With most reference materials, only the latest, most current information will do. But when it comes to a vintage or antique dictionary, the older and more out-of-date a publication is the better. One of the earliest volumes of interest to Western book collectors is “Cyclopedia, or an Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences,” which was written by Ephraim Chambers and published in London in 1728. Despite its clunky title, the work is said to have influenced the most famous early Western dictionary, Samuel Johnson's "A Dictionary of the English Language," first published in London in 1755.

Johnson spent eight years on his two-volume opus, whose major innovation was to illustrate definitions of words with quotes from Shakespeare, Milton, Pope, Swift, and others. A worthy companion to Johnson’s dictionary is James Boswell’s two-volume “The Life of Samuel Johnson,” 1791, which is filled with quotes by the great lexicographer himself, his most famous pronouncement being, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Next came Noah Webster's "A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language," which was published in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1806. Webster simplified spelling for American readers, dropping the “u” in words like “honour” and “humour” and the “k” in “publick” and “musick.” In 1828, his “An American Dictionary of the English Language” had evolved into a larger revised edition, which was published after his death by G. & C. Merriam Co. in 1843.

The granddaddy of English dictionaries, though, remains the "Oxford English Dictionary" or OED, first conceived in 1857 and published in pieces from 1884 through 1928. Whereas Johnson’s dictionary had contained 42,733 words and Webster’s a relatively paltry 37,000 or so, the OED boasted more than 400,000 entries. In 1885, other English scholars completed the “Dictionary of National Biography,” whose mandate to cover only deceased Britons of note guaranteed numerous updates, like when Queen Victoria passed away in 1901.

One of the chief characteristics of antique, analog dictionaries is their bulk, necessitating special pieces of furniture so their contents can be comfortably consumed. Some portable dictionary stands are meant to fit on the tops of desks or cabinets. Others integrate the stand with the base, which might have a drawer for a magnifying glass to help those reading the tiny entries in the OED, as well as shelves for the dictionary’s other volumes (the latest edition has 20).

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1655 Hebrew Dictionary Buxtorf 'lexicon Hebraicum Et Chaldaicum' For Bible StudyDictionary, Persian, Arabic, English, 2 Volumes, John Richardson, 1780-1800A Dictionary Of The Veterinary Art 1805 Thomas Boardman Engravings HorsesThe New Universal Gazetteer Or Geographical Dictionary Clement Cruttwell 1808Toponimia: Maya-hispano-nahoa Spanish Dictionary 1902 Cecilio A Robelo ScarceNew Analytical Bible Indexed Concordance Dictionary Dickson Kjv 1950 King James1847 Gesenius Hebrew And Chaldee Lexicon Bagster Dictionary Bible StudyAntique Little Webster 18000 Word Mini Leather Pocket Travel Dictionary 2"Antique Dictionary Set 1900 Funk & Wagnalls Company New York & London LeatherAntique 1858 Webster's Dictionary Unabridged Noah Webster George Charles MerriamLatin Dictionary: Andrews' Edition Of Freund's Latin By Charlton T.lewis/19802" The Little Webster Liliput Dictionary 18,000 Words Leather Printed In Germany1956 Webster's DictionaryVintage Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary 1956 Unabridged LargeA Dictionary Of Applied Chemistry T.e Thorpe Volume Eau-nux 1893 Print - D2English-greek Dictionary -vocabulary Of Attic Language By S C Woodhouse 1950The World Book Encyclopedia Dictionary 2 VolumesThe Little Webster - A Lilliput Dictionary Langenscheidt 1957 Barnes And Noble1902 The Century Dictionary Encyclopedic Lexicon Encyclopedia Complete 10 VolumeLempriere's Classical Dictionary. 1816. 6th Edition. Leather.1860 Leather Webster Dictionary English Language Illustrated WoodcutsA Dictionary Of Early Christian Beliefs, David W Bercot, 2002, Hb