I recently finished The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester, and I’m quite sure I need my own Oxford English Dictionary.
The nonfiction account documents how the OED was born, the life of one of its most prominent editors, Professor James Murray, and a great contributor to the book, Dr. W. C. Minor, who was (as the title may give away) a madman.
Just imagine working on the dictionary that would make literary history and then finding out that one of the biggest volunteers was not a retired wealthy doctor like you assumed, but an American Civil War Veteran with residence in an asylum.
Murray took the news a lot better than most men would have, but then again it was a different time and Dr. Minor had proved to actually be a genius lexicographer.
The book itself is wonderfully written. Winchester did an amazing job intertwining the stories and not forgetting the third character–the dictionary.
I’ve never found a dictionary more fascinating.
Maybe one day when I have my library set up I’ll buy the extensive volumes.
Even though I know that the internet is a thing, I know that I can get a dictionary almost anywhere, and I know that it’s pricey – around $1,100, I believe. But it’s a complied list of the entire English language, their definitions, and the earliest books they’re quoted in…and that’s pretty cool.