Smaller dictionaries for lower characters
Johnson supplied a new preface for the octavo abridgement of his famous Dictionary in which he explained that ‘a small dictionary appeared yet to be wanting for common readers’, and listing seven advantages of his in terms of accuracy and scope over any which were previously in circulation.
His intended audience, ‘the greater number of readers’ with no authorial or critical ambitions of their own, ‘turn over books only to amuse their leisure, and to gain degrees of knowledge suitable to lower characters, or necessary to the common business of life’. For such readers the full, folio edition would be unnecessary. Potential purchasers do not seem to have taken this amiss: the abridged dictionary sold well, with three editions in ten years. It was first published in 1756 (a year after the first folio edition) and was reprinted 1760 before our edition of 1766; Johnson appears to have achieved his aim of reaching a wider public.
Condition & Materials
Third edition of the abridged octavo version. 2 vols. 8vo. Un-numbered leaves, collates: *2, a-c4, A-3Y4, 3Z2; *1, 4A2, 4B-6Y4, 6Z2. Modern tan calf with gilt ruled covers and fully gilt spines with contrasting lettering and numbering pieces, bound to style. Partially illegible ownership signature (Wilkins) to volume one, and of Emma Anne Nicholl to volume two.