The Corner

Oed Ed

The Daily Telegraph reports that there’s yet another edition (this time illustrated) of the Oxford English Dictionary, but that’s really just an excuse to mention today’s rainy day (and long put off) reading, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, a truly delightful work about one very intriguing aspect of the production of the OED’s first edition.

The book also records how James Murray, the editor of the first OED, described himself when he applied for a job with the British Museum back in 1867:

“I have to state that Philology, both Comparative and special, has been my favourite pursuit during the whole of my life, and I possess a general acquaintance with the languages & literature of the Aryan and Syro-Arabic classes – not indeed to say that I am familiar with all or nearly all of these, but that I possess that general lexical and structural knowledge which makes the intimate knowledge only a matter of a little application. With several I have a more intimate acquaintance as with the Romance tongues, Italian, French, Catalan, Spanish, Latin & in a lesser degree Portuguese, Vaudois, Provencal, and various dialects. In the Teutonic branch, I am tolerably familiar with Dutch…Flemish, German, Danish. In Anglo-Saxon and Moeso-Gothic my studies have been much closer…I know a little of the Celtic, and am at present engaged with the Sclavonic, having obtained a useful knowledge of the Russian. In the Persian, Achaemenian Cuneiform, & Sanscrit branches, I know for the purposes of Comparative Philology. I have sufficient knowledge of Hebrew and Syriac to read at sight the Old Testament and Peshito; to a less degree I know Aramaic Arabic, Coptic and Phoenician to the point where it is left by Genesius.”

Naturally, he didn’t get the job.

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