The Professor and the Madman

by Simon Winchester | Biographies & Memoirs |
ISBN: 0060175966 Global Overview for this book
Registered by nwpassage of Prince George, British Columbia Canada on 11/26/2006
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This book is in a Controlled Release! This book is in a Controlled Release!
2 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by nwpassage from Prince George, British Columbia Canada on Sunday, November 26, 2006
Bought for a donation at the Friends of the Library sale! TBR

From the front cover:


From the dust jacket flap:

It is known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story -- a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking.

Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murrary invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly -- and mysteriously -- refused.

Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murrary finally learned the truth about Minor -- that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane -- and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.

The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. With riveting insight and detail, Simon Winchester crafts a fascinating glimpse into one man's tortured mind and his contribution to another man's magnificent dictionary.

SIMON WINCHESTER is a writer and adventurer who has written for Conde Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, and National Geographic, and has had an award-winning thirty-year newspaper career. His books include The River at the Center of the World; The Sun Never Sets; Korea: A Walk Through the Land of Miracles; Pacific Rising; Pacific Nightmare; and Prison Diary: Argentina. He lives in New York and London.

From the back cover:


"The linguistic detective story of the decade." -- William Safire

"Remarkably readable, this chronicle of lexicography roams from the great dictionary itself to hidden nooks in the human psyche that sometimes house the motives for murder, the sources for sanity, and the blueprint for creativity." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"An extraordinary tale, and Simon Winchester could not have told it better.... [He] has written a splendid book." -- The Economist

"Madness, violence, arcane obsessions, weird learning, ghastly comedy, all set out in an atmosphere of po-faced, high neo-Gothic. The geographical span is wide, from Dickensian London to Florida's Pensacola Bay, from the beaches at Trincomalee to the Civil War battlefields of the United States.... It is a wonderful story." -- John Banville, Literary Review

"This is almost my favorite kind of book: the work of social and intellectual history which through the oblique treatment of major developments manages to throw unusual light on humankind and its doings.... Simon Winchester's effortlessly clear, spare prose is the perfect vehicle for the tale... absolutely riveting." -- Will Self, The Times (London)

Journal Entry 2 by nwpassage from Prince George, British Columbia Canada on Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I don''t really have a burning need to read this one, and I noticed it''s on my birthday exchange partner''s wishlist, so mailed today. Traveling

Journal Entry 3 by cowgirl-up from Springfield, Ohio USA on Monday, October 29, 2007
I'm so sorry this wasn't journaled sooner. Thanks for including it in my birthday exchange package!

Journal Entry 4 by cowgirl-up from Springfield, Ohio USA on Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Not an overly great read, but interesting nonetheless. The writing style reminded me a bit of Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, etc), but not quite as good. The stories of the men who wrote the Oxford English Dictionary were interesting and I enjoyed the "behind the scenes" look. I think maybe I would have liked it better if it hadn't come so highly recommended to me by friends. Perhaps high expectations set me up for a bit of a disappointment.

Journal Entry 5 by cowgirl-up at Frankfort, Ohio USA on Sunday, July 04, 2010

Released 9 yrs ago (6/8/2010 UTC) at Frankfort, Ohio USA


Mailed this one off to Texas via the bookswap feature over at GoodReads.

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