Philadelphia: Moses Thomas, 1818. First Unabridged American edition from the 11th London edition. 4to, 2 large volumes, unpaginated. Bound in full calf, elaborately stamped in gilt (worn at the extremities of the spine, weak on the hinges. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Johnson in volume 1. AEG, With an ownership signature of George Plitt from 1824 and a note by his son John that the set was rebound in 1849. Waterstain to the inner margin of the half-title and title-page of volume two. Generally a very good set. Shaw and Shoemaker 44473; Printing and the Mind of Man, 201 (ref). Item #41215
" Begun in 1747 and printed over five years, Johnson's Dictionary set the standard for all subsequent lexicographical work. Its excellence was immediately recognized in all quarters and the first edition of two thousand copies sold quickly. What set Johnson's Dictionary apart from earlier efforts was his reliance on the examples of English literature rather than his own intuition or previous word lists or dictionaries, a method that has been the standard ever since, from Richardson and Webster to the Oxford English Dictionary. Johnson, in undertaking this vast work, set out to perform singlehanded for the English language what the French Academy, a century before, had attempted for French. He hoped to produce "a dictionary by which the pronunciation of our language may be fixed, and its attainment facilitated;" and though, of course, no language can be frozen in time, by aiming at fixing the language he succeeded in giving the standard of reputable use. As Noah Webster stated, his work "had, in philology, the effect which Newton's discoveries had in mathematics." Johnson presumed to finish the work for the Dictionary in three years by his own labor, but he underestimated the work required and it eventually took nine years to complete (though not all of his time was spent upon the Dictionary, as he was also the editor of The Rambler at this time) and required the assistance of six amanuenses--five of whom, to Boswell's satisfaction, were Scotsmen. "Johnson's achievement marked an epoch in the history of the language. The result of nine years labor, it did more than any other work before or since towards fixing the language. The preface ranks among Johnson's finest writings. The most amazing, enduring, and endearing one-man feat in the field of lexicography" [Printing and the Mind of Man].