Boswell's Scottish Dictionary Rediscovered


This paper describes the recent rediscovery by the author of the manuscript materials for James Boswell's Scottish Dictionary: a work which Boswell began in Utrecht in the 1760s, but which he never completed. The surviving manuscript, which was thought to be lost, is now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It had been misattributed to the Scottish lexicographer, John Jamieson, in the nineteenth century and subsequently catalogued under Jamieson's name. This paper gives the latest information on the remarkable history of the manuscript, and provides a first glimpse into the lexical riches in contains. Although never completed, Boswell's dictionary contains over 800 draft entries and is an important new source of information on eighteenth-century Scots. Research is still at an early stage, but the manuscript is already providing antedatings to the information in current historical dictionaries of Scots, and confirming the currency of some Scots words for which there was previously little evidence. It is also now possible to begin to compare Boswell's plan for his Scots dictionary, as outlined in his journals and memoranda, with the evidence of his surviving manuscript. The paper further outlines the author's future plans for transcribing and editing the manuscript, and describes the current website devoted to this ongoing research.