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Dictionaries were clearly produced as part of the drive
towards standardization and improvement of the language. An important step
forward in organizing the English lexicon took place when..

Robert Cawdrey published the first “dictionary of hard
words” in 1604. A Table Alphabeticall contained glosses for 3,000 “hard usual
English words”. A part from occasional collection of a few thousand “hard
words”, the task was not attempted until 1721 when Nathanael Bailey published
his “Universal Etymological English Dictionary”. It was not Samuel Johnson
completed “A Dictionary of the English Language” in 1755. Over a seven-year
period, Johnson wrote the definitions of c. 40.000 words.

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The alphabetical section of Johnson’s Dictionary is preceded
by a famous Preface, in which he outlines his aims and procedures. The first
sheets were printed in 1750. The work was completed by 1754 and an edition of
2.000 copies appeared the following year. This period sees two major developments
in the early part the trend towards universal dictionaries became established
and in the second part an increasing emphasis on pronunciation. At the same
time encyclopedias appeared and these influenced the development and contents
of the dictionaries.

The two earliest writers of encyclopedias, John Harris
(1704) and Ephraim Chambers (1728), attempted to describe the terms associated
with all branches of human knowledge. Harris’s work had the title Lexicon
Technicum: or, The Universal Dictionary of Arts and Science. The word “universal”
became standard feature of titles of dictionaries though it could sometimes
give away to general or complete. J.K.’s dictionary of 1702, complained of
previous dictionaries that they had often included Latin words which were no
part of English as well as foreign words, including Old English ones. John
Kersey adds in the preface of his dictionary “ours is intended only to explain
such English Words as are genuine, and used by Persons of clear Judgement and
good style”. At this stage pronunciation begins to appear in dictionaries and
one of those to show this new trend is the “Lingua Britannica Reformata by
Benjamin Martin of 1749. He is one of the first dictionary makers to omit
in words like logic. The latter half of the eighteenth century
attached more importance to pronunciation than earlier dictionary-makers. Thomas
Sheridan produced a dictionary in 1780 with the title. A dictionary along the
same lines was produced by John Walker in 1791. What Sheridan and Walker did
was produced a series of signs, consisting mainly of superscript numbers, like
and elementary phonetic alphabet to show the pronunciation of the various
sounds in all words. Finally, the American Lexicography Noah Webster wrote the
first American Dictionary in 1828, with 70,000 words. The alphabetical section
of Johnson’s Dictionary is preceded by a famous Preface, in which outlines his
aims and procedures.


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