The Plan for Johnson's Great English Dictionary, First Edition

Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language. Addressed to the Right and Honourable Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield; One of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State.

London: Printed for J. and P. Knapton, T. Longman and T. Shewell, C. Hitch... 1747.

Full Description:

[JOHNSON, Samuel]. The Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language; Addressed to the Right and Honourable Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield; One of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State. London: Printed for J. and P. Knapton, T. Longman and T. Shewell, C. Hitch, A. Millar, and R. Dodsley, 1747.

First edition, second issue. With leaf A reset to exclude the Earl of Chesterfield's name on the first page of the dedication and leaf E in corrected state without the duplicate "the". Quarto (9 x 6 3/4 inches; 230 x 170 mm). [2], 34 pp.

Bound by Riviere and Son in full mottled smooth calf. Boards double-ruled in blind. Red morocco spine label, lettered in gilt. All edges gilt. Blind dentelles. With stab-holes present along inner margin. A tiny hole repaired to blank lower magin of title-page. Title-page lightly toned, otherwise very clean inside. Previous owner's armorial bookplate on front pastedown. Overall a near fine copy.

"The description that Johnson wrote for the booksellers and labelled 'A Short Scheme for compiling a new Dictionary of the English Language' became the first draft of The Plan of A Dictionary of the English Language, published in August 1747...The principal changes Johnson made in transforming the 'Scheme' into a published Plan appear to be intended to address aspects of a larger concern:the nature and imposition of the lexicographer's authority for linguistic decisions. The most obvious example of this preoccupation is the insertion of several direct differential references to Lord Chesterfield, to whom the Plan, unlike the 'Scheme,' is addressed... The Plan published in early August 1747, reveals several alterations and insertions made by Johnson which relate explicitly to Chesterfield and his apparent belief of desires for the language and an English dictionary..." (The Making of Johnson's Dictionary 1746-1773, Allen Reddick, pg 17-19)

"In 1746, a consortium of London publishers led by Robert Dodsley, recognizing a sizable market for a comprehensive dictionary of English, approached Johnson to undertake such a project. They knew it would be a lengthy and expensive endeavor, although they as yet had no idea just how lengthy and expensive it would be. They first asked Johnson to draw up a preliminary outline of the project. After Johnson made revisions to the first draft, a second draft was shown to Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773), who offered a handful of suggested revisions as well. Widely regarded as an authority on linguistic matters, Chesterfield's endorsement was seen as key to the marketability of the dictionary, and indeed both the second draft and the published version are addressed to him directly." (Harvard; Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson).

"The scheme of the Dictionary was first mentioned to Johnson by Robert Dodsley, on whose suggestion the Plan was addressed to Lord Chesterfield. It apparently passed through several hands before reaching Lord Chesterfield. Mr. Croker had seen the draft which contained the remarks of his lordship and of another person: 'Johnson adopted all these suggestions.' The price stipulated was £1,575, but Johnson received £100 and upwards more than his due. Johnson, in a conversation with Boswell (March 1772), mentioned that on the publication of the Plan 'Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be pronounced so as to rhyme to state; and Sir William Yonge sent me word that it should be pronounced so as to rhyme to seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it grait.' (Boswell, ii. 161). The only person drawn by the Plan into helping Johnson was Zachary Pearce, afterwards Bishop of Rochester, who sent him twenty etymologies." (Courtney & Nichol Smith, p 20)

Courtney & Nichol Smith, p 20. Rothschild 1229. ESTC T42414.

HBS 68812.

$8,000.

Price: $8,000.00

Item #68812

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