Bruce Moore reviews 'The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary' by Peter Gilliver

There have been popular accounts of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, especially Simon Winchester’s The Surgeon of Crowthorne (1998) and The Meaning of Everything (2003), and there have been more scholarly accounts, such as Charlotte Brewer’s Treasure-House of the Language: The Living OED (2007). Peter Gilliver’s 642-page The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary is firmly anchored in the scholarly tradition, as it documents the history of the OED project from brief mentions of the desirability of a new dictionary in the records of meetings of the Philological Society in the 1840s, through to the OED’s present online,and constantly changing third edition.

The first half of the book deals with the first edition and its supplement (1861–1933), focusing on James Murray as chief editor, and the three other editors appointed later to assist him: Henry Bradley, William Craigie, and Charles Onions. The second half of the book (1935 to the present) focuses on the four supplements edited by Robert Burchfield, the 1989 second edition (amalgamating, in electronic form, the text of the first edition with the supplements) by Edmund Weiner and John Simpson, and the start of the third edition under the editorship of John Simpson.

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Published in December 2016, no. 387

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