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The Professor and the Madman
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary | Simon Winchester
Mysterious (miste ries), a. [f. L. mystrium Mysteryi + ous. Cf. F. mystrieux.] 1. Full of or fraught with mystery; wrapt in mystery; hidden from human knowledge or understanding; impossible or difficult to explain, solve, or discover; of obscure origin, nature, or purpose. It is known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story--a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly--and mysteriously--refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor--that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane--and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is an extraordinary tale of madness and genius, and the incredible obsessions of two men at the heart of the Oxford English Dictionary and literary history. With riveting insight and detail, Simon Winchester crafts a fascinating glimpse into one man's tortured mind and his contribution to another man's magnificent dictionary.
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Well-ReadNeck
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Freespirit Good book🤗 2mo
81 likes4 stack adds1 comment
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gallowbraids
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"Dog turds" was used to tan leather back in the day in London.

Learn something new everyday. ??

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gallowbraids
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Been wanting this book for the last few years, but the price for a copy was always a bit much. Couldn't find it on Book Outlet but I did on Thriftbooks via the app.

Great discounted books from Book Outlet, brand new books that mainky have faint blemishes or dents. Thriftbooks seems to be books from thrift stores as the copies all seem to be a bit old if not marked as "like new."

Super excited to read this finally!

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Vivlio_Gnosi
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Added this 250+ page #Nonfiction #biography / #autobiography #historical account of the English language and the Oxford #Dictionary to my #TBR stack.
#GreenvilleSC

6 likes1 stack add
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MsJPilkey
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This will be book one of my summer reading list. I can‘t wait to dive in, I‘ve heard such great things 📚🌊🏊🏻‍♀️

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gracemom
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Murder, insanity, and the OED?!?! The trifecta of wow!

2 likes1 stack add
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VinceReads
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Pickpick

Quite the interesting story about two of the men who worked on the OED.

4/5

JackOBotts Wasn‘t this fascinating?! 8mo
50 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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VinceReads
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First book by Winchester, I‘ve heard great things.

48 likes2 stack adds
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Librarybelle
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Who would have thought that the Oxford English Dictionary had such a colorful history? I liked this book! #50WordsForSnow #WinterWonderland

AlaMich Wasn‘t this an unpredictably interesting book? It‘s a hard one to recommend, though, because as soon as you say “it‘s about the creation of a dictionary,” the eyes glaze over. 😂 9mo
Cinfhen It‘s on my TBR since my son recommended it to me!!! I hear it‘s excellent!!! Great choice 💙 9mo
OrangeMooseReads This is an interesting book. 9mo
See All 7 Comments
TrishB Great post 👍🏻 9mo
Librarybelle @AlaMich I know! So many people are turned off about the subject matter, but it‘s so good! 9mo
100 likes8 stack adds7 comments
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ravenlee
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I love language, languages, and all the weird little quirks (especially in English - what a discombobulated beast!). I homeschool my daughter, and it‘s such fun to share words with her. We recently learned “crepuscular,” is one of my favorites. We also studied Catal Huyuk (chatal hooyook) in history, and it‘s just fun to say. Another favorite quirk is false cognates - embarazar in Spanish means to become pregnant!

#LasagnaHogGiveaway @jmofo

ravenlee Thanks for the fun giveaway! And I hope you‘ll share the secret of LasagnaHog when the time is right. 10mo
jmofo 👏💜YAY thanks for playing @ravenlee ! 10mo
LibrarianRyan The vocabulary in is amazing. I have a pretty hog vocabulary and I have had to look up 2 words so far. It‘s been a really fun kids book so far. You might check it out. (edited) 10mo
ravenlee @LibrarianRyan Thanks! This has been on my real-life TBR, but not on here. Glad to know it‘s good! 10mo
20 likes1 stack add4 comments
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marginalia_misfit
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A word nerd's dream; a "truth is stranger than fiction" story: Including both serious historical research and journalistic dramatic intrigue, this is a history of the dictionary, but it is also a glimpse into some of the strangest corners of the social world. his glimpse is through the lives of two central figures: a self-educated scholar, and a delusional murderer.

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emwank25
Pickpick

Good

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TracyReadsBooks
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Pickpick

What a fascinating & wholly unexpected story. This is a book about precisely the sorts of people in history that often don‘t make it into books because they are minor actors in larger events/moments. Once a highly regarded surgeon, Dr. Minor was committed to Broadmoor after murdering a stranger. (He was undiagnosed but likely had schizophrenia.) While there he made an important & improbable contribution to the writing of the OED. Recommended.

17 likes1 stack add
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TracyReadsBooks
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The madman in this book, Dr. Minor, was referenced in the book I just finished (The Wicked Boy)! Apparently, he and the subject of that book, Robert Coombes (committed after being found guilt but insane in the murder of his mother) where in Broadmoor at the same time. So, this is my next grab-n-go book. Fascinating when it‘s such a small world in the books you‘re reading, right?!? Love it.

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TracyReadsBooks
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I hope everyone had a fantastic day! Mother‘s Day started with a pancake breakfast (yum). Then, on the way to see Avengers (so much Benedict Cumberbatch which was super fantastic), we made a brief detour to one of our local Indy favorites where I browsed the sale aisle. This is my #bookhaul—5 fiction & 3 nonfiction. The tagged book is a true story about a friendship between the editor of the OED & a ‘madman‘ locked up in Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum.

mrozzz Great haul! Looks like you enjoyed your day ☺️ 1y
ElishaLovesBooks Woohoo! The tagged book is good! I enjoyed it! Happy Mother‘s Day!!🌸🌸 1y
22 likes2 comments
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annalibris
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Pickpick

I love listening to non-fiction in the car, and this was a great one for my daily commute. Interesting and sensational, sympathetic and informational, and really well researched. The author happens to be a good narrator, too, which isn‘t always the case.

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JessNevertheless
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Pickpick

Never thought I would be so engrossed in this book about the making of the Oxford Dictionary. Fascinating and surprising, I‘d definitely recommend this as a quick nonfiction read (or listen).

47 likes4 stack adds
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BridgetteM
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Starting this audiobook today! It‘ll fit nicely into the microhistory category for the #popsugar18 reading challenge.

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MallenNC
Pickpick

I have had this book on my shelf in hard copy forever, but I finally listened to the audiobook instead. I had no idea the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary took so long, and was such an elaborate process. That was very interesting, and the "madman's" involvement made it more so. Dr. Miner's story is a sad one to read, but it was gave a good look at what treatment for mental illnesses was like in this era.

AlaMich I loved this book!! When I made the mistake of telling one or two non-bookish people about it, their eyes started to glaze over. 😂 2y
MallenNC @AlaMich I bet! On the surface it doesn't sound that thrilling. 2y
29 likes2 comments
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RachLovesTV
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My book club met today to discuss this one, the last of our current round, and to pick books for our next round! It was cool to see all the word definitions at the start of each chapter, since I listened to the audio version and it was harder to absorb those parts.

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prowlix
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My newest #audiobook and I‘m finding it fascinating! The history of the Oxford English Dictionary 🤯. The author is the narrator which is also surprisingly well matched. You can really hear his love for this topic

Tjackson 💚💚💚💚💚 reading it! 2y
35 likes1 stack add1 comment
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RachLovesTV
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Mehso-so

Interesting, but ultimately frustrating. Minor's story highlights how incredibly privileged he was as a rich, white man from an affluent family. The excellent work and intense focus Minor put into the dictionary project was a productive use of his confinement, but I'm left wondering about all the people who weren't cared for quite so carefully, who were abandoned because their mental illness had become a bother (or injurious) to others.

37 likes1 stack add
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Jbakesmcgee3
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Not upset

25 likes1 stack add
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Jbakesmcgee3
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Can‘t wait to dive into this one!

drokka It's such an interesting story, and to think it's how the modern dictionary was established. 2y
Jbakesmcgee3 @drokka so far it is wildly interesting!!! 2y
17 likes2 comments
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Jcutt
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Seems like the tale is a little strange, but maybe that's why I'm looking forward to it?

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JulietteGF
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Pickpick

I've just finished my second reading of this very interesting and enlightening book. It's a must-read for people interested in the creation of dictionaries.

drokka Really enjoyed this book 2y
19 likes1 comment
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sisilia
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Alabaster Bookshop. Lovely editions inside

merelybookish Looks fun!! 2y
Trina_L Jealous!!! Looks glorious 2y
kspenmoll What fun for you! 2y
TricksyTails 😍📚 2y
135 likes4 comments
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2BR02B
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Hooray! Another item from my wishlist available at deep discount. 😍

#kindledeal

OrangeMooseReads This is an interesting story. 2y
Libby1 I liked it, too, @OrangeMooseReads and @2BR02B . 2y
31 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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AudreyMorris
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Took a long all past 3 little free libraries in my neighborhood today--and scored this. Left Reading with Patrick.

Liz_M I must remember to look for LFLs on my next MN visit. Who doesn't love small, adorable book exchanges? 2y
AudreyMorris @Liz_M that sounds like a great idea! 2y
21 likes1 stack add3 comments
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Anna40
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@Faibka @JulietteGF the November book club book arrived yesterday. I read about 10 pages. Looks like an interesting book!!

Faibka That's great! 2y
JulietteGF I've read it, and I very much liked it! 2y
Anna40 @JulietteGF Oh great! Are you coming to the meeting in November? 2y
JulietteGF @Anna40 I'll come for sure! I've been super busy with the road trip and my family, but November will be far less busy ;) 2y
Anna40 YAY! 🤗 Quite a few people have already said that they're coming so it should be an interesting meeting. We were only 3 last time but had a great discussion and very pleasant evening! Am very much looking forward to the next meeting! I wish I could host it every month :) Have a great time with your family and safe travels!! 2y
10 likes5 comments
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BarbaraJean
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#occupationintitle #fallintobooks

I don't think "madman" can be considered an occupation per se... but "professor" works. ?

Lindy Yup. 😁 2y
34 likes1 stack add1 comment
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Schlinkles
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Beginnning of July means it's time to start chipping away at my many book club books for this month. This has actually been on my TBR for a while now so I'm looking forward to it.

3 likes1 stack add
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mklong
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Pickpick

A quick and fascinating read about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and a severely mentally ill man who made astonishing contributions to it. It takes a crazy turn toward the end. If you have read it, you know exactly what I mean, but if you haven't, you will NEVER guess!

TheWordJar As a word nerd, I loved this book. ❤️ 2y
brennahawleycraig I thought this book was so fascinating! 2y
39 likes6 stack adds2 comments
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BekaReid
Mehso-so

One of the esteemed contributors to the OED was also a deranged madman and killer. Some of the exploration of the story was quite interesting. Other parts of it got bogged down. Overall it was a quick read.

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BekaReid
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I love how the chapters begin with dictionary definitions! And barely into the book Lambeth Marsh is "Dickinson London writ large" but "not a place for men with guns" and "the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime was thought of as somehow a very un-British act--and as something to be written about and recorded as a rarity."

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BekaReid
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Between a visit to my bookstore, my library requests all coming in at once, and borrowing 11/22/63 from a friend, I'm not sure where to start!!!

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tysephine
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Pickpick

An interesting audiobook. Kept me entertained on a long car ride and a couple lunch breaks!

16 likes2 stack adds
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jlondon1963
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Hard to pick just one favorite so here are a few of my top picks for true crime @Liberty for #SEEWHATIHAVEWON for those on a Hamilton kick and Duel with The Devil and if you have a tripped planned to Savannah Georgia nothing gets you in the mood for seeing the sights like Midnight In the Garden of Good And Evil.

12 likes1 stack add
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Christyco125
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Pickpick

An interesting historical tale that read like a fictional story. I'm not much for the non-fiction category because the language and writing gets too heavy. This was not the case here, I found the book easy to digest. I often couldn't put it down because I wanted to know what happened next. #history #nonfiction #lexicography #nonfictiondoneright

2 likes1 stack add
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bvu
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Did not think the history of the OED would be so interesting , but this book is great 😊

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Linda906
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Pickpick

Just finished listening to this gem. Who would have thought that a murderer would have a part in the making of the great Oxford English Dictionary? I've never really stopped to think about all the years of tedious work that was needed to create the most useful reference book (the dictionary) that we have. I found this to be a fascinating look at this process and the lives of the professor and the madman. #nonfictionchallenge17

OrangeMooseReads This is an interesting book 2y
49 likes7 stack adds1 comment
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Aseleener
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Pickpick

My #nonfiction pick for February. Bought this years ago and finally got around to reading it. I'm torn between pick and so-so. The first half really bored me. Too many mundane details. The second half really picked up though. Interesting story. I would like to read more Simon Winchester. ⭐⭐⭐ P for #LitsyAtoZ

Libby1 I felt the same about this book. 3y
44 likes3 stack adds1 comment
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tricours
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Pickpick

This was very interesting to listen to, but even though the narrator is great, it's one of those books I would have liked to read myself.

27 likes1 stack add
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jnichole
Mehso-so

I listened to this book so I missed a few parts of it, but caught the jist of it. Overall, it's a very interesting story about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and it's contributor's. It's not the type of book is normally puck up and read so I was happy that I could listen to it instead. If you enjoy history and the English language, you'll enjoy this book.

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callunakeep
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Pickpick

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I totally enjoyed this little piece of history!! The part of me that is obsessed with all things related to words is a bit sad that there was not more about the actual creation of the OED. However, the part of me that is obsessed with the psychology of those who commit violent crimes, especially those criminals from the 17th through the 19th centuries was absolutely in HEAVEN throughout the entire book!! #litsyatoz

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callunakeep
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Up next on audio! I have been excited about this one since @MrBook posted about it a little while back!! I'm only 10 minutes in but I am already loving all the little tidbits of history!!

Suzze When I read that (just looked, July 2000), I made everyone read it. I practically stood at the door to handsell it to every customer. 3y
callunakeep @Suzze that sounds like me when really speaks to me!! I am a word-nerd and love all things related: definitions, pronunciation keys, etymologies, etc. In addition I also have a fascination with the psychology of killers. Here is a book that has both and I could not be more excited to start it!!🎉👏🏻 3y
MrBook 😁👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻! #KindredSpirits 😎🙌🏻 3y
MrBook @Suzze Love it 😆👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 3y
20 likes2 stack adds4 comments
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MrsMalaprop
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An eclectic selection of books within books from my shelves. #bookwithinabook #readjanuary

Jeg I've read them all SMW@ but I don't still have them. 3y
MrsMalaprop @Jeg That's because you give them away and I hoard them 😁. At least two of them were book club books. 3y
28 likes1 stack add2 comments
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Moray_Reads
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Pickpick

There was less about the OED than I expected but Winchester's portrait of two very different men brought together by the task is deeply sympathetic and I felt real affection for both and sadness for Dr Minor. There were a couple of baseless hypotheses that I didn't like and modern criticisms of the white, male middle-class bias of the OED is NOT mere "carping". Otherwise a worthwhile read. #TacklingTheTBR #nonfictionchallenge17

LindsayReads Whoa! I had no idea this was published under a different title! Cool! 3y
Moray_Reads @LindsayReads This is the UK title, a little less dramatic (and descriptive!) Than The Professor and the Madman 😉 3y
35 likes1 stack add2 comments