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The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary


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Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgements List of illustrations List of capsules 1: Beginnings 2: Furnivall's Dictionary: 1861-75 Interlude. The work of Furnivall's sub-editors 3: Manoeuvres: 1876-9 4: The road to Ant: 1879-84 5: The Dictionary divides: 1884-7 6: Storm and stress: 1888-97 Interlude. Method: From quotation slip to published entry 7: And then there were four: 1987-1915 8: After twilight: 1915-23 9: Limping over the finishing line: 1923-33 10: Interregnum: 1933-57 11: Learning to swim (again): 1957-72 12: Second Supplement to Second Edition: 1972-89 13: Towards OED3: 1989- Guide to abbreviations Bibliography Index

About the Author

Peter Gilliver has been an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary since 1987, and is now one of the Dictionary's most experienced lexicographers; he has also contributed to several other dictionaries published by OUP. In addition to his lexicographical work, he has been writing and speaking about the history of the OED for over fifteen years.


Being so rich in detail such as names, places, dates, events, and happenings that surround OED, the book is actually about the people starting, making, and continuing the journey of OED. Hence, the book is highly recommended for lexicographers, linguists, teachers, language planners, dictionary users, and fans. In reading this book, readers will obtain a new perspective of seeing OED: from a dictionary to a masterpiece created by dedicated parties working together because of their enormous love and pride of English. * Anna Marietta da Silva, Lexicography *
Until now [...] we have had no reliable comprehensive history of the OED. With The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, however, Peter Gilliver has supplied that missing history. Gracefully written and occasionally wryly humorous, it achieves the highest standard of scholarship: it is an important book that is a pleasure to read. [...] [There] is a lot to cover in a mere 586 pages of narrative, but Gilliver does it thoroughly and neatly. [...]The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary will stimulate many new approaches to the OED, but it will stand as the definitive biography of the project for a century, at least. * Michael Adams, Journal of British Studies *
Peter Gilliver's meticulous account [...] is essential reading for historians, linguists, and literary scholars who are interested in Anglophone lexicography and its most important creation: the OED... This book is not a history of a single dictionary but, instead, the ramified history of an evolving tradition of lexicography that has given rise to an array of indispensable scholarly resources... Gilliver's work is much more than a history of the OED and its makers. It is also a media history of the last 150 years. * Daniel DeWispelare, History *
This work is erudite, massively learned, and meticulously documented and, by some magic instilled into it, both informative and entertaining. [ ] G[illiver]'s claim on the first page of the preface that his being an insider and a working lexicographer is of some advantage is amply justified at every turn in this book [ ] It is no mean feat to digest the multitudinous [ ] minutiae-into a readable and even suspenseful narrative, but Gilliver has pulled it off admirably. The richness of documentary material that underpins this book is remarkable. [ ] The splendid achievement of this book will, despite the fact that new information will inevitably be found and new theories be propounded, deservedly stand as the definitive history of the OED for many years to come. * Language *
Definitive. * Jamie Camplin, History Today *
As befits such a story, and ultimately such an intellectual and prestigious triumph for Oxford University Press, this history is contained in an exemplary volume. The footnotes are legion but never intrusive, there is a 14-page bibliography and an excellent index. The whole is designed and produced in an elegant, handsome and welcoming volume, which does its author, his publishers and, above all, its subject proud. * Stuart James, Reference Reviews *
Skilfully telling the story of a national treasure ... Gilliver provides a peerless progress report. It is to his credit that for all the inescapable longueurs of dictionary production, this account has something of the ripping yarn... Like its equivalent dictionaries across the world, the OED is a national treasure. That it has a fascinating story is to be expected. That it is told by so skilled a narrator as Peter Gilliver is a bonus: both for the great work, and for those who read this book. * Jonathon Green, Times Literary Supplement *
Painstaking and scholarly account... a story which leaves you mentally breathless by the time you arrive at the end... if you're genuinely interested in the English language, and enjoy your linguistic history leavened with quirky details and a touch of dry humour, it's a book which any true language-lover should have on their shelf. * Moira, Vulpes Libris *
In conclusion: The book gives an absorbing and vivid account and a detailed and exhaustive presentation of the meticulously researched facts dealing with the development of the OED and its related dictionaries. At the same time it is a worthy and meritorious tribute to the hundreds of people, who collaborated in establishing one of the great historical dictionaries. * J.C.M.D. du Plessis, Lexikos *
Fascinating. * The Story Reading Ape *
The most wonderful book has just come out. I hate to use the word 'definitive' about any book, but this one justifies it. * David Crystal, DCBlog *
A dream book for logophiles. * Europaeum Bulletin *
This is a riveting read. * Pat Ashworth, Church Times *
Will repay anyone with a serious interest in the story behind one of Britain's greatest treasures. * Michael Quinion, World Wide Words *
The information in this volume, much of it gleaned through careful analysis of written correspondence and annotations on the primary archival material, makes this history definitive. * W. Miller, Choice *
Gilliver's prose is a pleasure to read and his research indefatigable. * Christopher Howse, The Spectator *
Long, careful, authoritatively written, handsomely produced and fascinatingly detailed history * Matthew Engel, Financial Times *
The material is marshalled with erudition and elegance * Nicholas Mander, Daily Telegraph *
It's all here for the fossicking * Karen Shook, Times Higher Education *
Remarkable book ... authoritative ... a thoroughly engaging book for logophiles or those interested in this most enduring of achievements ... Gilliver's painstaking work revivifies many of the unsung heroes of the project * John Garth, Oxford Today *
There is much to enjoy in this scholary [sic!] work and the scholarship is lightened by the illustrations, and by the examples of how individual words have been treated. It is not a work to read at a sitting and, indeed, many will probably prefer to treat it as a reference work, to be dipped into to resolve some issue of lexicography, but it is easy to dip into and then to be captured by a train of events in the history of the fascinating Oxford English Dictionary... The author [...] was able to maintain a ready sense of humour for the enterprise, making the history a work that one can dive into and discover new insights on almost every page, leavened with that humour... A work of real scholarship. * Tom Wilson, Information Review *
Meticulously researched ... groundbreaking ... While it cannot be the last word, it is hard to believe that Gilliver's excellent and careful account of the Dictionary's compilation will ever be superseded * Elizabeth Knowles, Library & Information History *

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