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REVIEWS Middle English Dictionary: Plan and Bibliography. 2007. Second edition. Robert E. Lewis and MaryJane Williams, with the assistance of Marilyn S. Miller. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pp. vii + 174. -L 1: "??e last entry of the Middle English Dictionary (MED) was published in 2001, but the revised Plan and Bibliography appeared in print six years after that. It was an unexpected pause, the result of which is an achievement in miniature worthy in nearly every respect of the massive dictionary it accompanies. Robert E. Lewis, the MED's ultimate editor-in-chief, is responsible for the Plan; he and MaryJane Williams, for many years a review editor and the project's bibliographer, arejointly responsible for the Bibliography , assisted by another of the dictionary's review editors, Marilyn S. Miller. In other words, after seventy-one years of continuous editing and production at the University of Michigan, just three people brought the print MED, all "14,939 pages in 115 fascicles (combined into thirteen volumes), with 54,081 separate entries and 891,531 quotations" (6) of it, to conclusion. A casual observer might take the Plan and Bibliography as a capstone, but really, it is the foundation of the dictionary established retrospectively. The Plan itself is 40 double-column pages long. It includes major sections titled "History of the MiddleEnglish Dictionary Project" (3-6) , "The Scope and Contents of the Middle English Dictionary" (6-9), and "An Entry and Its Constituent Parts" (9-20). This last is divided into further sections on "Headword and Part of Speech," "Spelling and Diacritics," "Variant Spellings and Form Section," "Cross-References," "Etymology," and "Body of the Entry," which is further divided into "Meaning and Definitions," "Phrases," "Compounds and Combinations," "Proverbs," "Names," and "Quotations." Several of these subsections are as informative and extensive as the first two major sections; they explain how to use the dictionary, but also reflect a great deal about the project's history and the linguistic assumptions that underlie the dictionary's design and method. Appendix II is a list of abbreviations, but it is "Appendix I: Dialect Areas and Regional Texts and Manuscripts" and "Appendix III: Chronological List of MED Fascicles" that draw the eye, as they are without parallel in Hans Kurath's original Plan (1954) and are certainly part of this revised Plan's special character and value. Here is another way of looking at the difference between the original Plan and the revised one: the Plan under review runs to 628 column inches, whereas Kurath's original Plan comprised only 256 column inches, such that Dictionaries:Journal ofthe Dictionary Soäety ofNorth America 29 (2008) , 63-70. 64Reviews Lewis's Plan is roughly one-and-a-half times again as long as Kurath's. Some of the difference is a matter of scope. After all, Kurath was no clairvoyant: he couldn't foretell what would happen after he published the original Plan. Many assume that the MED (and other historical dictionaries) are more or less uniform from start to finish, that editors follow a rule book in order to ensure that uniformity which is the mother of reliability. Of course, the rule books exist — they translate dictionary plans into dictionary projects — but the rules usually change over time and across editors, and the dictionary, while nonetheless reliable, is an unstable text. Lewis's history and his commentary on the MED entry's constituent parts are deeply informed — the Plan is supported by 132 references, as well as the MED's extensive archives. Clearly, Lewis has looked at everything relevant to the task and he is exceptionally good at contrasting the principles and practices of the MED's three major editorial periods. So we learn, for instance, that "With respect to the ways of defining, in the editing plan devised by Kurath in the late 1940s the MED was conceived as primarily a bilingual translation dictionary " (14) with synonymic definitions. But things change: In the course of the MED, however, there is a gradual increase in the amount of explicit definitions, and the definitions themselves become more elaborate, more precise, and more descriptive or contextual, with more editorial guideposts for the reader along the way. This...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 63-70
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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