The professor and the madman a tale of murder insanity and the making of the oxford english dictionary ps by simon winchester a fun read for those who love words - and lurid tales of insane murderers
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.) by Simon Winchester A Fun Read For Those Who Love Words - And Lurid Tales Of Insane MurderersWhen the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary put out a call during thelate 19th century pleading for men of letters to provide help with theirmammoth undertaking, hundreds of responses came forth. Some helpers,like Dr. W.C. Minor, provided literally thousands of entries to the editors.But Minor, an American expatriate in England and a Civil War veteran,was actually a certified lunatic who turned in his dictionary entries from theBroadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Simon Winchester has produced amesmerizing coda to the deeply troubled Minors life, a life that in onesense began with the senseless murder of an innocent British breweryworker that the deluded Minor believed was an assassin sent by one ofhis numerous enemies. Winchester also paints a rich portrait of theOEDs leading light, Professor James Murray, who spent more than 4 0years of his life on a project he would not see completed in his lifetime.Winchester traces the origins of the drive to create a Big Dictionary downthrough Murray and far back into the past; the result is a fascinatingcompact history of the English language (albeit admittedly moreinteresting to linguistics enthusiasts than historians or true crime buffs).That Murray and Minor, whose lives took such wildly disparate turns yetwere united in their fierce love of language, were able to view one anotheras peers and foster a warm friendship is just one of the delicately turnedsubplots of this compelling book. --Tjames MadisonFeatures:* Click here to view our Condition Guide and Shipping Prices
The prompt for writing a quick review of this book is that I just started athird title by the same author, Simon Winchester, The Crack at the Edge ofthe World, and couldnt help but remember with fondness - yes, I used theword fondness in regard to reading a book about how a dictionary waswritten - when I read The Professor and the Madman. Winchester is to myknowledge the developer and foremost practitioner of an immenselyentertaining historical-narrative literary style whereby he lures us intoturning page after page (rapidly) of a history book by telling a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction story that reads like pulp fiction, and yes, which is setwithin a larger historical context and moment. Erik Larson followed thepattern in Devil in the White City , introducing us to the 1893 ChicagoWorlds Fair and how it changed the history of America through the luridtale of a serial killer who was as big as Jack the Ripper before Jack foundhis first victim. In some parallel ways, Sebastian Junger employed thismodel, telling us about seemingly mundane things - the deep sea fishingindustry, the physics of waves, the types of North Atlantic storms, and alittle of the history of Gloucester, Massachusetts - through the sensationalstory of the crew of the Andrea Gail in his book The Perfect Storm, evenbetter known for the George Clooney movie.What is the historical setting and importance of the Professor and theMadman? The writing of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), of course.Now, without making any claims of being an academic, I must admit thattopic kind of, sort of interested me anyway. I like the history of words andtheir definitions. But enough to read a book? Im not sure. Even if its lessthan 300 pages? Still not sure. It may never have reached the t op of thestack. But even if you arent that interested in what made the OED thefinest reference work of its day - and perhaps the greatest reference evercreated - the story of Dr. Charles Minor, the man who contributedthousands of entries, all painstakingly researched and neatly written fromhis home in Crowthorne, England, just 50 miles from Oxford, just mighthook you.What tied Minor to the OED and made his role so remarkable? Was it thathe was an American creating something so peculiarly British? Nope. Therewas no snobbery as a sub theme. That he was a veteran of the Civil War,where he was surgeon for the troops of the North? Interesting, but notinteresting enough to bring a dictionary to life. Was it that he maintained along distance relationship with Professor James Murray - strictly bycorrespondence - for decades, despite numerous invitations from Murrayto attend fundraising dinners or just stop by the office to meet due to hisprolific 10 thousand entries? Not even close. Was it that he tho ughtIrishmen were ... and that one night he went out and ... and because ofthat he ended up living in ... ? Yes. Yes. And yes.I dont want to spoil the book for someone wants to know why it took 70years to create the OED - Murray worked on it for 40 of those years butdied before it was released - which contained almost 2 million quotationsthat helped define more than 400 thousand words. As an aside to those
who love words and where they came from, one of the challenges ofcompleting this monumental masterpiece was the stated goal that the OEDwould provide literary quotations, from oldest to most recent, to illustrateeach words first usage, evolution, and current definitions. Is it any wonderthat the publisher had London book sellers place advertisin g tracts in thebooks they sold to solicit research help from the general population?But back to Minor. I guess since Ive already let you know that Murray wasthe professor, it is safe to reveal that Minor was the madman. WhenMurray finally insisted that he must meet the good doctor face-to-face outof respect for his unequaled contributions to the OED- and yes, if Minorwouldnt leave his home and travel to Oxford, he would come to him - youcan imagine the shock he must have felt to show up at the front door anddiscover Minor was an insane murderer living at the Broadmoor CriminalLunatic Asylum.Who knows? Let this book rise to the top of the stack beside yournightstand and you might be shocked to discover yourself enjoying ascintillating read about the history of a dictionary! For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price: The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (P.S.) by Simon Winchester - 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!