The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

September 2004

If you love dictionaries as much as I do, then you should definitely read this book. It's the remarkable tale of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and of one of the dictionary's main contributors, who happened to be confined to an asylum for the criminally insane for the better part of his life. The book first paints a wonderfully vivid, if exceedingly grim, picture of some of the bleaker parts of Victorian London and some of the horrors of the American Civil War, and it then goes on to recount the details of the creation of one the most remarkable books in English literary history. If I had several thousand pounds - and several empty bookshelves - to spare, I would run out and buy the OED today - but since I don't, reading about the making of it is almost the next best thing.

Further reading…