Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Antiques Roadshow, pt. 3, the dictionary

The Antiques Roadshow appraisal at our house today is my Merriam-Webster New International Dictionary of the English Language 2nd edition Unabridged. At least that's what I told my husband at dinner, but I was wrong. The word Merriam isn't in the title but is in the publisher's name. And until I looked at it carefully, I had several things incorrect. I'd assumed it was copyright 1948, but it is 1934. It has an updated "New Word" section which is 1939 and 1945, but 1948 is on the title page. That section (from the 40s) is truly fascinating. You can still purchase Mr. Webster's 1828 edition and it's interesting because it reflects a Judeo-Christian culture. The 1934 2nd edition unabridged was last printed about 1960 and the copyright doesn't end for a few years. But the 3rd edition is available.

This particular antique was a Christmas gift to my parents perhaps in 1949 or 1950 from my grandparents. My aunt and uncle probably were given one too. My parents had a special stand for it which someone else in the family might have. The volume is massive, so a stand that fits would be helpful. It sits on our dining room buffet. After my father died in 2002 it became mine. I use it frequently. 

Here's how language and dictionaries change with the culture.
Marriage (1828 Webster's dictionary): "MAR'RIAGE, noun [Latin mas, maris.] The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children."
The color plates and illustrations are as good as the day 10 year old Norma first looked at it. The print does seem to have grown smaller! There are 600 special topics with little bios about the editors and there were special assistant editors checking their work!

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