Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. Hidden within the rituals of its creation is the story of two remarkable men.
Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor was one of thousands of contributors. Minor was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions, Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford, but Murray's offer was regularly--and mysteriously--refused.
Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned that Minor was a murderer locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.
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