Dr Johnson may not have invented the dictionary, but his work on creating one changed the dictionary game in a way only comparable to the invention of polyurethane skateboarding wheels (or, you know, sliced bread).
Here at St Bride Foundation we house a first edition Dr Johnson’s Dictionary, which was mostly compiled and written in 1755 from Dr Johnson’s Fleet Street home. In it, he provided hundreds of examples of how to use certain words in context, often quoting Shakespeare for extra clarity.
The dictionary also featured what some might call a comic writing style. For example, if you were to look up the word ‘oats’ nowadays, you might find something like this: ‘An Old World cereal plant with a loose, branched cluster of florets, cultivated in cool climates and widely used for animal feed.’
Dr Johnson, however, went for what we might these days consider to be a slightly less orthodox approach…