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PREFACE TO VOLUME I OF A NEW ENGLISH DICTIONAR Y JAMES A. H. MURRAY The story of the origin and progress of the new English dictionary has been told at length in various literary journals and magazines, and is familiar to most persons interested in the study of the English language. The scheme originated in a resolution of the Philological Society, passed in 1857, at the suggestion of the late Archbishop Trench, when Dean of Westminster. It was proposed that materials should be colleded for a Dictionary which, by the completeness of its vocabulary, and by the application of the historical method to the life and use of words, might be worthy of the English language and of English scholarship. With this view, it was resolved to begin at the beginning, and extrad anew typical quotations for the use of words, from all the great English writers of all ages, and from all the writers on special subjects whose works might illustrate the history of words employed in special senses, from all writers whatever before the 16th century, and from as many as possible of the more important writers of later times. Several hundred readers accordingly entered on the task of selecting and transcribing such quotations , and many eminent scholars undertook to arrange the materials thus gathered. Among those who, in various capacities, lent their services to the work, may be mentioned:—Dr. Trench himself; the late Mr. Herbert Coleridge, the first general editor (who died while arranging for the press specimens of his proposed treatment of some early words); Mr. F. J. Furnivall, M.A., his joint-editor and successor, the late Dr. Guest; Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood, M.A.; the late Professor Maiden; the late Professor T. H. Key; the late Lord Lyttelton; the late Mr. Thomas Watts, of the British Museum; Mr. Fitzedward Hall, D.C.L.; Miss C. M. Yonge; Professor E. Dowden, M.A.; Mr. Henry Hucks Gibbs, M.A.; the Rev. Professor W. W. Skeat, M.A.; the late Sir John Richardson, K.C.B.; Mr. W. M. Rossetti; the late Miss Harriet Martineau; the late Hon. G. P. Marsh; the late Mr. R. Grant White. The time requisite to complete even this preliminary 179 180Preface to Volume I labour of reading books and colleding quotations proved so long, that several promoters of the undertaking died, and many became absorbed in other duties, before it was possible to take in hand the adual preparation of the intended Dictionary ; but the materials continued to accumulate, till upwards of two million quotations had been amassed, portions of which were also provisionally arranged, and made more or less ready for use. For several years no further steps were taken; but, in 1878, specimens which had been prepared from some of these materials by the present Editor, on behalf of the Council of the Philological Sodety, were submitted to the Delegates of the Clarendon Press. The Delegates consented, upon certain conditions, to bear the expense of printing and publishing a Didionary to be founded on these materials, the preparation of which in its present form was commenced in 1879. Careful examination of the quotations, then for the first time colleded in one place, and arranged in a continuous alphabetical series, showed that much work still remained to be done, in order to render the material adequate for the purpose. Accordingly, a new appeal was made to volunteers to collect additional quotations from specified books, of which lists were from time to time issued. More than 800 readers responded to this appeal, the majority of them being in Great Britain, but also a large number in the United States (of whose .work Prof. F. A. March, of Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, most kindly undertook the organization and superintendence), and not a few in various British Colonies and Foreign Countries. In the course of three years a million additional quotations were furnished, raising the total number to about 3 lh millions, selected by about 1 300 readers, from the works of more than 5000 authors of all periods. About thirty sub-editors (including a few who had never ceased to work for the Didionary) offered their gratuitous services in arranging quotations, preparing...


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