To celebrate publication week, I’ll take five days and take a closer look at five cool rare books that play important roles in The Bookman’s Tale.
Today: Number Five
The fourth edition of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language. I chose to have Peter Byerly find the fourth edition instead of the first to make the point that there are important books out there that are not first editions. I get so tired of hearing in television shows, movies, or even books written by those who don’t know much about books that a rich person’s library is full of “leather-bound first editions.” Of course many first editions would have their value completely destroyed if they were bound in leather. And there are so many amazing and rare books out there that are not first editions. In this case, the fourth edition of Johnson’s famous dictionary—the book that in many ways defined the English language—is the last edition that has the author’s own corrections. Peter is especially drawn to the author’s “Advertisement” at the beginning of the book “Perfection is unattainable,” writes Johnson, “but nearer and nearer approaches may be made; and finding my dictionary about to be reprinted, I have endeavoured, by a revisal, to make it less reprehensible.” Peter feels that perhaps, by revisal, he can make himself less reprehensible. Johnson’s dictionary also comes into play in my next novel, where a character quotes Johnson’s definition of the word novel: a small tale, generally of love. I leave it to the reader to judge whether The Bookman’s Tale fits his definition. Tomorrow: Number Four.