Samuel Johnson's
A Dictionary of the English Language


  1. Introduction
  2. Entry Arrangement
  3. Locating the Application and Starting
  4. Selecting an Edition
  5. Finding a Word
  6. Viewing Images
  7. Tips on Finding Words and Viewing Images
  8. Copying, Saving, and Printing
  9. Exiting Johnson's Dictionary


The first edition of A Dictionary of the English Language (DEL) was published in London in 1755. It was a single-handed product of nine years of hard work by the 18th-century writer and lexicographer Samuel Johnson. Counting the additional 43,279 entries introduced by the author in his 1773 considerably revised edition, the size of the book today totals 86,053 entries. Perhaps the most significant feature of the dictionary is the illustrative quotations. Certainly, their primary function is to illustrate meaning, but they also constitute a collection of critical, linguistic, and moral judgments, items of philosophical, scientific, and historical knowledge and expressions of religious doctrine. In all, these quotations mount to an encyclopedia of knowledge and an anthology of English culture from the renaissance to the mid-eighteenth century.

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Entry Arrangement.

The present CD-ROM version brings together modern transcriptions of the first and fourth editions of the DEL along with scanned images of the original manuscript. The basic components of each entry in the dictionary are: headword, headword collocation (if any), part of speech, etymology, definition and illustrative quotation (with author, title, and location information). Phrasal verbs or idiomatic expressions that include a headword are listed within the entry for that headword as sub headwords with sub-headword collocation and definition. There are occasional modern editorial notes on spelling, pronunciation, usage, and grammar.

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Locating the Application and Starting

On any of the LETRS work stations select the Electronic Texts; then, Johnson's Dictionary:

When the application starts, you will see the Cambridge University Press collection screen. The title Johnson's Dictionary will appear in the right-hand panel of this screen. Double-click on the highlighted bar that contains this title:

A new window (the actual DEL window) will pop up with two panels again. The left-hand panel has the index to the dictionary. The right-hand one contains the full text of the DEL. Entries from the first edition are preceded by the red Roman numeral I. Following each one is the parallel entry from the fourth edition, marked with the red Roman numeral IV. Now, you can browse the DEL by scrolling down the panel that contains the whole text:

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Selecting an Edition.

The default setting for the DEL will open a window with the full text (both editions). To change this setting, pull down the VIEW menu from the menu bar; go down to VIEW and select the edition you wish to view independently.

An advantage of this procedure is that it allows you to view the same entry, especially when it is a lengthy one, as cited in the two editions in two separate windows. To do this, you need to specifiy an edition to start with (either first or fourth only; selecting FULL TEXT from VIEW would not work), find your entry and double-click on the red arrow to the left of the entry. This will open a new window where the same entry in the other edition can be viewed. The two windows can be situated side-by-side for easy simultaneous viewing by selecting TILE from the WINDOW menu in the menu bar.

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Finding a Word.

The first method of searching is similar to looking up a word in a conventional dictionary. It allows you to locate headwords only. In the DEL window, go to the index in the left-hand panel; Click on the plus-sign square next to where it says THE TRANSCRIPTION, to open this group. The whole alphabet will appear below. Click on the plus-sign square next to the first letter of the word you are looking for; let's say "S" for "scabbard". A new set of groups will appear each of which containing the letter "S" followed by another letter or two. Go to the entry that is closest to your request ("sc" in this case). Again open this group as you did before and continue with the selection process until you narrow down your circle to the exact word you need and double click on it. The entry for your word will appear in the right-hand panel of the DEL window:

The second method is faster and more useful for other kinds of specific searches as well. From the menu bar, pull down the menu for BOOK. Select either SEARCH FORMS or SEARCH HISTORY. In either case, a small search window will appear:

All previous searches done within the same session will be shown in the box at the top of the window. Another box (into which you can type your search item) will be located to the right of the word FIND at the bottom of the window. Between the two boxes, you will see a pull-down menu that allows you to conduct different kinds of searches. If you are looking for occurrences of a word regardless of its status in the DEL, choose STANDARD. If the word is an entry, choose HEADWORD. If you are looking for two words within a certain distance from each other, choose PROXIMITY SEARCH and type in your search instructions in the designated areas. You can also limit your search to the first or fourth editions of the DEL, or search only in quotations or definitions, or even search for instances of a quoted author or work by selecting the appropriate search diameters from the same menu.

After defining the domain of your search, type in the word(s) in the box underneath and click on the FIND button. The search results will be highlighted in the right-hand panel of the DEL window. You can move from the first search result to the next one and so on by clicking on the right-arrow button in the tool bar. The left-arrow button will take you to the previous search result. Alternatively, you can use the PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons on the search panel for that purpose.

A useful tip is to look at the index. The number of hits per group will appear in red color next to the plus-sign square for each group.

In all kinds of searches described above, you can further specify your queries by taking advantage from the possibilities the DynaText query language has to offer such as “wild card searching” using the * and ? operators, or boolean searching (using the keywords and, not, and or). Keywords such as after, before, of, within, word, and words can be used in standard searches to find two words in a specific setting or collocation. For examples and more information on these advanced searhes please refer to a LETRS consultant or the WWW version of this quickguide.

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Viewing Images.

If you wish to view the scanned images of the original manuscript, you can do so by clicking one the plus-sign square next to THE IMAGES in the DEL index. After you select the edition, the alphabet will appear again. Open the letter that you wish to view in the manuscript. In the right-hand panel, a set of groups will appear indicating the start and end entries for each page of the manuscript under that letter. Determine the page you wish to look at and double-click on the camera icon next to it:

A new window will appear containing the image.

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Tips on Finding Words and Viewing Images.

- While viewing the transcription of either edition of the DEL, you can also double-click on the camera icon to the left of any entry to go directly to the corresponding manuscript image for that entry (appearing in a new window).
- A word in red under any entry indicates that a hyper link exists for that word. If you are interested in seeing more information, double-click on it and you will be taken in another window to the entry for that word:

- To close an open group in the index, click on the adjacent square (which will have a minus sign instead of the usual plus sign for a closed group).

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Copying, Saving, and Printing.

Once you have found the entry/entries you are looking for, you have one of two choices beyond merely viewing them:

You can select the text that you are interested in (highlighting it using the mouse) and choose COPY from the EDIT menu in the menu bar. This will copy your selection to the clipboard. From there, you can paste it into a word-processing application such as WordPerfect, MS-Word or even Write. After doing that, you can save your selection(s) to your floppy disk or student locker or print it out.

With the second option, you can only print on site. From the FILE menu in the menu bar, choose PRINT. A dialogue box will appear asking you to define the amount of text that you wish to print out of the whole DEL. After highlighting the entry you want to print, go down to the pull-down menu which says PRINT FORMATS to decide whether you need to print out the entry in Both editions (this is the default setting) or in one of them only. For images, all you simply need to do is to open the image window, make sure that it is the active (front) window, and choose PRINT from the FILE menu.

N.B.: Please make sure that your print request is limited to the exact entry that you need, to avoid sending out a massive print job that may take too much time to process.

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Exiting Johnson's Dictionary.

Choose EXIT from the FILE menu. A box will appear asking you to confirm your decision. Click on YES to leave DynaText and the DEL.

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Additional information:

The DEL has some extra features such as personalized browsing (where you can annotate the text, insert your bookmarks, and create journals), creating your own hyperlinks, and copying texts with their SGML encoding into the clipboard. For more information on these topics please refer to a LETRS consultant.

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Last Updated: 1/12/97
Comments: Library Electronic Text Resource Service /
Indiana University