless.


Title page Samuel Johnson's A history of the language and an English grammar

While the book itself is quite worn, it has survived rather well considering it is 182 years old. It is bound in wood and leather in a light tan, typical of books published in the 1700s. The spine has a lot of splits and is partly missing but the original gold embossing and the title, Johnson's Dictionary, is still visible.


Johnson's Dictionary - spine

The pages, considering they are well thumbed and 182 years old, are in remarkably good condition. The colour "marbling" (I don't know the correct term) has survived and the worst wear is evident only from where the book has been pulled from the shelf.


Johnson's dictionary side view

Most exciting, however, is the contents. The timecapsule of words contained within. These are the very definitions written by Johnson. This 1765 edition was the third iteration of the book that made him famous, and the last with which he worked on personally.


A dictionary of the English language by Samuel Johnson LL D

Johnson's continued work on the dictionary was spurred on by the desire to satisfy his criticks, as the word was spelt in his day. He wrote in the preface that a dictionary can never be finished, never be complete, but also that he felt that by this third edition he had made the necessary emendations to answer most critics.


Preface by Dr Johnson

He wrote: 'Perfection is unnattainable, but nearer and nearer approaches may be made; and finding my Dictionary about to be reprinted, I have endeavoured, by revisal, to make it less reprehensible.' Today, his "Dictionary" is viewed as one of the greatest works of literature in the English language. "Less reprehensible", indeed.


A grammar of the English tongue – Samuel Johnson

Also featured in the book is, 'A grammar of the English Tongue'.


The history of the English language – Samuel Johnson

And, 'The History of the English Language'.


A dictionary of the English language – Samuel Johnson

It is with this book that I shall soon start the new "Johnson 1765" section of this website, featuring amusing and interesting entries from this great work – as written by Johnson himself.


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