A very interesting tale, for those who are interested in the quaint and unusual, or in the history of the English language. This book chronicles the lives of two of the key contributors to the monumental acheivement known as the Oxford English Dictionary; Professor Murray, its first truly effective editor, and Dr. Minor, a schizophrenic American who contributed greatly to the content of the dictionary from his cell in an English asylum for the criminally insane.
While the book is worth a read, be forewarned: Winchester tends to be overly verbose and the text can drag at times--especially towards the end, with its several additional chapters.
This is a wonderful, and slightly twisted, book on the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. It's full of history and all sorts of interesting linguistic tidbits for other geeks like me.
Being a lover of words I really enjoyed a look into some of the history of the OED.
Good story of how an inmate of an asylum contributed to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Before reading (well, listening to) this book, I would have found it difficult to believe that the story of the making of a dictionary could be interesting! But it is. It's full of fascinating, if sometimes sad, characters as well as a wealth of information about how the greatest dictionary in the English language came to be (that, in itself, is amazing).
The author's use of language is superb and -- even more astounding -- he reads the book as well as any professional reader (a rare talent!). I simply loved this book!
I've already read Winchesters book "The Map That Changed the World," and I can't wait to read ALL his books.
The fascinating and poignant story of the Oxford English Dictionary and two similar, yet very different in circumstance, men whose lives would likely never have crossed except for their work on the OED. Although I had heard the story of the 'lunatic American doctor' who contributed reams of information for the OED, I still found myself riveted to the sad story (and occasional salacious detail in my opinion). As a word geek myself, I have a love/hate affair with dictionaries and yes, there are times when I just sit down and read a few pages. The incredible undertaking and vast scope of the project is obvious when you view the dictionary itself in its multiple-volume splendor, but I tend to forget that most Americans have likely never actually seen one in person. So of course, I found the story of the dictionary itself interesting and worthwhile reading, but combined with the inexplicable mystery of how and why the 'madman' was in a situation that enabled him to contribute so much...it just boggles the mind. "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester is well worth your time and a fun, educational read.
Fascinating and detailed account of the devotion thousands of word-lovers in the creation of the OED, the grand keeper of the English language, as told through the work and life of one contributor, imprisoned for life for murder. I've read it twice and will read it again.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I knew nothing about the Oxford Dictionary, much less about the people involved in the making/writing of it. I am going to try and get some more of his books.
This is a truly interesting and fully entertaining book. Chronicling the fascinating and awe-inspiring story behind one of the greatest literary endeavors ever attempted: The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. More precisely, the story of two of the most essential men in its creation: The editor, James Murray, and one of the most helpful volunteer contributors, Dr. William Chester Minor, who happens to be an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. As you read, you begin to have more and more of an appreciation for the size and scope of the project these two men, along with thousands of volunteer contributors and a full staff of workers, struggle to complete. Twelve volumes, with 414,825 defined words featuring 1,827,306 quotations on 15,487 pages. A literal lifetime's worth of work, with James Murray taking on the job in 1879 (the Dictionary project having first been proposed in 1857), and the final volume of the First Edition only finally being completed in 1927 (with four supplements yet to follow), twelve years after his death in 1915. An exhaustingly long project to be sure, involving almost more man-hours of labor than can be conceived, but one which allowed for the formation of a decades long friendship between two very distinctive and notable men.
With the story of both men told against the backdrop of the creation of what may well be the most remarkable work in the history of the English language, reading this book is truly an amazing glimpse at a chapter in history that few really appreciate. Both men so similar, yet very different, brought together by a twist of fate and laboring with a passion at something that at one point seemed impossible: to collect, define, and trace the history of every single word in the English language. If the subject matter is remotely interesting to you, I definitely strongly recommend reading it.
TERRIFIC account of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.
Wikipedia--19th Century-style. A fascinating story, told by a master!
This book lingered on my bookshelf for years because frankly, I was afraid it was going to be boring. I need not have worried; this book captured my attention and held it for all 242 pages and dare I say it: left me wanting more. The book is at its heart the story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) but it's also a story about a murder, a civil war veteran who is psychotic, and a scholar who just needed some help in writing this huge book. The story covers about 80 or more years of history, both American and British, specifically as it relates to Oxford University. The author makes the story come alive and be interesting without being dull.
Great book and such a strange story! The truth is stranger than fiction...very well written and interesting.
Interesting listen. Abridged 2 cassettes Approx 3 hrs.