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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.
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.