(London: Printed by W. Strahan for J. & P. Knapton et al. 1755). 425 x 255 mm. (16 3/4 x 10"). Two volumes. FIRST EDITION.
Very pleasing modern period-style panelled calf, raised bands, spines gilt in compartments with large central fleurons formed of ornate lancets and other small tools, azured drawer-handle cornerpieces, black and burgundy morocco labels, marbled endpapers. Front pastedowns with armorial bookplate of Bernard, Lord Coleridge; title pages with (partially erased) 18th century signature of Frederick Nicolay. PMM 201; Fleeman 55.4D/1a; Rothschild 1237; Grolier English 50. Just a hint of rubbing to the lower edges, two inconsequential light grazes to the covers, but the well-made retrospective bindings otherwise like new. A few gatherings with faint overall toning, first few leaves of both volumes with corner creases, other trivial imperfections in the text (for example, a couple of small, faint wax spots), but very little of the foxing that often afflicts this book, and generally in excellent condition internally, entirely fresh and clean.
Described by PMM as "the most amazing, enduring, and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography," this is the most important dictionary in English, a monumental undertaking and an appropriately imposing physical object. Johnson wrote all of the definitions in the first dictionary in English to employ illustrative quotations, the first genuinely descriptive (rather than proscriptive) dictionary, the first to codify the spelling of words, and the first dictionary to contain anything like analytical, comprehensive definitions for words with many shades of meaning. Webster said that "Johnson's writings had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics." This magnificent book, so massive and so frequently subjected to heavy use, is becoming increasingly difficult to find in excellent condition. Former owner Bernard J. S. Coleridge, second baron Coleridge (1851-1927) was a prominent jurist with a charming connection to Dr. Johnson: his great-grandmother had known the author, and had even perched on his knee as a small child. (ST13603)
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PJP Catalog: BOS20BF.039