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MATERIALS FOR THE HISTORY OF THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY AN APPEAL TO THE DELEGATES HENRY BRADLEY In i860, Herbert Coleridge reluctantly found himself editor of the English Dictionary proposed by the Philological Society of London. Even though much collecting of materials remained to be done, he could "confidently expect, unless any unforeseen accident should occur to paralyze our efforts, that in about two years we should be able to give our first number to the world" (letter reprinted in Dictionaries 10 [1988]: 124). The "unforeseen accident" that prevented further immediate progress,was Coleridge's death on April 23, 1861. From that time, collecting of citations continued but with no definite prospect of publication until in 1875 the American publisher Harper invited Alexander Macmillan to undertake joint publication of a major dictionary. Following extended negotiations , Harper agreed to sponsor a dictionary not exceeding 4,000 pages; James Murray, after producing some specimen entries, thought that 5,000 pages would be the smallest scale possible for a worthwhile dictionary along the lines already determined by the Philological Society. The exuberant F. J. Furnival (then titular editor of the Philological Society's Dictionaryj urged Murray to agree to the 4,000 page limit: "Afterwards we can turn it into 12,000 or 20,000 if the Gods are propitious. " l The Harper-Macmillan negotiations eventually failed, but renewed excitement about the prospect of a Dictionary animated members of the Society. On March 1, 1879, "the Delegates of the Clarendon Press in the University of Oxford" entered into a contract: 221 222Henry Bradley The Delegates shall, without unreasonable delay , cause to be completed, edited, and prepared for publication, a work or book to be entitled "A Dictionary of the English Language," hereinafter referred to as the Principal Dictionary, to contain such an amount of matter as, if printed uniformly so near as may be with the Specimen page marked A and attached to this Agreement, would occupy not less than 6,000 nor more than 7,000 pages, and to print the whole work with reasonable dispatch, and to publish it as soon as it shall be printed, at the discretion of the Delegates , either in parts of such magnitude as they may think fit, or on completion as an entire work, and shall cause the same to be offered for sale in such manner as they may think fit; And the same Dictionary shall be edited and prepared on the same principles and the same lines of historical and linguistic evidence as to the forms and meanings of its words, as are shown on the said Specimen page marked A, and shall contain on its title page "Founded mainly on the materials collected by the Philological Society." In 1881, before publication began, the Delegates agreed to an upper limit of 8,400 pages. When editing was completed in 1928, the Dictionary had produced not 7,000 or 8,400 pages but over 16,000. On November 4, 1887, Henry Bradley (1845-1923) became the independent "second Editor" of the Dictionary and soon joined in the negotiations Murray had begun to expand the size of the work. The Delegates were eager for early completion of the costly project and HI disposed to expanding its scope still further. Bradley's letter of 1896—printed for private circulation to the Delegates and to members of the Philo- An Appeal to the Delegates223 logical Society—reveals one episode in the long dispute. As it shows, scale continued to be measured against the Webster Dictionary of 1864, an index to size originally used in planning for the Harper-Macmillan dictionary. Bradley abo acknowledges comparison with the Century Dictionary (188991 ), the six-volume American work with both verbal and pictorial illustrations that had been commenced and completed before the OED was well started. London March 2nd, 1896. Dear Sir, I have given careful consideration to the resolutions passed by the Delegates at their meeting of the 21st ult., and communicated to me in your letter of the 25th. Your request that I should state "my views on the whole subject" leads me to hope that, notwithstanding the appearance of finality in the wording of the resolutions, the Delegates will...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 220-227
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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