Introduction to the Bibliography

John Walker published his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary in 1791 and saw it through three more editions before his death in 1807. His mantle then passed to John Murdoch, or so Murdoch claimed, and it was he who in 1809 published the stereotype 5th edition, the first octavo edition, but ‘containing every word that is to be found in Mr Walker’s last improved quarto edition’. This was followed later the same year by the 6th edition, and the series ran on, with one or two editions each year, up to 1823, and intermittently after that, apparently at least as far as the 34th edition in 1847.

There was, however, another, quarto, 5th edition in 1810, also derived from the 4th edition, but different from the octavo 5th edition. This has links with an abridged edition of 1814, (probably by Rev T Smith as it is almost identical with that of 1821), the abridged version by Davenport, and subsequent American editions.

In 1822 (there being no evidence to suggest any earlier date), another consortium of publishers produced an octavo version of the 3rd edition. There are minor differences, which may indicate either revision or type-setting errors, or more likely both, but it is essentially the 3rd edition, complete with its Appendix, date and time references, and the reference, under ‘Denigrate’, to ‘the last edition’ as opposed to ‘a former edition’, which is the wording in the stereotype and all other editions.

In 1826 or shortly after, the Caxton Edition appeared. It has a page of Addenda dated October 1826 and a portrait of John Walker, the first British edition to do so, (though I have an American edition dated 1813 with a portrait based on the Barry miniature, and one of 1823 with a portrait of very questionable artistic merit). Various printings of this edition by various publishers followed, with only the date on the portrait giving any guide as to when, 1860 being the latest that I am aware of. In 1828 Rev John Davis published his edition in Belfast, the first edition to attempt to separate the words beginning with I and J, and U and V. This was not the first edition published in Ireland, Wogan having published in Dublin in 1794, 1798 and 1806, but these are often referred to as pirate editions. John Walker was well on the way to becoming a worldwide publishing success, but precisely how this was achieved is not so clear.

The first American edition was published in 1803. In 1806 there were editions in London, Dublin and Philadelphia, while the following year there was one in Paris, apparently in French. From 1806 to 1877 there was no year without at least one printing, most with more, and eighteen being the maximum noted so far. In many years the American printings outnumbered the British ones, and scattered amongst the listings are printings in Germany, Sweden and Canada. Copies from these various countries travelled even further afield, with London printings certainly being exported to Australia by the firm of Tegg.

One reason for the apparent decline in printings after 1870 is that many publishers stopped dating their books in the second half of the 19th century. Undoubtedly there was a slow but steady decline during the last quarter of the 19th century, but the last printing I am aware of was post 1910, albeit remaindered stock with a new title page bound in, and Walker’s Dictionary was still being advertised as available on the end-papers of other dictionaries, particularly Nuttall’s, into the 1920s. I have, incidentally, used ‘printings’ deliberately since there were, in Britain at any rate, around a dozen actual editions, with publishers reprinting them year after year until the plates wore out, and on at least one occasion, Nuttall’s 1867 printing, making new plates in order to continue. So a reference, under the word ‘Chamber’, to ‘30 years ago’ appears in two copies of the same edition printed 45 years apart, and merely repeats what the 1st edition of 40 years earlier had said.

When I first came across Walker’s Dictionary it was not at all clear how many editions/printings there had been, or how they related to each other. I cannot claim to have greatly clarified the latter point, but for the former there follows a list compiled from a variety of sources. Firstly there are library and private collections, including my own. Secondly there are other bibliographies, chiefly Robin Alston’s, and thirdly there are the copies offered for sale by dealers, which can reasonably be assumed to exist. In the case of eBay items there are frequently photos of title pages, and Google Books also has a number of copies which have been scanned. There are still gaps and queries for a variety of reasons, and I anticipate continuing to add to this list. Robin Alston’s list, though I hesitate to criticise such a pioneer, was incomplete, in that it didn’t include copies I had, and he himself subsequently added to it. Nor, after the first three editions, is there any information about the publishers. So, for example, the entry saying ‘London 1828’ could refer to one of three or even four printings. Nevertheless, I have taken the liberty of assigning his date and place to a specific printing where it seemed reasonable to do so. The fact that the Caxton editions from the start, and many other publishers latterly, were not dated has already been mentioned. I am also amazed, as well as not helped, by the booksellers who give incomplete, or even totally inadequate, information about the copies they are trying to sell.

Finally I should mention the amount of trading on Walker’s name that happened. This ranged from simple claims of superiority such as ‘based on the labours of’ followed by the names of about half-a-dozen lexicographers, including Walker, through more specific claims to contain ‘30000 more words than Walker’ to the almost derogatory notices in Webster’s Pronouncing Dictionary: ‘Johnson and Walker Superseded….The old system of Pronunciation by mis-spelling words has become obsolete….The extraordinary success…..of Webster’s Pocket Pronouncing Dictionary….in the face of a most obstinate and inveterate opposition on the part of the proprietors of the out-of-date and worthless compilations, so called Dictionaries, printed from old stereotype plates, which have remained unaltered for years.’ This last comes from a flyleaf advert in an 1859 edition of Webster which was still being printed, unchanged, at the end of the century. But the most blatant example I have seen concerns an 1850 edition of, according to the title page, Walker’s Dictionary. It is, in fact, a reprint, using apparently the same plates, of Enfield’s Dictionary, first published in 1807.

Which leads to the question of when someone’s edition ceases to be a Walker, for most of the subsequent editors based their work on existing editions. Walker is instantly recognisable by his use of diacritic numbers, and to this extent most later editions are still, therefore, Walkers. But Smart, (who always claimed that his edition was his own and no longer Walker’s, and only the insistence of the publisher kept Walker’s name on it), and subsequently P A Nuttall both used diacritic marks, and there is consequently little difference, in appearance at least, between Nuttall’s Walker and his own Pronouncing Dictionary, both of which were published concurrently in several editions up to the early years of the 20th century. There was also a vogue for combined editions. I have an 1805 American edition of Johnson, to which Walker’s pronunciation has been added, but later publications have Johnson’s Dictionary, with Walker’s additions, and Todd’s additions to both, all embellished with pronunciation according to Walker’s principles. Since Walker based his definitions largely on Johnson, and his primary contribution was the pronunciation, it seems perfectly reasonable to accept this latter combination as a Walker. R S Jameson also produced a combined dictionary in 1827, stating on the title page that it was by Samuel Johnson and John Walker, though one of my copies has ‘Walker & Johnson’ on the spine, with ‘Walker’ in significantly larger letters. Jameson also used his own system of diacritic marks, in which he is no different from Smart and Nuttall, and since he, or at least his publisher, was obviously trading on Walker’s name, it seems reasonable to include him amongst the Walkers. The only combination I am dubious about is that by Longmuir, of Walker and Webster. He uses Webster’s diacritic system with the result that it looks like Webster, and since he also uses Webster’s definitions I suspect it is far more like Webster. However, once again the name of Walker is important for the marketing so I shall include it, but make it clear that these are different from ‘straight’ Walkers.

One significant problem remains unresolved in that many of the names listed against copies may be those of publishers or even editors but are more likely to be the printers. This seems to be a particular problem with the Nelson edition, which was printed/published in both Edinburgh and London by a variety of other firms. In all of these the body of the book is self-evidently the Nelson version, whatever name appears on the title page.

This, then, is my bibliography. Undoubtedly it is incomplete, but it includes all the copies I have come across so far, plus a few instances where a reasonable assumption has been included in brackets. One day it may be complete. Whether I, or anyone else, will realise is another matter. Each entry starts with the place of publication, followed by the copy size, editor where known and if relevant, and the publisher(s)/printer(s). Existence is supported as follows, and indicated by letters, given alphabetically, representing these various sources:

  • A: Alston R C, Bibliography of the English Language 1500-1800, A Corrected Reprint, Janus Press, Ilkley, 1974, Volume V The English Dictionary
  • B: British Library Collection
  • C: Cordell Collection
  • Ci: Cincinnati Public Library
  • Co: COPAC, the merged on-line catalogues of 24 major universities, plus British Library, National Library of Scotland and National Library of Wales.
  • E: English Catalogue of Books, Sampson Low and others, London, 1864, 1873, 1882, 1889, Vols I to IV, and Kraus Reprint Corporation, New York, 1963, Preliminary Volume
  • e: Copies offered for sale on eBay, normally with photos
  • G: Editions/printings scanned on to Google Books
  • H: Halifax Public Library
  • I: Collection of Prof. Isamu Hayakawa
  • IA: The Internet Archive
  • K: Kennedy A G, A Bibliography of writings on the English Language from the beginning of printing to the end of 1922, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard UP, 1927
  • L: Leeds Public Library
  • M: Collection of Peter Meredith
  • N: National Library of Australia
  • O: Morgan Bibliography of Ohio Imprints 1796-1850
  • OC: OCLC World Catalog
  • S: Scottish Library
  • T: Collection of Peter Taylor
  • U: University of Leeds Library
  • W: Welsh Library
  • X: University of Exeter Library, Historic English Dictionaries 1595-1899

Where no support is indicated these are copies offered for sale by dealers. I have worked on the assumption that what they are offering they have, or have had, but, somewhat surprisingly, the information they provide is too often inadequate at best, inaccurate at worst. Sometimes it is possible to cross-reference, but there have been some dubious items that I’ve omitted.

intro.txt · Last modified: 29 May 2016 10:32 UTC by pftaylor
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