The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary Author:Simon Winchester The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary--and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever underta... more »ken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.« less
The pretext for this book is rather slight one of the significant volunteer contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary was, although an intelligent and educated man, also an inmate of an insane asylum, confined for a murder committed while in the throes of a schizophrenic paranoid delusion.
While, as a revelation, this fact may be less than earth-shattering, Winchester uses this story of the inmate, Dr. W.C. Minor, the man he killed, George Merrett, and the main editor of the OED, Dr. James Murray, as a vehicle for all kinds of interesting details he goes on quite a number of tangents, but theyre always immensely well-written and fascinating! Winchester isnt afraid to stray from dry, historical writing he definitely makes guesses, fleshes things out for colorful effect but his research is also obviously thoroughly done, and he also stops short of fictifying (ok, thats not a word, but I think it should be) his topic its always made clear when his scenarios are theoretical.
Id highly recommend this book not only for those interested in dictionaries and lexicography, but for anyone interested in Victorian England, the Civil War, treatment of the mentally ill, or any of a number of other topics...
Karina S. reviewed The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary on + 20 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
Really engaging - you'd never think that the creation of the Oxford English dictionary would have such crazy history, but reads like a really great detective novel, even though it's completely factual. Couldn't put it down, amazed by what I learned from reading it.
Susan P. reviewed The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary on + 40 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
An absolutely fascinating history mingling two stories: the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and one of its leading contributors, a brilliant, but insane American confined in a British asylum. Full of fascinating facts and quirky personalities, it reads more like a novel.
Heather reviewed The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary on
Helpful Score: 6
This is a great story if you like murder books that incorporate a lot of history of the peoriod and also combines two very diffrent stories into one. I loved that this book teaches you such interesting history and teaches you about the great undertaking of the compiling of the first edition of the Oxford dictionary. If you love language you will love the passion it shows towards it and the part a man in the hospital for the criminally insane played a large roll in the compiling of quotes.Not a breezy read but a good one.
A fascinating story. When I selected it I had doubts. Then I read it and was very impressed by just about everything in it. It almost reads as romance of people involved in a 70 year project going through generations to great the greatest dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary. One would not think that writting a dictionary would be anything but the ultimate bore. Its not.