Monday, April 13, 2009

o, covetous rapture!

this easter weekend i acquired, through the sleuthing of my good friend daniel, 2 books i have been coveting for more than a decade.

the first, which is the fourth iteration of the book, is tom phillips' a humument. for those of you unfamiliar with the project (this edition of the book simply captures the project at a certain point in time - here's more information) it began in the mid-60s when mr. phillips, inspired by william burroughs' "cut-up" writing technique, bought an obscure victorian novel (w. h. mallock's a human document, from 1892) and began to alter it by drawing, painting and collaging the pages of the book and pulling out new narratives (even poetry). the first edition appeared in 1980 (the second edition was published in 1987 and the third in 1998). the fourth edition (the one i just received) was published in 2005 - almost half of the 1980 edition has been replaced/ revamped.

it is generally considered one of the prime exemplars of artists books, particularly the stream that involves altering and editing a text without altering a book's physical structure. and 40 years later, it seems that the project remains inexhaustible.

the other item is the 1971 compact edition of the oxford english dictionary. reproduced micrographically, it contains the entire 13-volume edition of the 1933 OED. it comes with a magnifying glass so you can read the text (it is reproduced micrographically, you know). at one time (i believe it was in the mid-90s), a newer edition had been made available to new members if you joined the book-of-the-month club, which i didn't do, and thereby missed my opportunity for a truly literary steal since the compact OED will usually run over $300. ouch.

according to the encyclopaedia brittanica online: The dictionary is a corrected and updated revision of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (NED), which was published in 10 volumes from February 1, 1884, to April 19, 1928, and which was designed to provide an inventory of words in use in English since the mid-12th century (and in some cases even earlier). In 1933 the New English Dictionary was reissued in 12 volumes (together with a 1-volume supplement) as The Oxford English Dictionary. Both the NED and OED were published by the Clarendon Press of Oxford.

Arranged mostly in order of historical occurrence, the definitions in the OED are illustrated with about 2,400,000 dated quotations from English-language literature and records. The aim of the dictionary (as stated in the 1933 edition) is “to present in alphabetical series the words that have formed the English vocabulary from the time of the earliest records down to the present day, with all the relevant facts concerning their form, sense-history, and etymology.”

The publication of the dictionary was first suggested to the Philological Society (London) in 1857, and the collection of materials began soon thereafter. Editorial work began in 1879 with the appointment of James Murray, who was at that time president of the Philological Society, as editor in chief. Murray, during his term as editor, was responsible for approximately half of the dictionary, including the letters a through d, h through k, o, p, and t. Succeeding editors included Henry Bradley, William Alexander Craigie, and C.T. Onions.


No comments: