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Lot 1148
4 December 2012, 13:00 EST
New York

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MURRAY, JAMES A.H. 1837-1915, et al. A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884-1933.
10 volumes in original 132 parts plus Supplement Volume (plus a handful of duplicate parts). Folio. Triple column. Original printed wrappers or cloth-backed wrappers; about half with printed dust jackets. Housed in 20 archival board cases. Occasional chipping or freckling to wrappers, about 10 wrappers lacking.

FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL PARTS. The making of the OED began well before the publication of its first fascicle in 1884. The project was initiated by the formal Proposal for the Publication of a New English Dictionary by the Philological Society of 1859, which stated "The first requirement of every lexicon is, that it should contain every word occurring in the literature of the language it professes to illustrate." Attempts by the Society to realize this vision over the next two decades foundered. However, the project was reinvigorated in 1879 with the backing of the Oxford University Press and under the new and eccentric editorship of James A.H. Murray. That year, Murray issued an Appeal to the English-Speaking and English-Reading Public to Read Books and Make Extracts for the Philological Society's New Dictionary, distributing copies among British and American professors, lecturers, personal friends, and members of the Society. Taking advantage of favorable notice in the popular press, Murray encouraged non-academic readers as well to contribute slips documenting the usage and contexts of words they encountered in their reading. Enthusiasm spread quickly, and by the end of 1880, Murray had attracted 754 readers who submitted a combined 361,670 slips for the dictionary. (See Mugglestone Lost for Words pp 8-17.) The project would grow to immense proportions: originally projected as a four volume work to be published in ten years' time, the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was ultimately published in 125 separate parts comprising 10 volumes, requiring 44 years for its completion. In its four-plus decades the dictionary acquired the additional editorship of Henry Bradley, William Craigie, and Charles Onions. "While A New English Dictionary continued to appear on the title pages of the various parts and sections of the first edition 1884-1928, its designation as the Oxford English Dictionary was established from 1895 on the covers and the wrappers of the individual parts. It was not, however, until the 1933 edition ... that Oxford English Dictionary also appeared on the title page" (Mugglestone p 223).

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