Looking Something Up in an Actual Book.

An interest in Buddhism, a fluctuating chronic illness and a near-fatal bout of cancer has left me with a feeling that belongings aren’t terribly important.

However, probably because I studied English at University,  I absolutely love my bonkers, hard-to-use, compact Oxford English Dictionary. We’ve been through a lot together.

The complete twenty volumes of the O.E.D are squeezed into a single book – “micrographically.” Nine pages are printed on each page and you have to use a magnifying glass to read anything. I bought the one-volume version in 1991, while I was at University, for £50.

A text search doesn’t compare really. I would miss the ceremony of looking something up. Also, an old book doesn’t charge you a year’s subscription for reading it (the online O.E.D.’s annual fee is £215 to those that can afford it.)

The light on the magnifying-glass still works after nearly three decades.

Samuel Johnson’s dictionary was published in 1755. It remained the standard text for 150 years until the OUP began publishing the Oxford English Dictionary in 1884. The first CD version of the O.E.D. was produced in 1987. The third edition of the dictionary will be published in the 2030s.

(P.S. I do a lot of my reading digitally, after all it is 2019.)

4 responses to “Looking Something Up in an Actual Book.”

  1. I read the first paragraph of this post and knew I was going to agree with what was coming. I think you’re right – there are some possessions that may fit into the ostensibly useless category but that actually fit into a far more fulfilling and valued category related to our lives and memory. I have all the copies of my Harry Potter books that I bought religiously, starting in 1997, each year. They are tattered and getting hard to read but whenever I’ve come to clear out the house I’ve always, always kept them aside. Possessions aren’t important but memories are and some possessions traverse that boundary quite nicely. Great post, looking forward to reading more from you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, and thanks for reading.! When things looked bad health-wise I chucked out DVDs and CDs, not wanting other people to have to deal with my clutter, but I couldn’t bring myself get rid of my favourite books! I’m glad I didn’t! As you say the memories they hold are important.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating! I’d no idea there was a compact edition! How farsighted of you to invest in it back then! I used to love consulting the full 20 volumes during my uni days, but have quailed at paying the annual fee for the online version! 🙂


    1. Thanks for reading! I sense a fellow library enjoyer 🙂 – also enjoyed the big version.. The compact version is quite odd but good, kind of like consulting a grimoire…


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