Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, a book review

It's been a while since I read this one, so I'm hazy on the details.

I can tell you, though, that it is well worth reading. I picked it up because of the title (Can you resist it?) but read it through because it is just plain good.

It's an account of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and the lives of two of its main contributors, Professor James Murray, who headed the dictionary-making project for forty years, and W.C. Minor, the madman of the title, who provided a number of entries while living in the insane asylum (quite definitely insane). It's the best sort of non-fiction, focusing on the dictionary and its making while also showing how it fits into its time and place.

It's also extremely well-written, and I highly recommend it.

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