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LEXICOGRAPHY AND POPULAR HISTORY: READERS AND THEIR SLIPS FOR THE NEW ENGLISH DICTIONARY MARSHA L. DUTTON From the inception of the New English Dictionary project members of the Philological Society recognized that the creation of a historical dictionary depended on the assistance of volunteers. People were needed to read English works of all periods and from that reading to provide examples of English words in context to the editors of the dictionary. Thus the earliest printed documents describing the project were centrally concerned to enlist such readers and to direct them in their reading and sampling. The Society's 1859 "Proposal for the Publication of A New English Dictionary"1 requested "help in the reading and noting of books" and promised "to furnish our contributors with such a system of rules as will direct them to the principal points to be attended to in perusing and analysing the books they may undertake, and also ensure general uniformity in the results arrived at" (180). After a list of nine rules for kinds of words and passages sought from contributors, a set of "Mechanical and Practical Regulations" described the size and format of the slips on which such contributions were to be submitted: 1. Each word or phrase should be written out with its quotation and the full reference on a separate halfsheet of note-paper, lengthwise, and on one side of the paper only. [N.B. A ream of common note-paper costs 2s.; this should contain 600 separate sheets and 1200 halfsheets , thus admitting of the registration of 1200 words at a trifling expense.] It is most earnestly requested that this rule may be strictly and undeviatingly followed, its object being to 196 Marsha L. Dutton197 enable the Editors to sort the various contributions at once into alphabetical groups, and so to prevent the accumulations of matter from becoming unmanageable (188). The "Proposal" supplemented its directions for the form of the slips with a sample: feral, adj. So muni/ myriads uf tlte entnimm were /withered ?? with award, Jtimme, war ....... with rueh feral hatred, tile icirrtil ?a? amazed at it. (1621). Burton, Anat. if MeL, Dernier, ./mir. ? the Header, p. 29. Figure 1. Twenty years later, in April 1 879, the Society issued another pamphlet, "An Appeal to the English-Speaking and English-Reading Public to Read Books and Make Extracts for The Philological Society's New English Dictionary."2 This document reported progress to date on the NED, recalling the earlier request that "each quotation [be] made on a uniform plan on a half-sheet of notepaper" and acknowledging the "generous response" of "some hundreds of volunteers" who had been reading and submitting quotations on slips (216). As this pamphlet too invited readers to read and submit slips from their reading, it restated the directions for submissions , again urging readers to "write on a half-sheet of notepaper " (220). By now the project was sufficiently advanced to 198Readers and Their Slips for the NED promise assistance to readers: "For books of any extent, Dr. Murray will be glad to supply slips having date, author, and title ready filled in" (221). Further, British readers were informed that the task was largely theirs, as Americans had fallen short of what had been expected: "The American scholars promised to get the eighteenth-century literature taken up in the United States, a promise which they appear not to have to any extent fulfilled" (218-19). Although both pamphlets supplemented their directions for readers with models of slips, the 1979 "Appeal" was especially careful to specify their content and form, requiring not only the date, author, and title of the work quoted, but the exact reference of the quoted passage, calling for the preservation of all spelling and capitals in the original, and, in special aid to the editors, asking that the reader "Put the word as a catchword at the upper corner of the slip, in its ordinary spelling and simplest grammatical form (as infinitive of the verb), adding the spelling in your quotation (if this differs much); also part of speech, and short definition, if convenient" (221). Later that year another appeal, now addressed to Americans, appeared in the pages of The Nation...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 196-210
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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