He changed some spellings, such as ‘poyson’ to ‘poison’, in an attempt to standardise the English language.
Interestingly, each amanuensis had their own style of striking through the letters and this can be seen in the second image.
Johnson embarked on the ambitious task of creating a dictionary that consolidated the current English language by providing a comprehensive list of the usage and the exhaustive meanings of each word, colloquial or idiomatic, jargon or slang. To demonstrate the usage of these words, he aimed to include exemplary quotations from the authors and scholars he believed to be most praiseworthy from the preceding 200 years.
Between 1746 and 1755, Johnson employed six amanuenses: one Englishman, five Scots.
Thirteen of Johnson’s annotated copies have survived and from these, we understand how the Dictionary was compiled.
Later, some of the alphabetised slips were copied or pasted onto large pieces of paper and some were likewise inserted into small, unbound notebooks (Johnson’s method changed several times over the years).
Although at the editing stage, Johnson refused the majority of their additions from the meanings of certain words in the Scottish dialect to their quotations from Scottish authorities. Some that did receive Johnson’s approval include the definition of ‘scambler’ and quotations from the Scottish poet, James Thomson.
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