1st AMERICAN Edition. - Samuel JOHNSON (1709-1784).
A Dictionary of the English Language: in Which the Words are Deduced from Their Originals, and Illustrated in Their Different Significations by Examples from the Best Writers. To Which are Prefixed, a History of the Language, and an English Grammar … First American, from the eleventh London edition … To which are added, Walker’s Principles of English pronunciation. Philadelphia: published by Moses Thomas, J. Maxwell printer, 1818. 2 volumes, large quarto (10 ¾ x 8 5/8 inches; 273 x 219mm). Engraved portrait of Johnson at the front of vol.I, the lexicon in triple columns with pages unpaginated. (Toned and spotted).Contemporary half diced Russia, spines gilt, marbled endpapers (worn, spines damaged, joints split, inner hinges with old repairs using cloth). Provenance: John C. Montgomery (signatures); Joseph S. Clarke, “Valley Forge, Penna.” (inscriptions).
The first complete American edition of perhaps the most famous dictionary ever published: abridged versions Johnson’s Dictionary had been published as early as 1804, but this is first US edition of the full text. The Dictionary was first published in two folio volumes in 1755, the present edition is perhaps most reminiscent of the first authorized quarto edition (also in two volumes) and published in 1785.
"More enduringly significant than the European influence of the Dictionary was its influence across the Atlantic. The American adoption of the Dictionary was a momentous event not just in its history, but in the history of lexicography. For Americans in the second half of the eighteenth century, Johnson was the seminal authority on language, and the subsequent development of American lexicography was coloured by his fame." (Henry Hitchings, Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson's Dictionary, , p. 244).
Noah Webster strongly disapproved of Johnson’s Dictionary, although his opinion of the author in general could not have been more positive: noting that Johnson was “one of the greatest men that the English nations has ever produced”. Perhaps spurred on by the publication of the present work, ten years later, Webster published his final rebuttal An American dictionary of the English Language.
Alston V HBS 67202; American Imprints 44473; Courtney & Smith p.58-60; Fleeman 55.4D/21a.