February 1, 1884. The first part of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was published in 1884. The OED is the definitive dictionary of the English language, including complete etymologies, pronunciations, and quotes for the largest collection of English words.
In the late 19th century, OED editors put out an appeal for volunteers to help. Contributors were expected to read books and find quotations that had interesting words in them. The editors then organized the scores of material into a useable reference work. The book, The Professor and the Madman: a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary, contains a fascinating account of the process and the life of one of its prolific contributors, Dr. W.C. Minor, who happened to be confined to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.
More information is available at:
- Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman: a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English dictionary (Law Library 3rd Floor Culp Collection @ PE1617.O94W56 1998)
- Oxford English Dictionary (Law Library Reserve @ PE1625.O87 1989)