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This project offers readers a daily browse through the English language, as read and recorded by Samuel Johnson in the mid-eighteenth century. Because the entries are drawn from a working draft of the Dictionary of the English Language, it also presents a glimpse into the production and revision of Johnson’s Dictionary and its later editions.

The entries and images for this blog are taken from an annotated copy of the first edition of Johnson’s Dictionary held in the collections of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This so-called “Sneyd-Gimbel” copy (named after two of its owners, Ralph Sneyd and Colonel Richard Gimbel) was a copy used by Johnson and his amanuenses during the process of revision for the fourth edition of the Dictionary, and includes both annotations by Johnson and his helpers and hand-written slips with further entries and quotations.

Lexicographical enthusiasts can find further information on the making of Johnson’s dictionary in Allan Reddick’s The Making of Johnson’s Dictionary, 1746 – 1773 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990) and Henry Hitching’s Dr Johnson’s Dictionary: The Extraordinary Story of the Book that Defined the World (London: John Murray, 2005).

2 Responses to “About this copy of the Dictionary”


  1. 1 Glenn March 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I can’t seem to find the word “welfare” using the search function or in the archives. Any idea how I can get the word to show so others can also see the definition in Samuel Johnsons Time?

    • 2 Kathryn James March 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      This blog included only 365 words from the dictionary, and I’m afraid that “welfare” was not one of them! The Beinecke’s annotated proof copy of the Dictionary has been scanned, and you will find this in the Beinecke Library’s Digital Images and Collections, with a search for “Johnson.”


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