The Professor and the Madman

The Professor and the Madman

A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

Book - 2005
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The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. The compilation of the OED began in 1857, it was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane.

This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.

Publisher: New York : Harper Perennial, 2005
Edition: 1st Harper Perennial ed
ISBN: 9780060839789
0060839783
Branch Call Number: 423.028 W759p 2005
Characteristics: xiii, 242, 16 p. : ill. ; 21 cm

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From Library Staff

An extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. ... Read More »


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Cynthia_N Apr 28, 2017

Interesting read but not quite what I expected. The book focuses on the contributions of the "madman" which was very interesting but I would have liked more focus on the creating of the OED. Quick read.

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Eosos
Feb 15, 2017

What a fascinating slice of history. I never really thought about how complicated it would have been to create a dictionary, or what kind of people would be involved.
While this story only delves into a very small part of the dictionaries creation, it expands upon the life and times of one of it's most prolific contributors, a clever man with some definite mental health issues.
I liked the story, found it curious but it somehow felt too easy. Maybe it's my approach to non-fiction, I like something dense and complicated, this was not. It was well written and engaging though. A must read for anyone who likes words and dictionaries.

l
lcraig368
Dec 07, 2016

Loved it! Fascinating.

ChiPubLib_Adults Oct 02, 2015

Don't miss this classic story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, featuring madness, murder and an unlikely partnership.

w
wyenotgo
Aug 21, 2015

An extraordinary book, surely an example of truth being stranger than fiction. It centers upon the peculiar but astonishingly productive collaboration between a brilliant Oxford Don and an equally brilliant but clearly deranged former American army doctor. In its day, a project aimed at creating the world's first real, complete dictionary was surely an audacious undertaking and it clearly required the dedicated labors of many people, not just the two main protagonists of Winchester's book; but surely without both of them it never could have been accomplished.
Fascinating, arcane, enlightening and thoroughly entertaining.

i
IV27HUjg
Jul 03, 2015

I read this several years ago & loved it. Now I'll listen to it for a refresher. Fascinating read.

modboi5 May 06, 2015

A compelling story and a terrific read once you get past the minutiae of word lexicography. The perfect length to cover a topic otherwise unknown and undiscussed in our English language - on both sides of the pond. Amazing analysis and thoroughly readable!

SFPL_RicardoA Feb 09, 2015

An extraordinary, real life account about the life of one of the greatest contributors to the Oxford English Dictionary.
A must read.

s
sess430
Oct 03, 2013

On the strength of Winchester's book about the deadly, violent explosion of the Krakatoa volcano, I decided to read this book & I wasn't disappointed. It is about the monumental task (which took 70 years!) of writing the Oxford English Dictionary ~ the OED. If you're a lover of books (& hence words), then read this book to find out how it came to be. Who knew that an American, Dr. Minor, was one of the main contributors (submitted over 10,000 entries)? It reads like a biography of "the Madman". After finishing the book, I went to the library's main branch to examine the OED. I pulled volume X (of 20 huge volumes) & read the entries for the word "old". I was blown away when I counted the pages for it & the related entries - over 10!

i
IV27HUjg
Dec 24, 2012

I was totally fasinated. Don't read other reviews before as it might ruin the true story.

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