Murray's filing system (OUP Museum)
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Thursday, 31 January 2013
Home arrow Historical documents
Historical documents
Documents from the OED archives and elsewhere
This section of the site contains images of a selection of documents relating in one way or another to the history of the OED, many of them from the OED archives stored at Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford. We are most grateful to the Secretary to the Delegates of Oxford University Press for permission to reproduce the documents below and in particular thank OUP archivist Martin Maw and OED archivist Bev Hunt for their help.

Under OED1's compilation you can read the Philological Society's Proposal for a New English Dictionary of 1859, and look at pages (with discussion) from one of F. J. Furnivall's notebooks of readers and texts. We also include samples from one of the  book lists he produced for OED readers in 1861.

By 1878, Furnivall was negotiating with Oxford University Press to publish the new Dictionary, and the Press took advice, reproduced here, from one of its Delegates, the Sanskritist Professor Max Müller. James Murray was appointed the new editor in 1879, and he immediately issued an Appeal for volunteer readers (published in three editions 1879-80), reproduced on the OED Online archive pages. You can read his Directions to Readers on the EOED site.

OED Online carries a copy of Murray's 'Romanes' lecture on 'The Evolution of English Lexicography', delivered to an Oxford audience in 1900. This runs through the history of English dictionaries and explains why the new OED was so important.

Murray died in 1915, at the age of 78, having just completed on time a double section of the Dictionary, covering entries in the range 'Trink' to 'Turndown'. He had been responsible for 'more than half of the English vocabulary, comprising all the words beginning with the letters A-D, H-K, O-P, and all but a fraction of those beginning with T', as described in the issue of The Periodical of 15 September 1915 (p. 198) in which his death was reported.

The Dictionary was not to be completed for another thirteen years: our section on OED1's completion contains a range of further documents relating to this significant event.

Finally, we have begun an archive of photos of the editors, staff, buildings etc. associated with OED from its early stages onwards.

For further information and documents go to OED Online archive pages, which contain the Preface to the Second Edition of OED, published in 1989. This explains the purpose of the second edition, and reproduces much of the editorial and introductory material published with versions of the first edition (1884, 1928, 1933), e.g. Murray's 'General Explanations' and an invaluable account of the history of the first edition of the Dictionary (for an explanation of the different editions of OED go here). See also Darrell Raymond's Dispatches from the Front, which reproduces the Prefaces to the original volumes and fascicles of the first edition of OED, and also contains some very interesting tables summarizing some of the statistical data available in the Prefaces (updated version of this document is available as a PDF at http://www.darrellraymond.com/prefaces).

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