‘Defining the Dictionary: The Story Behind the Words’ will open Oct. 15 with a talk by the president and publisher of Merriam-Webster.
Submitted by Sarah Mocko St. Germain, Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society
“Look it up in Webster’s.”
A work with such brand recognition that it goes simply by the author’s last name, An American Dictionary of the English Language is the topic of a new exhibit at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society. The new semi-permanent exhibit, Defining the Dictionary: The Story Behind the Words, will open on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 at 7 p.m.
While Webster did not invent the dictionary, what he did do was no less important. He wrote the first American dictionary for the country he helped to shape. Webster sought to unite the people of the new nation by establishing a common American language.
The exhibit looks at Webster’s early work and influences and also explores the relationship with Charles and George Merriam who, after Webster’s death, purchased the rights to An American Dictionary as well as the remaining unsold copies to sell in their shop. Today, Merriam-Webster Incorporated maintains the spirit of Noah Webster and the essence of his life’s work by chronicling the ever-evolving American English language.
The evening will include a lecture by John M. Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc. A Merriam-Webster employee since 1980, Morse was named president and publisher in 1997. He is actively involved in the company’s product-development activities, advocating for cross-media development and a leader in the evolution of reference books in print, online, and mobile formats.
Morse’s talk will focus mainly onWebster’s Dictionary of 1864, how it reflected the world in which it was created (in the midst of the tumultuous American Civil War), how it established the model for the unabridged dictionary as we know it today, and the lessons that this dictionary has for the editors today. Morse is a graduate of Haverford College and holds a Master of Arts degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago.
The Defining the Dictionary: The Story Behind the Words exhibit opening and talk by John M. Morse is free and open to the public, no registration required. The exhibit will be on display at the museum through April 2016.
According to Curator Sheila Daley, a document recently donated to the museum – a letter written by Noah Webster to his brother Charles soon after completing the 1828 dictionary – will be exhibited for the first time.
Defining the Dictionary is designed to be portable so that it may travel as a temporary exhibit to libraries, schools, and community centers. Anyone interested in having the exhibit at their location can contact Sheila Daley at (860) 521-5362 x 17 to make arrangements.
The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is a cultural destination where citizens can learn to understand and appreciate the past. The museum preserves the birthplace of Noah Webster, the founding father, educator, author, and lexicographer who taught generations of Americans what it means to be American. This National Historic Landmark is also a repository for West Hartford’s history, the community that molded Noah Webster’s future, and is still thriving over 250 years later. The historic house and exhibit spaces are open daily from 1 – 4 p.m. For information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call (860) 521-5362.