Important acquisitions

A pronouncing dictionary of the English language

Author Burn, John
Title A pronouncing dictionary of the English language
Imprint Glasgow: Chapman & Duncan,
Date of Publication 1777
Language English
Notes This is the only known complete copy of the first edition of John Burn's English dictionary. The compiler (d. 1793) taught English in Glasgow and is best known for his work "A practical grammar of the English language", first published in 1766. In his introduction to the dictionary Burn refers to the 'several laudable attempts' of predecessors to settle the orthography and pronunciation of the English language, but notes that a pocket dictionary addressing these needs has so far been wanting. He also comments on the fluctuating state of English pronunciation and hopes for greater uniformity in future. Interest in correct pronunciation was of particular interest for some ambitious Scots of the period, who were keen to soften or eliminate their Scottish accents and to remove any Scotticisms from their speech in order to be accepted by English society. Indeed Burn states that his principal aim for this "compillation [sic]" is to "enable one to read or deliver written language with so much propriety, as not to offend even an Englishman of the most delicate ear". The rarity of the 1777 edition indicates either a very limited print-run, or, a more likely scenario, copies of the dictionary were heavily used by its owners and have simply not survived; it was reprinted in 1786 which is evidence that there was demand for such works in Scotland. The provenance of this volume is also worthy of note. It bears the armorial bookplate, and inscriptions, of the Gardiner family of Gardiners Island, a small island at the eastern tip of Long Island, New York state. The island was granted to Lion Gardiner, an English settler, in 1639, the first colonial English settlement in present-day New York state, and it has remained in Gardiner family hands ever since. John Lyon Gardiner (1770-1816), a later proprietor of the island, evidently used here the bookplate of his grandfather John Gardiner (d. 1764), inserting an 'L.' between the words 'John' and 'Gardiner' of the bookplate. John Lyon Gardiner was only four years old when his father, David Gardiner, died and he inherited Gardiner's Island. His uncle, Colonel Abraham Gardiner, served as his guardian until he reached his majority in 1791 and became the seventh proprietor of the island. It is probable that this book was used in his education and for subsequent generations of the family. J.L. Gardiner would achieve some fame during the war of 1812 between Britain and the USA. During an excursion of the British fleet to the island to buy provisions, some British sailors were captured by the local inhabitants. The British then came to arrest John Lyon Gardiner, holding him responsible for what had happened. Gardiner, who was a delicate man, adopted the 'green room defence' where he stayed in a bed with green curtains surrounded by medicine to make him look feeble. The British, not wanting a sick man onboard their ships, decided not to proceed with the arrest.
Shelfmark RB.s.2730
Reference Sources Bookseller's notes
Acquired on 19/12/08
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