Lot 8075: Rare handwritten manuscript from a draft of An American Dictionary of the English Language, unsigned, one page both sides, 8 x 10, no date but circa 1824–1825. Definitions from the 'B' section of Webster's dictionary, beginning with "Biped" and ending with "Bird." Among these are numerous scientific terms, such as "Bipedal," "Bipetalous," "Biquadrate," "Biquintile," "Biradiated," and "Birch," with various corrections and emendations to many. His definition of bird is particularly interesting, in full: "a chicken or young fowl, a young or small fowl. In modern usage, a fowl or flying animal. It is to be regretted that this word is used as the generic name of flying or winged animals. A bird is a chicken; fowl…signifies the flying animal & is the proper generic term; & this was used at the time when the present version of the scriptures was made." For "Birch," he writes: "A genus of trees, known technically under the name Betula, of which there are four or five species; as the white or common birch—the dwarf birch—the Canada birch of which there are several varieties & the black birch." An alternate definition of "Birch" appears above but has been crossed out by Webster. Expertly repaired partial separations to intersecting folds, otherwise fine condition. The bulk of Webster's manuscript—over 450 leaves—now resides in the Pierpont Morgan Library—and rarely appear for sale, particularly as a complete page. Webster's dictionary is the cornerstone of the brand of English spoken in America today, and this manuscript offers fabulous insight into Webster's discerning editorial process as he compiled the foundational text.
RR Auction's Remarkable Rarities Auction 461
Monday, 28th September 2015
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