Delusions & Grandeur
A Monument to the English Language
Since the advent of the first English dictionary by Robert Cawdrey in the early 17th century, there was no record of the English language in its entirety. That is, until a group of scholarly lexicographers from the Philological Society of London undertook the enormous task in late 19th century. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) website, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Richard Chenevix Trench, initially proposed the idea in 1857 to the Philological Society of London. He suggested in two papers presented to the society that the English language dictionaries available at the time were incomplete and deficient. Trench believed that a new English dictionary should be constructed that encompassed every word in the language with accompanying quotes that stated its origin and use. However, it was a monumental task.
Trench chose two men to start up the project, Herbert Coleridge, who became the dictionarys first editor, and Frederick Furnivall. The two men immediately began enlisting the help of several hundred volunteers. They needed as many people as possible to assist with the reading of thousands of books, in order to amass a collection of English words.
The work was tedious and time consuming, and the interest of many volunteers began to wane after a short time. The project proved to be more difficult than anyone imagined and many believed that the dictionary would never be completed. To make matters worse, mismanagement of the project and the death of Coleridge one year later, further delayed work on the dictionary.
In 1879, a new editor was assigned to the project: James Murray, a Scottish lexicographer teacher and philologist.
While the Scriptorium was being built,
A quote from a submission slip that Minor had sent to Murray -
a1548 Hall Chron., Hen. IV. (1550) 32b,
Duryng whiche sickenes as Auctors write
he caused his crowne to be set on the
pillowe at his beddes heade. - OED
Nevertheless, the construction of the dictionary was taking longer than previously expected. It took approximately five years after