A lexicographical whodunnit, 12 May 2023

Here is the abstract of the talk to be given by Dr. Fredric Dolezal at our Annual Meeting in 2023 (see the Events page for more details).

On First Looking into Louis-Lucien Bonaparte’s Copy of Wilkins’s and Lloyd’s Dictionaries: A Lexicographical Whodunnit

Fredric Dolezal, University of Georgia

While conducting a census of library holdings of John Wilkins’s Essay (1668), which includes topical and alphabetical dictionaries of ordinary English words and phrases, I discovered an intriguing copy which contains copious, even voluminous, handwritten manuscript notes that show a close reading and engagement with the lexicographic content of the print artifact, even to the extent of binding within the text interleaf pages to supplement and expand these notes. Especially interesting is the introduction of illustrative quotations into the Essay from a variety of literary sources – most notably from Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of Tub first printed in 1704 – which most likely precedes Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, and most certainly, the New English Dictionary edited by James Murray. Are we looking at the beginnings of a derivative work of lexicography? Is this a dictionary in progress by an as-yet unknown scribal hand? Or is it the passionate pursuit of an unnamed and unknowable arm-chair intellectual engaged in his or her own textual and semantic analysis? Along the way we will explore how ink, paper, watermarks and the transcribed illustrative quotations offer clues for dating the notes. The audience will be invited to participate in this forensic dictionary whodunnit.

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