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Reviews Lynda Mugglestone. Uxicography and the OED/ Pioneers in the Untrodden Forest. Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2000. ? + 288. $145.00. One of the most vivid images in the iconography of scholarship is that of Sir James Murray, tall, upright, and magnificently bearded, standing in a room lined with hundreds of thousands of slips of paper, at work on the OxfordEnglish Dictionary. Parts of the story of the making of that dictionary have been told before, notably in Caughtin the Web of Words, the excellent biography of SirJames by his granddaughter Elisabeth, and in The ProfessorandtheMadman, Simon Winchester's slighter but also interesting biography of a voluntary reader for the dictionary who carried out his work in the asylum for the criminally insane at Broadmoor. No attempt has ever been made, though, to write anything like a comprehensive study of the dictionary, and one would be very welcome: OED is not only one of the great monuments of Victorian scholarly publishing, but also a reference tool which we all use, and which we all need to understand. Such a study may appear before long: the notes on contributors in Uxicography and the OED announce that Lynda Mugglestone, its editor, and Charlotte Brewer, one of its contributors, are at present working on "a book on the history and development of the OED" (viii). For the time being, this collection of essays provides by far the most authoritative and wide-ranging account of how the dictionary was made and how it works. Having said that, the essays are of slightly uneven quality. Mugglestone 's introductory account of the extent to which the OED can be seen as a pioneering work is valuable, and is, like some of the best work elsewhere in the volume, enriched by extensive use of the archive of SirJames Murray in the Bodleian Library. It is followed by an admirable discussion of the editorial process by Elizabeth Knowles, herself a lexicographer, which draws on manuscripts at the Bodleian and on the archives of Oxford University Press. Caught in the Web of Words naturally highlighted James Murray's own work on the dictionary. OED was not, though, a one-man job, and the picture which Knowles gives of the meticulous, intelligent work 100volume 28 number 2 Reviews done by readers, out-of-house subeditors and re-subeditors, in-house editorial assistants, and the three other editors of the dictionary (Henry Bradley, William Craigie, and Charles Onions) is a very helpful reminder of this. It is backed up by Peter Gilliver's valuable appendix "OED Personalia," a collection of prosopographical sketches of about two hundred men and women connected with the dictionary. The next two essays are less interesting. Charlotte Brewer's account of the sources which were read for the dictionary is a perfectly good review of previous treatments of the subject, but does not go far beyond them. Noel Osselton's "Murray and his European Counterparts" rehearses some of the differences between OED and the corresponding dictionaries of German, French, and Dutch, but says nothing at all about two very important counterparts, the huge historical dictionaries of Danish and Swedish, and also ignores the lexicography of Latin and Greek, which forms a vital context for all the vernacular dictionaries. Next, Penny Silva, now the Deputy Chief Editor of OED, writes brilliantly on the making of definitions: this is a subject which could only have been treated by an experienced lexicographer, and one with an acute sense of style into the bargain. She uses a number of emails from the present Chief Editor and Principal Philologist of the dictionary, and this material makes her contribution even more valuable. One other detail about her sources stands out: she is, astonishingly, the only contributor to this volume who draws on the work of Hans Aarsleff, which is of fundamental importance to any attempt to understand the study of language in Victorian England. After Suva's paper, that of Anne Curzan on the wordlist of the dictionary is very disappointing: she explains carefully that OED does not include every word to be found in other nineteenth-century general dictionaries, and vice versa; that its treatment of obsolete words is stronger than...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 100-103
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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