Did you ever wonder what sort of work went into creating the Oxford English Dictionary, complied a century before computers were invented? The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester is the chronicle of that Herculean task by two men one of whom was a patient at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, the other attached to the London Philological Society.
Each chapter begins with a definition taken from the dictionary itself that introduces a theme found therein. The intertwining stories of how these two men devoted themselves to creating such a comprehensive list of words in an attempt to define all the terms in the English language is quite an incredible tale. All in all, it took more than seventy years to complete the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary composed of more than half a million words.
The fascinating biographies of Dr. James Murray and Dr. W. C. Minor, whose lives have both been lost to obscurity, will keep you turning the pages of this unique book. It isn’t necessarily an easy read, however. After all, there are all those words that go into the making of a dictionary. But if you enjoy little-known facts, word origins, and an interesting storyline, then The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester is a book you should pick up.