fetish; words.

Words and books and texture. Something of a fetish have I. While I have decided against the OED for now (finding a place to live seems preferable for the moment), I have occasionally indulged, in recent weeks, in my passion for nice books. I have at last, embarked on a proper reading of The Sandman in a lovely faux leather, hardcover edition (made possible by Amazon’s large discount). I am part way through and have found pleasure reading such a nice tale in such a nice edition. To be followed by Watchmen. Both Sandman and Watchmen are things I should have read long, long ago. My lack of reading was not for wont of availability; afterall I knew folk who were buying the individual comics of Sandman as they appeared. Oh well, I am reading it now and I read other things then.

Then there are the words themselves. I have found, though have yet to purchase, a full copy of “A Dictionary of the English Language” edited by Samuel Johnson. It is admittedly, on CDROM, and ultimately I would like a physical copy one day. Also on CDROM from the same publisher is “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” by Copernicus. Just recently, I dipped into one of my favourite blogs, which I’ve not read in a while, to find discussion of a new book by OUP entitled “The Oxford History of English Lexicography” by AP Cowrie. A mighty work on the history of English. From the points raised and quoted in Hat’s initial comments, it sounds fantastic. And delightful. And intriguing. Though at US$350 I think it’s an unlikely purchase for now. Perhaps when the exchange rate improves or Amazon heavily discounts. While it is cheaper from UK sources, as often seems the case at the moment, it is not sufficiently cheaper.


I have discovered that I am a little out of touch with my old home in Newtown. Not very out of touch but at least a month. For a month ago, Berkelouw opened premises in a side street, sort of like a barn, with a reasonable selection of new and a tidy collection of old. It feels like a nice space. To whit, I have made my first purchase, A Dictionary of Austral English by Morris. This was first published in 1898 and this is the second impression dated 1972. This is a re-issue of the 1898 edition and the work is interesting in that it came about via a request from the folk responsible for the OED for words from this neck of the woods. So many words were gathered that Morris put in some extra work and published it as this standalone, prior to the publication (by a few decades) of the full OED. It was with amusement then, that I read the opening sentence of its introduction:

“About a generation ago Mr Matthew Arnold twitted our nation with the fact that “the journeyman work of literature” was much better done in France – the books of reference, the biographical dictionaries, and the translations from the classics.”

So wrote Edward E. Morris on 23 February, 1897.

this n that

Been a hectic few weeks, just realised I have yet to post a best of filmfest list, organising trips and generally working hard…honest. It was with some concern I read recently of helicopters being required for a snail muster; that is until I realised there are some rather large ancestors in the closet. I’ve recently finished Gingerich’s “The Book That Nobody Read” and thought it was pretty good, will try and will write a paragraph or two eventually. Similarly I have a post in my head on why I don’t feel at home on facebook, admittedly this is from one of the ideas for my 2.0 paper…should I ever get round to writing it. One of the fascinating things about the Gingerich book is that reveals a sense of how libraries and academics can interact. More on that in another post. The Bob Carr book is going well and I’ve started “People of the Book”. Just arrived are a few more books from Amazon including a couple on libraries and library history…well ok, of the 5 that probably sums up 4 of them.

in search of essence

A long, long time ago, I posted elsewhere about the launch of the online edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography. I’ve used it little since but have been reminded of late, just what a wonderful resource it is to have freely available online. There are entries for example, on Ida Leeson, the first female Mitchell Librarian. I nearly bought her biography this evening and may acquire it yet. Then of course, there’s David Mitchell himself, William Ifould, and a whole batch of other librarians. I admit, as a New South Welshman, that I do seem to have a bit of bias toward my home state. I daresay I’ll need to rectify this in order to write a paper of national interest. The question I am currently exploring, though not restricting myself to, is the nature of libraries in our recent history, why do they exist and for what benefit were they created ? There is much to be gleaned from the work of others, with several Australian Library History forums, full of interesting papers and various other publications. The bigger question of course, is whether I can find my niche, so to speak, and not simply repeat, or even regurgitate. Even if I can’t find my own patch, it is proving a treat to read the history of my profession. That alone is sufficient grounds for continuing. Reading here and reading there, who knows what paths my mind might follow or what papers will result.

words at home

While noting that the leather Shorter is even cheaper at the moment (now 40% off),  it was nice to read Michael Duffy’s piece on the continuing project devoted to the Dictionary of Sydney. The City Historian, Shirley Fitzgerald, decided after consultation, that such a project should be done digitally, rather than solely in book format. It started in digital format, has seed funding and support from various folk, and is gathering steam. While recognising the need for expert opinion, they are also keen to encourage Sydneysiders to contribute…perhaps I can squeeze in my old man‘s efforts, particularly his thesis on public housing [pdf, 7.5Mb]. As part of the Dictionary’s plans, the Sydney journal has been launched, “…a peer reviewed journal of historical writing about Sydney…”. Somehow I suspect, this is one dictionary I’ll struggle to get in leather, although given the history of parts of Sydney, I’d best be careful in what I wish for.