The Professor and the Madman

by Simon Winchester

Hardcover, 1998

Call number

423 WIN



Harper (1998), Edition: 1st, 256 pages


The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story - a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly - and mysteriously - refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane - and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.… (more)

Media reviews

Here, as so consistently throughout, Winchester finds exactly the right tool to frame the scene.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Smiler69
To tell the tale of how the first truly comprehensive dictionary of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary (or OED) came into being, Simon Winchester chose to focus on one of it's most dedicated contributors, Dr. W. C. Minor, who contributed close to ten thousand definitions. What the man in charge of the committee which oversaw the compilation of the vast amount of information that went into this book, Professor James Murray, did not learn until came the time to honour the volunteers who'd helped put together this monumental work, was that Dr. Minor had been doing all his research and submitting his findings from rooms he occupied at an insane asylum. He was expected to remain there till the end of his natural life, after having been found guilty of murder and also been proved to be completely out of his mind. A fascinating story backed with great research, I'd been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, and it did not disappoint. Because I take a personal interest in matters pertaining to mental illness and it's cures, I was particularly impressed with the last chapter of the book, where Winchester talks about Dr. Minor's diagnosis, which at the time was thought to be simple paranoia but is now recognized as schizophrenia:

"One in a hundred people today suffer from schizophrenia: Nearly all of them, if treated with compassion and good chemistry, can have some kind of dignified life, of a kind that was denied, for much of his time, to Doctor Minor. Except, of course, that Minor had his dictionary work. And there is a cruel irony in this—that if he had been so treated, he might never have felt impelled to work on it as he did. By offering him mood-altering sedatives, as they would have done in Edwardian times, or treating him as today with such antipsychotic drugs as quetiapine or risperidone, many of his symptoms of madness might have gone away—but he might well have felt disinclined or unable to perform his work for Doctor Murray. In a sense doing all those dictionary slips was his medication; in a way they became his therapy. The routine of his quiet and cellbound intellectual stimulus, month upon month, year upon year, appears to have provided him with at least a measure of release from his paranoia. [...] One must feel a sense of strange gratitude, then, that his treatment was never good enough to divert him from his work. The agonies that he must have suffered in those terrible asylum nights have granted us all a benefit, for all time. He was mad, and for that, we have reason to be glad."

That quote alone earned the book an extra half star.
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LibraryThing member kmstock
A very interesting story about the creation of the first Oxford English Dictionary. Of particular interest (in my view) was the method in which members of the public read various books and collected quotations and sent them in, so it was an example of what we now call crowd-sourcing for a very traditional application. The story focuses around a surgeon, who has various adventures and then goes insane. He is one of the biggest contributors to the dictionary. I found the story both sad and heart-warming - well worth a read.… (more)
LibraryThing member NielsenGW
One of the most productive relationships in the history of modern dictionary making began with a murder. On February 17, 1872, William Chester Minor, an ex-patriated Civil war surgeon, in a schizophrenic rage, gunned down George Merritt in London’s Lambeth slum. He was tried, found not guilty by reason of insanity, and sent to Broadmoor Asylum. It was there that he found a measure of mental solace in a most unusual endeavor. Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman details what happened next.

In the late 19th century, there was a push to create a wondrous new reference book: a complete historical dictionary of the English language. It would use written works as its basis for both spelling and usage. This “New English Dictionary” was a gargantuan task. After a few fits and starts with different editors, James Murray became the project’s caretaker and secured the Oxford University Press as its publisher in 1878. He put out a call to readers and amateur word sleuths across the country to send in interesting, different, and obscure usages of words and their sources. In just four years’ time, he had 3.5 million quotation slips.

Minor, sitting alone at Broadmoor, came upon the public appeal through the booksellers he regularly ordered from and began to catalog everything he could find. He kept a dutiful organization system, sending in thousands of quotations over the course of his life. Minor and Murray met in person only once, and there are no notes from that day, but the work each did for the preservation of language cannot be dismissed. With Minor’s help (and the help of many others), the dictionary was issued in full in 1928.

This is one of my favorite books ever. It would be on my Desert Island Top Ten list. Sure, Winchester is a little stingy with the footnotes and there’s no index, but that’s not his style. He’s out to prove that history is replete with interesting tales of people who contributed to society in major and unusual ways. Minor eventually deteriorated mentally and physically, but his work is worthy of celebration. His indefatigable efforts helped make the OED into a powerhouse in the dictionary community. Winchester’s prose is breezy and charming. There are probably only a few people in the world who can make lexicography exciting, and he’s one of them. If you get a chance, check this one out. You won’t regret it.
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LibraryThing member eleanor_eader
There's a fascinating story here, but it's a little over-told for the sake of adding drama and pathos to the history of the OED; it's a compelling enough tale without the 'omg, and THEN guess what' that the author tries -needlessly - to inject into the writing. Winchester's real strength is delivering history and biography in an accessible manner, having a keen sense for important detail and rich seems of interest; where he lets the reader down is in assuming we will not realise these things for ourselves, but must be pointed at them repeatedly.

That said, for anyone who does not already know the stories that are intertwined with the collaboration and creation of the largest, most authoritative, and first complete collection of English words (and who has any interest in lexicography at all) will find this a very interesting read.
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LibraryThing member allgenresbookworm
Simon Winchester is not a linear writer. Instead, he likes to weave back and forth from the main story to different background stories that do end up coming back to the main story...eventually. What I found fascinating was the background story of two men that were geniuses that come from opposite backgrounds and end up having a twenty year friendship. At times I felt bogged down and this is not a book to be read in a week end.

"I am nobody, treat me as a solar myth, or an echo, or an irrational quantity, or ignore me altogether". Throughout the book, it is clear we can not ignore a man like James Murray. He left school at the age of fourteen, became self taught through numerous books, tried to teach Latin to cows, he was fluent in several languages including many dead languages, he taught himself geology, biology, entomology, and because of his love for words among being a very learned man, was instrumental in creating the greatest dictionary of our time.

William Chester Minor was also a genius but was also insane. Throughout the book, we get to see a background of his life growing up, what he saw as a doctor in the Civil War during a battle called "The Wilderness". Perhaps this is what threw him over the edge into insanity, although I would guess that it was a perfect storm of circumstances throughout his life that drove him over the edge into insanity, perhaps it was in his mind all along.

What I found fascinating about this book was the history of the dictionaries before the OED. I have learned so many things in this book of 242 pages that seemed more like an 800 page book. The Irish who fought in the Civil War (I have a new appreciation for the Irish and a better understanding of why so many deserted), Sri Lanka, the history of the dictionary, lexicography, branding in the civil war...the list goes on and on.

It is a book I can only read once, however it is a book that I own so I can go back to it for reference from time to time. I am in awe of the men and women who volunteered their time, James Murray, William Minor and the men who came before them who were the stepping stones before the OED. The OED took seventy years to complete! For those that love words, love history, love the OED, this book is for you!
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LibraryThing member manque
So terrible I could not finish it. What a shame--although the story itself is fascinating, and of tremendous interest to me, unfortunately the way this particular author bungles the telling takes all the fun out of the discovery. In particular, the author's grating, excessively patronizing tone, together with the rather predictable plotting and almost laughably amateurish attempts at creating suspense, made this book literally unreadable (one could say unbearable) for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member nicolewbrown
On January 7, 1858, it was decided to undertake a grand endeavor and create the ultimate English dictionary. It would contain the earliest use of the word and several quotations of the word as it has changed in its usage over the years. They would require help from volunteers from all over the Britsh Territories and America.

One of their most prolific volunteers was Dr. W.C. Minor, an American who was retired from the military due to madness. He was treated at a hospital and released and decided to go to Europe for a restful tour. Instead, he ended up believing that people were going through his rooms. Then one night he believed someone had been through his room and rushed out to find him and shot a man he believed to be the intruder. He killed the man and was put on trial for his murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to Broadmore, a hospital for the criminally insane on April 17,1872.

Since he was a model patient and had his Army retirement money coming in he was given two cells that he filled with books and had his sketchbook that he made drawings from. During the day his cell was left unlocked and he could stroll the grounds if he wished. While reading a magazine he came across an ad for a request for readers for the dictionary and he sends off a reply to offer his services.

James Murray had been involved with the dictionary project from the start but on April 26, 1878, he was made the editor and put in charge of it. The project had been lagging and Murray put some much-needed oomph in it. Murray got it back on track getting more readers. Murray stopped going to school at fourteen because his family couldn't afford to send him farther. He was a self-taught man who knew a great deal, especially about languages and words.

Murray and Minor had been corresponding for twenty years before Murray finds out about Minor's situation. What will he find when he gets there? While Minor and Murray share a love of words, they couldn't have been more different. Minor, an American, grew up in an affluent household and received a grand education, while Murray, who grew up poor in Scotland was self-taught. Minor had seen war, while Murray had not. Minor was schizophrenic while Murray was sane as can be. However, the two of them looked exactly like each other: both bald with long white beards.

This was an interesting book that explores the massive undertaking of the Oxford English Dictionary which would take seventy years to create. Minor was a major contributor to this endeavor and the first volume is dedicated to him. They are currently working on the third edition of the OED which is expected to be completed in 2037. Minor is a sad person who if he existed today could have received treatment but then would he have contributed to the OED? His work on the OED was his therapy and it worked for a good long while until it stopped working and he became beyond help. I really enjoyed this book and the look at the two men it studied who were so different yet shared the same passion. I give this book five out of five stars.
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LibraryThing member ellen.w
Fascinating story, but a bit wandering, and the author's tendency to freely make stuff up (like the theory that the subject had an affair with his victim's wife, which even the author admits is based on zero evidence) left a bad taste in my mouth.
LibraryThing member AMQS
This was a fun and fascinating non fiction read. The Oxford English Dictionary, or OED, was and is a massive, titanic catalog of the English language -- one reviewer said it essentially is the English language. Its creation took place long before computers, obviously, but also before real, comprehensive dictionaries. The scope of the project is breathtaking: the editors wanted an exhaustive catalog of every word ever used, no matter how obscure or obsolete. Each entry included etymological information of the word, and supporting quotations from writings that showed exact usage and varying nuance. Pronunciation was hotly debated, and concise definitions proved challenging. The editors realized this massive undertaking would require the efforts of a small army of volunteers who would read, quote, cross-index, and define any and all words they could find, ideally in a systematic way via defined historical intervals. Scores of volunteers sent in contributions, but one of the most dedicated and prolific contributors, with tens of thousands of entries, was Dr. William Minor, an American Civil War veteran long committed to the The Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. The book weaves together the story of the OED's creation with the personal histories and eventual friendship of Dr. Minor and Professor James Murray, the OED's chief editor. I only wish the book had flowed a bit better -- it jumped about a lot chronologically, and had other execution challenges, but all in all, it was a good read.… (more)
LibraryThing member DVerdecia
This book was excellently written. It kept me interested from the beginning to the end. I had no idea how recently the Oxford English Dictionary came into being. We read today and if there is a word we do not understand, we pick up the dictionary to look it up. It was interesting to know that Shakespeare did not have this luxury.

The characters in the book evolve nicely. The book left me wondering what the life of W.C. Minor was really like. How is it that he contributed so much to the Oxford English Dictionary from an insane asylum. I was left wondering what the emotions must have been as Sir James Murray realized that he was dealing with a madman in the creation of the dictionary, yet W.C. Minor's submissions to the dictionary were near perfection. Other volunteers that contributed were not as precise.

This book will entertain you in the history of how the Oxford English Dictionary was created. Who was involved? How long did it really take? What methods did they use to document all those words? Does it continue today? It was a fascinating read!

In line with the story of creating the dictionary, there were several words that were challenging and needed to be looked up for their precise meaning for the story. I don't see this as a negative but it did remind me of my limited vernacular. I hope that whomever reads this tome will find it as interesting as I did. It taught me that even something as minor in every day life, something we usually do not give much thought to, such as the dictionary, really shouldn't be taken for granted.
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LibraryThing member DinadansFriend
This is an amusing account of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, a mental marvel enjoyed by millions. Now, since the OED is online, the massive book is gaining many new fans. The particular episode described here is also an illustration that a form of mental illness is no great bar to some forms of scholarship.
I'll reread, but under its real Title "the PROFESSOR and the Madman"! (can someone fix this, please?)
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LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
A great story, and of particular interest to anyone who loves the English language!
LibraryThing member OccassionalRead
Author Simon Winchester, a self-described adventurer, takes what could otherwise seem lexicographical drudgery, the 70 plus year making of the Oxford English Dictionary, and turns it into a relatively compact fascinating story about this massive undertaking and the men (and women) behind it. He weaves the broader story about cataloging the English language with a more narrow tale about the Professor (the editor James Murray) with the Madman (major contributor William Minor, an American doctor, Civil War Veteran, murderer, and schizophrenic). This book works on multiple levels. It is at once a great narrative about the massive etymological study of our native language and a fascinating and strange story of great, though in the case of Minor extremely disturbed, men. The story is at once tragic and triumphant, one of great accomplishment and personal tragedy. Winchester takes a topic that looks like it could weigh you down and indeed turns it into a bit of an intellectual adventure.… (more)
LibraryThing member brokenangelkisses
A tale of murder, madness and The Oxford English Dictionary: such is the full title of Simon Winchester’s intriguingly titled ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’, a book all about, well, murder, madness and the OED, though there’s more on the latter than the former.

What’s it about?

Lexicographer James Murray is attempting to compile the first OED, a vast undertaking that eventually consumes 70 years and is not completed until 12 years after his death. During this struggle, Murray communicates extensively with many keen contributors, but builds a particular friendship with one: Dr William Minor of Crowthorne. As well as being a star contributor to the important dictionary, Minor is a lunatic, consigned to stay indefinitely at Broodmoor lunatic asylum after committing a murder.

This is a book partly about their friendship, partly about that murder, but mostly about the making of the mighty OED.

What’s it like?

Detailed, thoughtful and written in such a way that you are drawn into Minor’s affairs with a sympathetic eye.

It’s slow-going as the book has multiple beginnings: an extract from a call for contributors to the dictionary is followed by a preface; the preface briefly outlines the mythology surrounding Murray and Minor’s first meeting and implies this book will offer revelations regarding the truth of that meeting; this is followed by a chapter detailing the life and murder of George Merrett, which of course introduces Minor; this is followed by a chapter outlining James Murray’s early life and the beginning of his involvement with the dictimary; THIS is followed by the murderer’s relevant history until that point; then there is a chapter outlining the very beginnings of the concept of the new dictionary. In short, nearly 90 pages have passed before the story truly gathers steam as some of the key participants (Murray and the dictionary) properly come together.

Such length is not simply the result of having to introduce various characters – including a book! – but is rather due to Winchester’s delight in minor details and speculation. He writes that Minor ‘selected a pen with the very finest nib’ to send his first words to the dictionary. Perhaps. Even probably. And perhaps not. More importantly, he suggests that the view from Minor’s suite at Broodmoor must have meant Minor’s sentence ‘cannot have seemed altogether a nightmare’. Hmm. I’m not sure a good view, even an excellent view, would detract one’s attention too much from the horror of being committed indefinitely to a lunatic asylum in a foreign country. Still, such intimate touches help to bring the characters and the events to life, making potentially very dry material more engaging, though they do sometimes lend the writing a slightly fictional air.

Perhaps appropriately, the ending is also a drawn-out affair with a chapter called ‘Then Only The Monuments’, which is primarily concerned with the deaths of the major characters, followed by a postscript, followed by an author’s note, followed by suggestions for further reading. This, then, is a leisurely read, one which will reward readers with the time and patience to piece together all the relevant details in their minds.

Final thoughts

I had never realised dictionaries took so long to write and found the details Winchester included about the methods used were generally interesting, though I skimmed some of the biographical bits (I don’t much care where Minor or Murray grew up or how many siblings they had) and felt there were more examples of definitions than I particularly cared for. (It seems I am not a lexicographer at heart.)

This will be of most interest to those with a love of words and a love of history, though there is also some interesting discussion about Minor’s illness, finally revealed to be what we would now call schizophrenia. Towards the end of the book in particular Winchester discusses Minor’s illness in broader terms than in the preceding chapters, considering what triggers such mental disorders as schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and how they might be treated differently today.

Overall it’s a pleasant meander through a bit of literary history, replete with imaginative embroiderings at the edges.
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LibraryThing member MiaCulpa
I had read "The Meaning of Everything", Simon Winchester's recount of the history of the Oxford English Dictionary, and so I was inevitably drawn to "The Surgeon of Crowthorne". Winchester is a very good writer and makes a story that is essentially about a bloke who spends a long period in a mental hospital interesting.

Of course, no matter how intersting the read is, what stays in your memory for some time afterwards is the (spoiler alert) surgeon's self-emasculation. It was, to say the least, an eye watering moment for me.

"Surgeon of Crowthorne" may not be as enthralling as Winchester's Oxford English Dictionary book but well worth the read to see how one mentally insane gentleman helped shape the English language.
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LibraryThing member 391
Winchester really has a way with words. That way, however, is dramatic. Every potential moment of drama is heightened to its fullest, to the point where I occasionally felt like the author was standing behind me NARRATING EVERYTHING WITH A BIG, BOOMING VOICE. Maybe with a flashlight to shine on his face for the creepy points. I mean, I get it, it's a book about the creation of the dictionary, it probably gets dry quickly, but there were a couple moments I had to put the book down and giggle at the absurdity of it all. I did get used to the style eventually, and found the information interesting and readable, but I still think the level of pathos present in the book is far above what it requires.… (more)
LibraryThing member MarkBeronte
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 began in 1857, it was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. 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.… (more)
LibraryThing member KRoan
this is the kind of story that you would never believe is true if it weren't written by such a master as Simon Winchester. A great read.
LibraryThing member kaulsu
The story was quite surprising. The writing of the story seemed extremely redundant. Listening to it alternated between frustration at the redundancy and fascination with the actual meticulous compilation of the grand masterpiece.

I think it may have caught my attention because Simon Winchester both wrote and narrated it. But of course, I didn't really mean to be attracted to Simon Winchester but Simon Vance, one of the best narrators I have come across!

It was a very good book to "listen" to--for an American who reads many British books--to hear the actual pronunciation of words not commonly used in American English.

Finally, my monstrously-sized ego was wounded deeply at a dinner party when a woman spoke to the OED, and then turned to me and expanded her comment with, "That is the abbreviation for the Oxford English Dictionary." Well, hoity toity!
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LibraryThing member bell7
The Professor and the Madman tells the story of William C. Minor, a surgeon during the American Civil War who subsequently became paranoid, and James Murray, the third (and most well-known) editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Dr. Minor committed murder due to his delusion that Irishmen were after him, and as a result was put in an asylum in England. During his time there, however, he became invaluable in the work of the OED, using a genius system of organizing words as he read them, and incredible personal collection of books to provide thousands of quotations exactly when needed. It's quite a fascinating story, though much of the information overlaps with The Meaning of Everything, especially when discussing the history of English dictionary-making. Though I highly recommend it, I would not recommend reading it close on the heels of the former title, as the repetition diminished my enjoyment somewhat.… (more)
LibraryThing member yvonne.sevignykaiser
This is my second time reading the Professor and the Madman and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed the first time around. This book was on my library Non-Fiction Book Club Reading List for July. I was fascinated by the fact that William Shakespeare did not have access to a dictionary because there was not one available for the English language. A dictionary was not available until Samuel Johnson and there were many great British writers like Dafoe, Swift who wished to fix the English language and ban words like bamboozle, uppish and couldn't. Many dictionaries came out but it was Dr. Murray from Oxford and several others who set out to not only document every English word but give use and context of words with the use of literature including the Bible. It took nine years to put out the first nine volumes of the dictionary all of which would not have been possible had it not been for Dr Minor. Minor a very well educated man and doctor was prolific in the number of words and information that he submitted for the dictionary. He found an ad for the project in books he ordered from London booksellers.

This book is more about the history of the project and the key men involved that gave the dictionary life. Dr Murray was our Oxford professor and Dr. Minor was of course the Madman. In understanding the creation of the dictionary it is important to know the men behind the project. Dr. Minor was an American who served during the Civil War as a Army surgeon. After the war the doctor found himself in London trying to find his sanity. All was going well until one night when he murdered a man in cold blood. He was tried and found insane, he was sentenced to Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum until the monarchs "Pleasure Be Known" whenever that may be.

There is one scene that will leave the reader a little squeamish but overall a fascinating read.
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LibraryThing member bragan
The story of James Murray, who was the driving force behind the truly massive undertaking that is the Oxford English Dictionary, and of W.C. Minor, an American Army doctor who was one of the dictionary's most prolific and dedicated contributors. The interesting wrinkle here is that Minor did all his dictionary work while locked up in Broadmoor asylum for the criminally insane, having killed a man after confusing him with the hallucination he'd believed had just broken into his room. It's an interesting topic; the making of the dictionary is itself a truly impressive feat, and the connection with murder and madness adds an extra dollop of fascination to the whole thing. But I can't really say I'm a fan of Winchester's writing style. It's not bad, exactly, but it somehow conveys the impression that he's trying a little too hard to make what is really a rather quiet (and, in some ways, very sad) story feel dramatic and lively and exciting.… (more)
LibraryThing member AltheaAnn
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 they're always immensely well-written and fascinating! Winchester isn't 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, that's not a word, but I think it should be) his topic – it's always made clear when his scenarios are theoretical.
I'd 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.
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LibraryThing member helynrob
I felt like this was sensationalized too much in parts. Granted, that's why I read the book in the first place ("What?! A madman wrote the OED?!"), but I wanted Winchester to suppose less and tell more. I think the content is rich enough in drama and information to support itself without the author dropping his oar in and imagining the feelings of those involved or how things must have smelled. Perhaps these interjections were few and far between, but for me, they were extremely noticeable and vexing.

In the end though, I enjoyed learning about the OED.
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LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
Winchester combines the story of the origin of the Oxford English Dictionary with an individual's tale of murder and insanity in a fascinating way. Not only does the reader gain a sense of how the dictionary was compiled - this is more or less a matter of public record - but we also are granted access into a Victorian asylum. The erudite and discerning doctor unfortunately suffered delusions and was dangerous to himself and others.… (more)




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