On parchment, paper, or pixels, reading is essential to geo-literacy and good citizenship.

Photograph by Patricia Reyes, MyShot
  • Audience versions of this page: Family

    On February 1, 1884, editors published the first volume of what would become the Oxford English Dictionary. The fascicle—one part of a larger book, this one 352 pages covering “a” through “ant”—sold only 4,000 copies. Since then, the OED has become one of the most respected and comprehensive dictionaries in the world.
     
    The book, originally titled A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles; Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by The Philological Society, was far from the first dictionary of the English language. (That would probably be Thomas Elyot’s “wordbook,” published in 1538.) However, an elite group of intellectuals was dissatisfied with the existing dictionaries, and set out to correct mistakes and add more words.
     
    The last printed edition of the OED was published in 1989, and contained 20 volumes. Always being updated, the current OED—from “a” through “Zyzzogeton” (a type of South American insect!)—only exists in an electronic format available to subscribers.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    comprehensive Adjective

    full, wide-ranging, or inclusive.

    dictionary Noun

    reference resource containing an alphabetical list of words, including their spelling, pronunciation, part of speech, and definition. 

    dissatisfied Adjective

    unhappy or disappointed with something.

    elite Adjective

    exclusive or the best.

    fascicle Noun

    section of a book published in installments.

    intellectual Adjective

    having to do with knowledge, or a knowledgeable person.

    philological Adjective

    having to do with the study of language and historic texts.