London: printed for J. F. and C. Rivington, L. Davis, T. Payne and Son, W. Owen, T. Longman, B. Law, J. Dodsley, C. Dilly, W. Lowndes, G.G.J. and J. Robinson, T. Cadell, Jo. Johnson, J. Robson, W. Richardson, J. Nichols, R. Baldwin, W. Goldsmith, J. Murray, M.DCC.LXXXV . First Edition thus. Full Calf. First London Quarto Edition (preceded by Dublin quarto of 1775; sixth edition overall), first edition published after Johnson's death with his final corrections, and first edition with Johnson's portrait (dated August 21st, 1786, executed while printing was in progress), the "most amazing, enduring and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography" (PMM). Printed from Johnson's own corrected copy of the fourth folio edition, of 1773. Collated and complete in two thick demy quarto volumes (271 x 207 mm). Unpaginated, comprising half title (in vol. I only, as called for), separate title pages for each volume, preface, history, grammar, advertisement, dictionary (printed in three columns), with frontispiece portrait of Johnson (dated August 21st, 1786) engraved by Thomas Cook after a portrait by Joshua Reynolds in vol. I. A crisp, clean example, finely bound in recent Cambridge-style paneled calf (end papers renewed), free of foxing (aside from end sheets). Provenance: William and Hannah Watson of Parliament Street (list and dates of birth of their children in contemporary hand to final front blank of vol. I). Fleeman 55.4D/8. Courtney, pp. 39-68 (for concise commentary and discussion of various eighteenth- and nineteenth-century editions, foreign and domestic). Alston, V 186. PMM 201. Sawyer & Darton, pp. 346-49. Lowndes 1217. Grolier (Johnson) 20 (for first edition) and 87 (for Cook's portrait engraving). Grolier (English 100) 50 (for first edition). Fine. Item #BB2237
In 1746, "there arrived the most significant career opportunity of Johnson's entire life. A group of booksellers headed by Robert Dodsley perceived the need for a new English dictionary to replace the semi-standard Dictionarium Britannicum of Nathan Bailey (1730). They found a receptive ear in Johnson, who had pondered for many years on the absence of an English equivalent to the great continental glossaries sponsored by public bodies and academies. . . . . Ultimately the work appeared in two folio volumes, on 15 April 1755, garnished with preliminary matter, including a preface of extraordinary dignity and eloquence. The Dictionary left an immense mark on its age. It soon became recognized as a work of classical standing, and in spite of some minor blemishes it has never lost its historical importance as the first great endeavour of its kind." (ODNB) According to Noah Webster, "Johnson's writings had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics." (PMM) N. B. With few exceptions (always identified), we only stock books in exceptional condition. All orders are packaged with care and posted promptly. Satisfaction guaranteed. (Fine Editions Ltd is a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, and we subscribe to its codes of ethics.).