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Aspects of Marketing the Miniature Samuel Johnson Dictionaries: Examples in the Cordell Collection
David E. Vancil
188-194 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Beginning about 1784, shortly after Samuel Johnson's death, small pocket-sized dictionaries began to appear claiming to be based on Johnson. These dictionaries appeared for 115 years, published by single and multiple publishers. The works are identified as "miniatures," not because most of the dictionaries are true miniatures, but because "in miniature" appears in the title of so many of them. Although little more than glossaries, these dictionaries, which were aimed primarily at schoolchildren, contained features which helped make them successful, such as lists of towns, grammar treatments, and guides to mythological figures. The miniature version of the Johnson dictionary appears to have been bolstered by its larger precursors and Johnson's reputation, and one may assume that some individuals who acquired the small dictionary would recognize the importance of the larger work. That the publishers of the small dictionaries saw them as useful reference works can be seen in the claims of prefatory statements and advertisements and from the fact that many of the miniature dictionaries were edited by individuals who were highly qualified. The miniature dictionaries were published widely in the English-speaking world and even more widely distributed. A mysterious figure whose relationship to James Augustus Henry Murray (principal editor of the New English Dictionary) is uncertain, James Henry Murray is the final editor of miniature Johnson dictionaries identified from examples found in the Cordell Collection.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis (HEL-LEX 2)
edited by R. W. McConchie, Alpo Honkapohja, and Jukka Tyrkkö
Table of contents
Printed edition: $220.00