I recently acquired a copy of Webster's International Dictionary: Second Edition, printed in 1942. I've been reading about the differences between Webster's 2nd and Webster's 3rd, and I stumbled on this excellent article from the National Endowment for the Humanities website. I think it's really well written and absolutely fascinating. The author is David Skinner, and he really nails this one. Here's a little taste of the article...
In 1961 a new edition of an old and esteemed dictionary was released. The publisher courted publicity, noting the great expense ($3.5 million) and amount of work (757 editor years) that went into its making. But the book was ill-received. It was judged “subversive” and denounced in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlantic, the New Yorker, Life, and dozens of other newspapers, magazines, and professional journals. Not every publication condemned the volume, but the various exceptions did little to change the widespread impression of a well-known reference work being cast out from the better precincts of American culture.
Read the rest of the article HERE.
I LOVE print dictionaries. Of course, I use online dictionaries all the time, and I have a couple dictionary apps on my phone (American Heritage and Merriam-Webster). But the experience of browsing through a print dictionary, turning the pages and discovering a new word in the middle of all that small type, is hard to replicate on a screen. But I was wondering this morning, are print dictionaries a thing of the past? After all, dictionaries are BIG books, they must cost a bundle to print. Meanwhile, the retail price of the average dictionary is quite low, considering the size of the book. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary only costs about twenty bucks, for a fairly large book of over 1600 pages!
And so I stumbled on an article from the National Endowment for the Humanities website (neh.gov) that I found very enjoyable. It's entitled "If Printed Dictionaries Are History, What Will Children Sit on to Reach the Table?" written by Michael Adams. He doesn't really answer my question, but he does reflect on the history of print dictionaries, and he offers some insight on the transition from print to online form, and what that means for consumers. Here's a brief excerpt:
When Aunt Sophie wanted to reward a niece or nephew for graduating from high school with college in view, she would present the up-and-coming student with a dictionary, but not just any dictionary. It might be linen-covered; it might be printed on India paper; it might have speckled edges; it might be thumb-indexed; it might be all four. It all depended on how Aunt Sophie wanted to be seen by the rest of her family, how much she wanted to spend, and how much she liked her young relative.
(adj.) wild and frenzied; from Greek κορυβαντες (Korybantes)