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1755 First Edition - Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

Two Volumes - Johnson's Dictionary

1755 First Edition - Samuel Johnson' Dictionary

1755 First Edition - Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

Two Volumes - Johnson's Dictionary [ 1755 ]


London, W. Strahan et al., 1755, First Edition. 2 volumes, folio 41.9 x 26,4 cm (16-1/2inches x 10-3/8 inches). Titles in red and black, all but the preface set in two columns.

First edition of Johnson's Dictionary. This work has at various times been called "the most important British cultural monument of the eighteenth century" (Hitchings); "the only dictionary [of the English language] compiled by a writer of the first rank " (Robert Burchfield) and first genuinely descriptive dictionary in any language.

Samuel Johnson's monumental work, which drew on all the best ideas and aspects of earlier dictionaries, was published on April 15, 1755 in an edition of 2000 copies. The price was a high one 4 10s, or 3 10s to the trade. The group of publishers whose names appear in the imprint were joint proprietors, having paid Johnson 1575 in installments for a copy, which took him eight years to complete. Some of Johnson's advance was used to rent the well-known house in 17 Gough Square, where the garret became his "dictionary work-shop". He called on the assistance of six amanuenses, five of whom, Boswell proudly records, were Scotsmen, and who were almost derelict when he hired them. "With no real library at hand, Johnson wrote the definitions of over 40,000 words... illustrating the senses in which these words could be used by including about 114,000 quotations drawn from English writing in every field of learning during the two centuries from the middle of the Elizabethan period down to his own time" (W. Jackson Bate, Samuel Johnson (New York, 1977), p.247. "It is the dictionary itself which justifies Noah Webster's statement that Johnson's writings had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics. Johnson introduced into English lexicography principles which had already been accepted in Europe, but were quite novel in mid-eighteenth-century England. He codified the spelling of English words; he gave full and lucid definitions of their meanings (often entertainingly colored by his High Church and Tory propensities); and he adduced extensive and apt illustrations from a wide range of authoritative writers...but despite the progress made during the past two centuries in historical and comparative philology, Johnson's book may still be consulted for instruction as well as pleasure" (PMM). The Dictionary was issued with two title-pages, identifying the volumes as "I" and "II," and is usually divided between the letters "K" and "L", as here.

Current Condition

Some unobtrusive repairs to title pages, some light moisture marks, otherwise a very good copy of this seminal work in a most pleasing binding. Expertly bound to style in a tan, full sprinkled calf leather binding with gilt spine.