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The professor and the madman: a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary

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Mysterious (mist#65533;e #65533; ries), a. [f. L. myst#65533;rium Mysteryi + ous. Cf. F. myst#65533;rieux.] 1. Full of or fraught with mystery; wrapt in mystery; hidden from human knowledge or understanding; impossible or difficult to explain, solve, or discover; of obscure origin, nature, or purpose.

It is known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. 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.

The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. With riveting insight and detail, Simon Winchester crafts a fascinating glimpse into one man's tortured mind and his contribution to another man's magnificent dictionary.

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Grouping Information

Grouped Work ID 516f22f4-59c4-b560-a496-e9f8417f3d80
Full title professor and the madman a tale of murder insanity and the making of the oxford english dictionary
Author winchester simon
Grouping Category book
Last Update 2018-05-21 22:53:12PM
Last Indexed 2018-05-21 22:25:42PM

Solr Details

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accelerated_reader_reading_level 0
author Winchester, Simon.
author_display Winchester, Simon
available_at_school Hillwood High, Overton High
collection_school Non-Fiction
detailed_location_school Hillwood High - Teen Non-Fiction, Overton High - Teen Non-Fiction

New York Times Bestseller

Simon Winchester's classic about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary—soon to be a major motion picture starring Sean Penn and Mel Gibson.

The making of the Oxford English Dictionary 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 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 linguistic detective story of the decade.... Winchester does a superb job of historical research."—William Safire, New York Times Magazine

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primary_isbn 006099486
publishDate 1998, 2009
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subject_facet English language -- Etymology, English language -- Lexicography, Lexicographers -- Great Britain -- Biography, Minor, William Chester, Murray, James Augustus Henry, -- Sir, -- 1837-1915 -- Friends and associates, New English dictionary on historical principles, Oxford English dictionary, Psychiatric hospital patients -- Great Britain -- Biography, United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Veterans -- Biography
title_display The professor and the madman : a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary
title_full The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, The professor and the madman : a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary / Simon Winchester
title_short The professor and the madman :
title_sub a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary
topic_facet Biography, Biography & Autobiography, English language, Etymology, Friends and associates, History, Lexicographers, Lexicography, Minor, William Chester, Murray, James Augustus Henry, Nonfiction, Psychiatric hospital patients, Veterans