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The Making of Johnson's Dictionary 1746-1773 (Cambridge Studies in Publishing and Printing History) Paperback – 26 Jan 1996


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'… a major contribution to Johnsonian studies sure to endure the test of time … a methodological model that will doubtless influence future scholarship well beyond eighteenth-century or lexicographical studies … surely a landmark study.' British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies

'After Reddick, there can be no return to any unexamined sense of the Dictionary's wholeness. At the same time, he makes Johnson's achievement appear, if anything, greater, a more deeply human monument built out of shreds and patches.' The Times Literary Supplement

'… a fascinating and wonderful piece of scholarly detective work … The chapter that Reddick bases solely on his new discoveries … is as good a single chapter as anyone has written in any book on Johnson of the last thirty years.' The Age of Johnson

'An important, exact, and fascinating book.' Bibliographical Society of America

'… a landmark study.' Eighteenth-Century Studies '… a fascinating and wonderful piece of scholarly detective work.' The Age of Johnson

Book Description

Allen Reddick's acclaimed study of the conception, composition, writing and subsequent revision of the first great English dictionary, using newly discovered manuscript materials. This second edition incorporates new commentary and scholarship.

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JOHNSON'S GREAT Dictionary of the English Language, virtually from its inception, has represented a contribution not only to English letters and lexicography, but also to English literary and heroic myth. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Foundational Document in Modern Johnson Scholarship 16 April 2013
By James Bartholomew Hamster - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If there is one realm in which Reddick's work particularly shines, it is in grounding the creation of Johnson's Dictionary in the humanity of its creator. Readers frequently find themselves in the workplace of Johnson and his amanuenses, enduring the continual task of compilation even as the passage of nine years for the Dictionary's original creation (and several more in revision) alter the circumstances of those involved in the enterprise. In this way, the Dictionary serves as the means for assembling a biography of Johnson during the span of his involvement - and, through Johnson, a biography of his associates - and recontextualizing the contents of the Dictionary in light of this understanding.

Let there be no mistake, however: Reddick's account of Johnson's work is highly meticulous. The emphasis on the human effort behind the Dictionary is made possible through painstaking analysis of what often prove minute details within the primary source texts: namely, original published editions and manuscripts of the Dictionary, most notably the unfinished Sneyd-Gimbel manuscript. For example, much of Reddick's interpretation of the impact of Johnson's theological and political leanings on the Dictionary comes out of a comparative analysis of the first published edition and the author's revised fourth edition; similarly, gaps between the releases of copy to Johnson's printer are used to corroborate or complicate biographical information made available from other sources such as Johnson's personal correspondences. While Reddick's footwork is quite comprehensive and seldom proves contentious, the juxtaposition of this intense lexicographical analysis and its practical biographical conclusions can prove jarring for those not already well-versed in study of the primary source material. The overall structural attempt toward a chronological account of the making of the Dictionary is at times confusing, as the analysis compares the work-in-progress of a very specific moment in the Dictionary's creation to a version several years later or prior, mixing the sense of chronology somewhat and resulting in an occasionally difficult reading experience.

However difficult it is to glean a comprehensive understanding of Reddick's account from an initial read, the value of this book is clear on the basis of two characteristics. First, the holistic impression Reddick assembles of the interrelation between Johnson's biography and the Dictionary as a fundamentally personal and human labour rather than a detached academic or commercial enterprise is one which fundamentally shapes the reader's understanding of Johnson's work. Second, the often-dense analyses of primary texts in support of Reddick's interpretations prove useful as critical references and primers for further research. For those looking to engage in their own detailed scholarship on Johnson's Dictionary, Reddick's work in linking together the extant primary source materials forms a set of guideposts in identifying how to approach new avenues of textual analysis for a text whose breadth and complexity can prove frightening.
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