Sunday, 25 October 2009

Help me date this very old dictionary!

I bought a very old dictionary at a church fete yesterday. It's gorgeous! It's missing the front cover and first few pages - the definitions start at "abroad", page 3.

I'm wondering just how old it is. We tried looking up various words to give us a hint.

"Cinema" : not listed.

"Automobile" : not listed

"Motor Car" : not listed, but then "Motor" is not listed.

"Refrigerator" : a box for keeping things cool by means of ice

Here's some other clues - it's a Websters Condensed Dictionary. The bottom of the spine shows "...ith 1... ...ustra...", so at first I thought it was an Australian edition. But of course, it's the number of illustrations. And here's a nice one - the edges are marbled!

Here's one of my favourite pages - the kangaroo. I think the artist's mind was untainted by having seen any actual kangaroos.

And Jeff's favourite page - "Buttock - see under BUTT".

Then John suggested some words "Dreadnought" is not there, but a "dreadnaught" is someone who doesn't fear the cold, or a thick cloth that keeps out the cold. And "Submarine" is NOT a boat - the definition is "Being, acting or growning under water in the sea". He says the boat meaning arrived in 1899.

What else can I look up to date it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Pauline, A google search doesn't show much, but someone called C.P. Cavafy had a Websters Condensed Dictionary printed in 1891, which would seem to be about right for the inclusions and exclusions.
Webster himself was dead by then, the authors are listed as Webster, Noah. Porter, Noah. Gardner, Dorsey.