Artunderwraps/ True1st.com

Annotated Reference Guide to Collectible Books

Webster, Noah

Any student of the English language probably owes a debt, in part at least to the figure of Noah Webster. Although a figure that was as much ridiculed as he was revered in his own life, it is without a doubt that anyone interested in the usage and preservation of American English is building on the foundations that Noah Webster, father of the Webster (later the Merriam-Webster) dictionary. His commitment to American scholasticism and learning helped to educate a generation, and his spelling textbooks as well as his dictionaries are still, some two hundred years later, the go-to reference guides for teaching American children.

Suffice it to say, that it must be understandable that his true first editions of his An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828, printed by S. Converse) could be worth tens of thousands of US dollars. Luckily for the collector however, this book was so successful that there have been many printings in Webster’s own lifetime, and many of these are still affordable and valuable to this very day.

Consider instead perhaps, the 1848 edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language, printed by George and Charles Merriam of Springfield (and forming the basic working partnership that became the Merriam-Webster that we all so love and enjoy today). A first edition in good condition can still be found for as little as a thousand dollars – which would be a remarkable asset to any collection!

Given Webster’s interest in pedagogy, there are still many very fine textbooks which are available in their true first edition form which would also make a wonderful edition to any antiquarian collection. Webster’s A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806, Sidney's Press for Hudsom & Goodwin and Increase Cooke, Hartford and New Haven) can be found for much less than a thousand dollars if you are willing to search around for it.

A fine example of Noah Webster’s legacy might also be the Dictionary for Primary Schools (1838) which would vary in price from the very affordable few hundred dollars to almost one thousand, depending on the quality of the edition. As a children’s textbook, many of these original first editions have suffered from wear and tear, and the not-so gentle ministrations of their primary school owners. Whilst these marks and marginalia would bring down the price of any collected work, to me it only makes them the more valuable as a piece of historical record!

Webster, Noah. Dissertations on the English Language with Notes, Historical and Critical. Isaiah Thomas and Company: Boston (1789).

Webster, Noah. A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases. Hudson and Goodwin: Hartford (1799). 2 volumes; Signed Edition; Full title-A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases; with the Principal Phenomena of the Physical World, which Precede and Accompany Them, and Observations deduced from the Facts Stated

Webster, Noah. A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. From Sydney's Press for Hudson and Goodwin: Hartford (1806).

Webster, Noah. A Dictionary of the English Language. Sidney's Press: New Haven (1807). Full title-A Dictionary of the English Language; Compiled for the Use of Common Schools in the United States

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. published by S. Converse, printed by Hezekiah Howe of New Haven: New York (1828). 2 volumes

Webster, Noah. History of the United States. Durrie and Peck: New Haven, CT (1832). Full title-History of the United States to Which is prefixed A Brief Historical Account of Our [English] Ancestors, form the Dispersion at Babel, to Their Migration to America and of the Conquest of South America by the Spaniards

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. Harper and Brothers: New York (1846). Revised edition

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. George and Charles Merriam: Springfield, MA (1848). 2 volumes; Revised and enlarged by Chauncey A. Goodrich; First Merriam Edition of Webster's Dictionary

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. George and Charles Merriam: Springfield, MA (1849). Second edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Revised and enlarged by Chauncey A. Goodrich

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. George and Charles Merriam: Springfield, MA (1852). 2 volumes

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. George and Charles Merriam: Springfield, MA (1860). 2 volumes; Revised and enlarged by Chauncey A, Goodrich

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. George and Charles Merriam: Springfield, MA (1864). 3 volumes; Revised and enlarged by Chauncey A. Goodrich and Noah Porter

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. Johnson Reprint Corporation: New York and London (1970). Limited Edition; 500 copies; 2 volumes; Introduction by Mario Pei