The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary--and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than 10,000. When the committee insisted on honoring Minor, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at a British asylum for the criminally insane.This was a compelling page-turner. But, it was also over-long, overwrought, and laden with purple prose and sesquipedalians (look it up!). I wish that I'd had a copy of the OED on my nightstand as I read the book, but even the two-volume condensed version of the OED (with a magnifying glass) weighs 25 pounds and won't fit on my nightstand!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester
From the blurb on the back cover: