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WEBSTER, Noah.

An American Dictionary of the English Language.

Published: New York: Published by S. Converse, Printed by Hezekiah Howe, New Haven, 1828

Stock code: 76291

Price: £18,000

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First edition of the dictionary that almost at once became, and has remained, the standard English dictionary in the United States; one of 2,500 copies. Webster wanted to stress the political separation from Britain by the cultivation of a distinct American language, and so, under the influence of his friend Benjamin Franklin, turned his attention to “a reformed mode of spelling” and gave many printed American words their distinctive appearance. “The book marked a definite advance in modern lexicography, as it included many non-literary terms and paid great attention to the language actually spoken. Moreover, his definitions of the meanings of words were accurate and concise (Sir James Murray, editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, called him ‘a born definer of words’) and have for the greater part stood the test of time superbly well. In fact, Webster succeeded in breaking the fetters imposed upon American English by Dr Johnson, to the ultimate benefit of the living languages of both countries” (PMM).

2 volumes, quarto (295 230 mm). Attractively rebound to style in full diced russia, spines divided into compartments by wide bands, gilt-lettered direct in two compartments, others with gilt centrepieces, covers with wide gilt decorative roll border, marbled endpapers, the fore and lower edges entirely untrimmed. Portrait frontispiece. With the additions leaf but without the initial advert leaf. A few minor spots here and there, an excellent copy, handsomely bound, with untrimmed edges.

Bibliography: Grolier, American 36; Printing and the Mind of Man 291; Skeel 583; Sabin 102335.

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