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Darwin-L Message Log 4:93 (December 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<4:93>From DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu  Sat Dec 25 21:40:27 1993

Date: Sat, 25 Dec 1993 22:44:11 -0400 (EDT)
From: DARWIN@iris.uncg.edu
Subject: James Murray's Romanes Lecture on lexicography
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Organization: University of NC at Greensboro

Jeff Wills recently sent me a few pages from a small book by James Murray,
and they prompted me to track down the whole work in the library.  James
Murray was the editor of the original _Oxford English Dictionary_, and what
is of interest to us is that the full title of the OED (which I had known
but forgotten) is in fact _A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles_.
Its principal innovation was the great quantity of historical information it
provided on the origin and use of each word.  Murray's small book that Jeff
pointed me to is _The Evolution of English Lexicography_ (Oxford, 1900), and
it happens also to be the Romanes Lecture for 1900 (we had had some discussion
of the Romanes lecture series here a while ago).  It's only about fifty pages
long, and is quite an interesting account of the history of dictionaries; take
a look for it in your library sometime.  Here's a sample:

  "In the course of this lecture, it has been needful to give so many details
  as to individual works, that my audience may at times have failed 'to see
  the wood for the trees,' and may have lost the clue of the lexicographic
  evolution.  Let me then in conclusion recapitulate the stages which have
  been already indicated.  These are: the glossing of difficult words in
  Latin manuscripts by easier Latin, and at length by English words; the
  collection of the English glosses into Glossaries, and the elaboration of
  Latin-English Vocabularies; the later formation of English-Latin
  Vocabularies; the production of Dictionaries of English and another modern
  language; the compilation of Glossaries and Dictionaries of 'hard' English
  words; the extension of these by Bailey, for etymological purposes, to
  include words in general; the idea of a Standard Dictionary, and its
  realization by Dr. Johnson with illustrative quotations; the notion that a
  Dictionary should also show the pronunciation of the living word; the
  extension of the function of quotations by Richardson; the idea that the
  Dictionary should be a biography of every word, and should set forth every
  fact connected with its origin, history, and use, on a strictly historical
  method." (p. 50)

It's interesting to remember in this context that Darwin had a cousin named
Hensleigh Wedgwood who himself wrote a dictionary of English etymology, and
that Darwin relied on Wedgwood for several examples of word-evolution that
were used in the _Origin of Species_ to illustrate difficult points in the
theory of descent.

Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

Robert J. O'Hara (darwin@iris.uncg.edu)
Center for Critical Inquiry and Department of Biology
100 Foust Building, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina 27412 U.S.A.

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