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AN APPEAL TO THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING AND ENGLISH-READING PUBLIC TO READ BOOKS AND MAKE EXTRACTS FOR THE PHILOLOGICAL SOCIETY'S NEW ENGLISH DICTIONARY In November 1857, a paper was read before the Philological Society by Archbishop Trench, then Dean of Westminster, on 'Some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries,' which led to a resolution on the part of the Society to prepare a Supplement to the existing Dictionaries supplying these deficiencies. A very little work on this basis sufficed to show that to do anything effectual, not a mere Dictionary-Supplement, but a new Dictionary worthy of the English Language and of the present state of Philological Science, was the object to be aimed at. Accordingly, in January 1859, the Society issued their 'Proposal for the publication of a New English Dictionary,' in which the characteristics of the proposed work were explained, and an appeal made to the English and American public to assist in collecting the raw materials for the work, these materials consisting of quotations illustrating the use of English words by all writers of all ages and in all senses, each quotation being made on a uniform plan on a half-sheet of notepaper, that they might in due course be arranged and classified alphabetically and by meanings. This Appeal met with a generous response: some hundreds of volunteers began to read books, make quotations, and send in their slips to 'sub-editors,' who volunteered each to take charge of a letter or part of one, and by whom the slips were in tum further arranged, classified, and to some extent used as the basis of definitions and skeleton schemes of the meanings of words in preparation for the Dictionary. The editorship of the work as a whole was undertaken by the late Mr. Herbert Coleridge, 216 To Make Extracts for the NED217 whose lamented death on the very threshold of his work was the first great blow to the undertaking. His place was however ably filled by Mr. F. J. Furnivall, Secretary of the Philological Society, and the well-known founder of the Early English Text, Ballad, Chaucer, and New Shakspere Societies; and for several years the work of reading, extracting, arranging, and sub-editing, went on with zeal. The Early English Text Society was established to lay open to readers those earlier works which were previously only to be read in the original MSS. or in costly privately-printed editions. After some years however, partly because the attention of many of the promoters was diverted to these societies, which were, to some extent, the outcome of the Dictionary movement; partly because there was no immediate prospect of surmounting the financial difficulties of preparing and publishing the work on the vast scale to which the accumulating materials showed it would extend; the interest of readers began to fall off, and their number to dwindle away, till, for some time back, the work— but for a faithful few, especially some half-dozen of the Subeditors , who have never ceased reading and working—has been practically dead. But during the last three years the Philological Society have been earnestly trying to turn to account the vast store of material—some tons in weight— already accumulated, and they have recently succeeded in making an arrangement with the Delegates of the Clarendon Press in the University of Oxford for the preparation and publication of a Dictionary from these materials, which, if in some points less extensive than the latter would admit of, will, it is believed, be sufficient to satisfy all the requirements of present English scholarship, and to place our language lexicographically abreast of any modem tongue. In any case, it is the most that can be done at present. The preparation of the Dictionary has been undertaken by Dr. J. A. H. Murray, of Mill Hill, N.W., the present President of the Society, with a suitable staff of Assistants. The materials, if completed uniformly with their most advanced portions, giving a full sentence-quotation to each word, sense, and century, would well fill a work of twelve quarto volumes of 2000 pages each; but by reducing the quotations to short sentences, clauses, or phrases, of a line...


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