|Description: A leather-bound edition of "An American Dictionary of the English Language," by Noah Webster, LL. D., Springfield, Massachusetts. Published by George and Charles Merriam, 1858. |
In 1806, Noah Webster (1758-1843) published "A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language", the first truly American dictionary. Immediately thereafter he went to work on his magnum opus, "An American Dictionary of the English Language", for which he learned 26 languages, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, in order to research the origins of his own country's tongue. This book, published in 1828, embodied a new standard of lexicography; it was a dictionary with 70,000 entries that was felt by many to have surpassed Samuel Johnson's 1755 British masterpiece not only in scope but in authority as well.
While Webster was promoting his dictionary, George and Charles Merriam opened a printing and bookselling operation in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1831. G. & C. Merriam Co. (renamed Merriam-Webster Inc. in 1982) inherited the Webster legacy when the Merriam brothers bought the unsold copies of the 1841 edition of "An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged" from Webster's heirs after the great man's death in 1843. At the same time they secured the rights to create revised editions of that work. It was the beginning of a publishing tradition that has continued uninterrupted to this day at Merriam-Webster. For more information about Noah Webster or Merriam-Webster Inc., please visit: http://www.m-w.com/