Auckland Council Libraries: Johnson and Boswell

Johnson and Boswell

Samuel Johnson and James Boswell were two figures of eighteenth-century literature who wrote highly influential works.
Listen to Georgia explore Johnson’s dictionary - a publication that remained the single most authoritative English dictionary for over 150 years.
We also learn about Boswell’s biography of Johnson, one of the first biographies in English to attempt to show the completeness of a person’s character rather than only revealing their positive attributes.

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See the books

A dictionary of the English language, 1765.

A group of London booksellers commissioned Johnson to write this dictionary, which took him ten years to complete. Many of the definitions are humorous, for example, on this page: ‘Oats: A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people…’

The life of Samuel Johnson, 1793.

Boswell’s biography of Johnson is hugely significant in the history of life-writing. Boswell wanted to show Johnson as a complete person, not just his public persona. Boswell’s approach to writing the biography included fact-checking, keeping Johnson’s letters, and recording conversations between Boswell and his peers verbatim.

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Johnson and Boswell reading list

Kura Heritage Collections Online

Auckland Council Libraries:Johnson and Boswell In this Meet a Rare Book podcast, explore Johnson’s dictionary, the single most authoritative English dictionary for over 150 years.