The professor and the madman : a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary / Simon Winchester. (Text)Call no.: PE1617.O94 W565 1999Publication: New York : HarperCollins Publishers, 1999, ©1998Edition: 1st edDescription: xiii, 242 p. : illISBN: 0060175966; 9780060175962; 9780060839789; 0060839783; 006099486X; 9780060994860Subject(s): Murray, James A. H. (James Augustus Henry), 1837-1915Minor, William ChesterOxford English dictionaryNew English dictionary on historical principlesEnglish language -- Lexicography -- History -- 19th centuryLexicographers -- Great Britain -- BiographyPsychiatric hospital patients -- Great Britain -- BiographyEnglish language -- EtymologyUnited States -- History -- Veterans -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- BiographyLOC classification: PE1617.O94 | W565 1999
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Includes bibliographical references (pages 239-242).
1. The dead of night in Lambeth Marsh -- 2. The man who taught Latin to cattle -- 3. The madness of war -- 4. Gathering Earth's daughters -- 5. The big dictionary conceived -- 6. The scholar in cell block two -- 7. Entering the lists -- 8. Annulated, art, brick-tea, buckwheat -- 9. The meeting of minds -- 10. The unkindest cut -- 11. Then only the monuments.
The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story - a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly - and mysteriously - refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane - and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.