Der Mann, der die Wörter liebte eine wahre Geschichte

by Simon Winchester

Other authorsHarald Stadler (Translator)
Hardcover, 1998



Call number

HE 322 W759 M2



München [u.a.] Knaus 1998


Biography & Autobiography. History. Language Arts. Nonfiction. HTML: A New York Times Notable Book The Professor and the Madman 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 making of the OED was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, was stunned to discover that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. But their surprise would pale in comparison to what they were about to discover when the committee insisted on honoring him. For Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. Masterfully researched and eloquently written, The Professor and the Madman "is the linguistic detective story of the decade." (William Safire, New York Times Magazine) This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.… (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
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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
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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.
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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
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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 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
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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 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
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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,
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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.
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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
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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 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,
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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.
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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 jjmachshev
The fascinating and poignant story of the Oxford English Dictionary and two similar, yet very different in circumstance, men whose lives would likely never have crossed except for their work on the OED. Although I had heard the story of the 'lunatic American doctor' who contributed reams of
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information for the OED, I still found myself riveted to the sad story (and occasional salacious detail in my opinion). As a word geek myself, I have a love/hate affair with dictionaries and yes, there are times when I just sit down and read a few pages. The incredible undertaking and vast scope of the project is obvious when you view the dictionary itself in its multiple-volume splendor, but I tend to forget that most Americans have likely never actually seen one in person. So of course, I found the story of the dictionary itself interesting and worthwhile reading, but combined with the inexplicable mystery of how and why the 'madman' was in a situation that enabled him to contribute so just boggles the mind. "The Professor and the Madman" by Simon Winchester is well worth your time and a fun, educational read.
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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
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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.
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LibraryThing member JayLivernois
A must read for all bibliophiles
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
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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 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
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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 lahochstetler
One would not expect a history of the Oxford English Dictionary to be particularly interesting, but indeed, there is quite a story behind it. A tremendous amount of the dictionary's research was done by a convicted murderer mired in severe mental illness. This book recounts the strange tale of how
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W.C. Minor came to write significant portions of the dictionary and, more broadly, how the OED came to be.

The OED is undeniably a tremendous achievement. Winchester is clearly enamored of the dictionary; he states unequivocally that the OED is the most important dictionary in human history. He makes little of the various criticisms that have been waged against the dictionary: its orientation towards white, middle class language conventions, its imperialist outlook. Winchester has other interests, and cannot be criticized for that. Still, his dismissal of these criticisms is so absolute that it does make one wonder. Overall, this is a compelling story, enjoyably told.
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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
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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.
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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
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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 BradKautz
What is the likelihood of any one particular person winning the lottery? Or of being struck by lightning? These are just two well-known instances of something that could possibly happen but seem so rare and unlikely that they could never have been predicated. And so also is the tale told by Simon
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Winchester in The Professor and the Madman (Harper Perennial, 2005).

Winchester takes the story of two very different men, an American physician, Dr. W.C. Minor, and an English lexicologist, Dr. John Murray, and shows how their lives became interwoven through the writing of the Oxford English dictionary, the most comprehensive effort ever made to define the words that make up the English language.

Murray spent nearly a lifetime developing the dictionary and Minor was a prolific volunteer contributor to it, sending in thousands of suggestions. Winchester tells the separate parts of their early lives, the intersection of what, in its own way, became their life’s work, and the development of their friendship, something that didn’t occur until nearly twenty years of their working together, albeit separated by Minor’s confinement to what would be called a mental health facility today. Minor’s hospitalization was something that Murray was unaware of for many years, and that is just one of many surprising twists that true life took in the lives of these men.

Winchester tells this most unlikely story well, including not just the success of the dictionary itself, but also the role that personal tragedy played in it. Reading it whets my appetite to learn more about the Oxford English dictionary itself.
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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
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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 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
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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 SheWoreRedShoes
One of my graduate school friends possessed what is known as the condensed or compact version of the OED, which is essentially the OED in miniature typeset. The condensed version text is so tiny that the OED comes with its own magnifying glass. An official attached-by-a-chain magnifying glass. At
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$350 for the condensed OED, I wondered how my friend managed to scrape together the money to buy one. Of course we all had student loans, part-time restaurant work, and Ramen Noodles in the cupboards.

Turned out he found it at a garage sale. He paid $50 for all but one volume. I think ph-po was missing from the set. I couldn’t believe it. The OED––for 50 bucks. I was jealous. Intensely so. Not of his tee-shirts, which looked like they came from the same garage sale, but of his good fortune. Throughout graduate school, I dreamed he’d grow tired of possessing it and out of the goodness of his heart, bestow it to me. Never happened.

Ever since, I’ve wanted to own the OED. I even went so far as to price the full volume, full-sized set. When the Barnes & Noble employee gave me the price over the phone, she gasped and declared that a decimal place must have been off (it wasn’t). Yes, it is the price of 2400 packages of Ramen Noodles. In addition to the issue of an exorbitant price tag for the full volume set, there was (and is) the issue of storage space. Thirty hardbound volumes would have required not only another bookcase in my apartment, but also another wall space in the apartment that didn’t (and still doesn’t) exist.

Two summers ago my fascination with the OED increased when I spied a paperback at a bookstore titled, The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. I thought, Murder? Insanity? and the Dictionary? The back cover blurb read,

"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 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."

One man submitted more than ten thousand definitions to the dictionary. Imagine ten thousand dictionary definitions. Imagine ten thousand of anything. If writing a ten thousand word prose piece is an achievement, then what is writing ten thousand––more than ten thousand––dictionary definitions? That’s some serious serious etymologizing. I was astounded. When I read the next sentence in the back cover blurb, “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,” I was hooked.

Of course I bought it. Bookstore managers clap their hands with joy when they see a customer like me walk through the door. At $13.00 plus tax, I figured even if I couldn’t purchase The Book, I could at least own a book about its history. And for any bibliophile, the book is a delightful read, full of anecdotes and facts such as, “the total length of type [for the first edition]––all hand-set. . .is 178 miles, the distance between London and the outskirts of Manchester,” which roughly corresponds to the distance between Bloomington-Normal and St.Louis. Winchester’s book also includes excerpts of Murray and Minor’s letters and quotes from the 19th century tabloids (about the murder, the murderer, the ‘call for words’). Readers also learn bhang, brick-tea, brinjal, catamaran, cholera, delicately, directly, dirt, disquiet, drink, duty, and dye were among Dr. W.C. Minor’s favorite words.

It was then I became certain that someday I must figure out a way to purchase that OED. Perhaps eat 2400 packages of. . . and 2000 cans of . . . I could perhaps swing an egg for breakfast. . .

In the midst of all those calculations (and I’m still calculating), I discovered a few years ago that Milner Library had subscribed to the online version of the OED. That treasure trove of histories and meanings of even the most obscure of words (such as frisson) was available to me––for the best price around: $0.00! Reading the format––digitalized text streaming through fiber optic cables and readable through a GUI––is different than perusing the onionskin pages of a leather bound book. And I can’t cart my Mac around the apartment, never mind out to the mailbox nor to the convenience store around the corner, but the purpose is the same: an etymological encounter.

January 2000
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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
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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.
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LibraryThing member bontley
Learned a lot about words. Starting with peotomy.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
In many ways, this is a great read simply because it's an entertaining book full of strange and interesting tidbits of knowledge. The problem is just as clear, though--there are so many interesting stories and directions which the book is pulled in, that in the end, none of them are given the depth
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a reader really wants. Whether you're most interested in the creation of the OED or the friendship between the two men at the heart of the book's title, or even trivia surrounding both, the book explores so much territory, and is so short, that I doubt any reader will be fully satisfied. Still, it is a fun and fast read with plenty of interesting trivia, if not the depth or full story that the book's title and blurb seem to promise.

All together, I'm glad I read it, but I wish it had been a bit more substantial.
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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
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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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