English-Language Dictionaries, 1604-1900: The Catalog of the Warren N. and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection, and: A Collection of Dictionaries and Related Works Illustrating the Development of the English Dictionary (review)
- Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
- Dictionary Society of North America
- Number 11, 1989
- pp. 283-287
- Additional Information
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Reviews283 REFERENCES Fowler, H. W. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. [1st ed. 1926.] London: Clarendon, 1957. Greenbaum, Sidney, and Janet Whitcut. Longman Guide to English Usage. Essex: Longman, 1988. Randall, Bernice. Webster's New World Guide to Current American Usage. New York: Simon, 1988. Safire, William. "On Language: Shades of Gray/Grey." New York Times Magazine 16 July 1989: 8-10. * * * Robert Keating O'Neill. English-Language Dictionaries, I6O41900 : The Catalog of the Warren N. and Suzanne B. Cordell Collection. New York, Westport, London: Greenwood Press, 1988. xxx + 480 pp. $85.00. H. Rocke Robertson and J. Wesley Robertson. A Collection of Dictionaries and Related Works Illustrating the Development of the English Dictionary. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1989. xlvi + 74 pp. $CAN 55.00. For a field to emerge as the focus of academic study, it must be "ascertained" (just as early lexicographers of English expected their dictionaries to ascertain the language). Thus these two bibliographies are especially welcome additions to the listings compiled by Alston, Burkett, Hamer, and Learmouth & Macwilliam. Even so, all are limited in some way: Alston and Burkett by date and place of publication; Hamer, Learmouth & Macwilliam, and the two books under review to special collections housed in specific locations. 284Reviews O'Neill's superb volume reveals the magnificence of Warren and Suzanne Cordell's collection and memorializes their generosity in bequeathing it to Indiana State University. The initial installment of the collection (listed by Tannenbaum  and amplified by Koda ) attracted a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for cataloging and conservation; it consisted of 453 dictionaries. At the time of Mr. Cordell's death in January 1980, the collection had increased to 4,000 volumes, and thereafter his family added another 2,500 (with the understanding that duplicates could be sold or traded to enhance the value of ISU 's holdings ). In English-Language Dictionaries, 1604-1900, about a third of the total is made known to the world beyond Terre Haute. Mr. Cordell's charming account of his collecting mania is reprinted as a preface emphasizing his pleasure in the knowledge that his library would be housed in perpetuity just a few miles from his birthplace, "a flat over my father's grocery store" (x). Unfortunately, Indiana State University, encouraged to become a focus for lexicographical study by Mr. Cordell's enthusiasm, will no longer be the home of the Dictionary Society after 1990, but the collection will remain as a fitting memorial (see Misenheimer and O'Neill 1983). O'Neill's format is clearly laid out, and the book is handsomely designed, stoutly bound, and printed on acid-free paper (would this were true of all the dictionaries listed!). Arrangement is by author with birth and death dates where known. Complete titles with publisher and pagination follow with occasional brief notes (e. g., prior owners, publication history) and cross-references to other catalogues. A short subject index treats topics such as Art, Bible, Cant, Dialect, School, Science, and so on. Two shortcomings (in my view) detract somewhat from the value of the volume. Many dictionaries have been published anonymously, though later scholarship has identified Reviews285 their compilers. Thus The Slang Dictionary—Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal (London, 1860) is listed, quite properly , under "[Hotten, John Camden]." Owners of this volume , however, have no way of finding it since there is no cross-listing from the title. (It can be found by searching all the works indexed under "Slang.") A second criticism arises from the practice of listing titles serially by initial of authors' surnames and sequence within the collection (e.g., "J-36," Samuel Johnson's Plan for his dictionary ). Should the Cordell Collection acquire a copy of an edition of Johnson's Dictionary I have at hand, a number would have to be found between "J-85a" (a duplicate of J-85) and "J-86." Perhaps the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress number might have been a better choice for an identifier since the Cordell Collection will certainly expand and have need of an expansive catalog system. Nonetheless O'Neill's excellent large volume is already in use by collectors and rare book dealers...