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Samuel Johnson Printed Works

Date range: 18th-21st centuries

Medium: Printed

Number of items: 600 items (dispersed).

To complement the Library’s substantial manuscript collection of Johnsoniana, first editions and interesting association copies of most of the printed works of Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) are available. These include:

  • His first published work, a Latin verse translation of Pope’s Messiah which appeared in A Miscellany of Poems by Several Hands compiled by John Husbands (Oxford: Leon. Lichfield, 1731).

  • A Johnsonian Proposal for printing a translation of Sarpi’s History of the Council of Trent ([London]: Mr. Dodsly, Mr. Rivington, E. Cave, [1738]), which is considered to be unique.

  • Johnson’s first independently published work in prose (albeit pseudonymous), a satire on the Hanoverian succession entitled Marmor Norfolciense (London: J. Brett, 1739).

There are many editions of the famous A Dictionary of the English Language available, including the first issue of the first edition of The Plan of a Dictionary of the English Language (London: J. and P. Knapton, 1747), in which Johnson announced his intentions, and the first edition of the Dictionary (London: J. and P. Knapton, 1755). Particular attention can be drawn to a copy of the fourth edition (London: W. Strahan, 1773), which was at one time owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and contains over 250 corrections in Johnson’s own hand: these were subsequently incorporated in the sixth and later editions.

An equally strong collection of printed items relating to Johnson's friend and biographer, James Boswell (1740-1795) is available, including first editions of The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (London: Charles Dilly 1785), and The Life of Samuel Johnson LL. D. (London: Charles Dilly, 1791), plus a rare copy of the early anonymous pamphlet, The Cub, at Newmarket: A Tale (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1762).

See also:

Further information:

  • Recorded in Library Search.
  • J. A. V. Chapple, 'Samuel Johnson's Proposals for Printing the History of the Council of Trent, [1738]', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 45 (1962-63), 340-69.


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