Monday, March 26, 2007

Hold on a second and let me look up the meaning of the word...

This usually meant going to a print dictionary and looking up the various meanings of a word, and perhaps even the etymology. In these Google days the meaning of a word is right at our fingertips. That does not mean there are not a large number of folks who still prefer to haul out the Webster's and look up the word. How many different kinds and types of dictionaries can there be? The Library of Congress catalog lists thousands. To truly get a feel for the dictionary, consider visiting a new exhibition at Rutgers Archibald S. Alexander Library at 169 College Avenue in New Brunswick (NJ): Everything from A to Z: The Edward J. Bloustein Dictionary Collection.

Edward J. Bloustein, Rutgers' seventeenth president, was an avid and informed collector of dictionaries. While focusing on general English-language dictionaries, he also collected more specialized works such as compendia of slang, originally published to help understand the speech of criminals; dictionaries of biography; and dictionaries of synonyms, the ancestors of today's thesauri. In 2004, his daughters Elise and Lori Bloustein donated his collection to the Rutgers University Libraries. The collection includes over 170 titles, dating from Thomas Cooper's Thesaurus Linguae Romanae et Britannicae (1573) to the controversial Webster's Third International (1961).

To learn more about the exhibition, running through 21 June 2007, click here.


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