Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

Madeline Kripke: dictionary collector

Joan Hall, editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English, forwarded this link to the email list of the Dictionary Society of North America: The Gifted in Pursuit of the Valued from Americana Exchange.

It’s a long, contemplative story (including an audio interview) about Madeleine Kripke, a New York City rare book dealer and antiquarian who specializes in dictionaries. Her collection is staggering: more than 20,000 items. Few libraries have anything like it, not only because of her particular taste and knowledge of the works she collects, but because her works are often for sale to lexicographers and, better, she often will loan them to lexicographers who are doing lexical work or research, as you can see in Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything, a book about the Oxford English Dictionary, where he writes that she “kindly copied many rare papers and documents from her immense collection of dictionaryalia, and offered much sage advice.”

I know Madeline through the Dictionary Society of North America. This year at our biennial meeting in Chicago there was a silent auction for a number of reference works that had belonged to the now defunct dictionary department of the publisher Scott Foresman, now Pearson Scott Foresman, which graciously donated them for the benefit of the Society. Madeleine beat me out on a complete bound set of the Middle English Dictionary at $300, but I’m happy to say that I did score an entire set of the Scottish National Dictionary (available online as part of the Dictionary of the Scots Language) for a very reasonable $75.

In any case, do read the article. The descriptions, written by Madeleine herself, of her rare and interesting works are tantalizing.

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Grant Barrett