15 September 2009
A small display celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Johnson is currently on show at the Bodleian Library.
Samuel Johnson is best known for authoring the Dictionary of English Language, published in 1755. Two thousand copies of the first edition were printed, one of which is showcased in the Bodleian display. The first edition contains definitions of 42,773 words, supported by some 113,000 quotations. The book quickly came to be regarded as the standard English dictionary and Johnson became the first great literary celebrity. Nine years in the making, the dictionary was a massive achievement for one man, working virtually single-handed.
The Bodleian display showcases a small selection of Johnsonian artefacts:
- the earliest known surviving Johnson manuscript, signed and dated by the author himself in 1725;
- Johnson’s essay ‘On the Character and Duty of Academick’ discovered in 1993 by the bookseller Richard Hatchwell in an unknown book, Hospitality, by the Rev. John Moir;
- a copy of An Account of an Attempt to Ascertain the Longitude written and presented to the Bodleian Library by Johnson.
The display complements the international ‘Johnson at 300’ conference hosted by Pembroke College, where Samuel Johnson studied for thirteen months as an undergraduate before leaving due to lack of money. The four-day event, on 14-18 September, will explore Johnson’s life and works, as well as the way he is perceived on the occasion of his 300th anniversary