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First part of the Oxford English Dictionary published, 1884

Jan 12, 2018
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On 1st February 1884 the Oxford University Press (OUP) published the first part of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society. The 352 page fascicle had 352 pages containing words from A to Ant, costing 12s.6d. Over the next forty-four years 125 fascicles were published to form the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The dictionary originated in June 1857 when three members of the Philological Society – Herbert Coleridge, and Frederick Furnivall, and Richard Chenevix Trench – formed an Unregistered Words Committee to identify words missing from existing dictionaries. The following year the society decided to produce a comprehensive dictionary of English words, based on quotations taken from printed works. The society allocated books to volunteers who would produce quotation slips that illustrated the usage of particular words.

Coleridge became the first editor in 1860. When he died the following year, he had received around 100,000 quotation slips. Furnivall took over as editor before recruiting James Murray as his successor in 1879. Furnivall and Murray met with a number of publishers before finally securing an agreement with the OUP in 1879, which published the first fascicle five years later.

In 1895, the title Oxford English Dictionary first appeared on the outer covers of the fascicles. Following the publication of the final fascicle on 19th April 1928, the OUP published the entire Dictionary in bound volumes. The OUP published a second edition in 1989, and is currently working on a third.

To learn more, visit the Dictionary’s web pages, which include a History of the OED.

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