UI library acquires massive collection of dictionaries

The Lilly Library on the Bloomington Campus of Indiana University created the Merriam-Webster Archives. The university says the archive was created from business correspondence recently acquired as part of the Madeline Kripke dictionary collection, considered the world’s largest collection of its kind.

Madeline Kripke was known as the “Lady of Dictionaries” and collected more than 20,000 linguistic and ephemeral books before her death in April 2020, according to IU. Michael Adams, head of the English department at the Bloomington campus, worked with Lilly Library Director Joel Silver to acquire the collection after his death.

“It was of paramount importance to the dictionary community that the collection stayed together,” Adams said. “But we knew Madeline would have liked the collection to end up in a public university, where all of the rarer materials would be available to everyone.”

IU says less than a third of the collection, or around 6,000 volumes, has been inventoried. In addition to the dictionaries, the collection includes correspondence and business documents from the Merriam-Webster Company, which would include the original letter on the benefits of purchasing Webster’s 1841 edition of an American dictionary of the English language. , corrected and enlarged.

The university says it will begin the long task of creating an inventory for the rest of the collection.

“We are very pleased to be able to preserve Madeline Kripke’s remarkable collection here at the Lilly Library,” said Silver. “We will always be grateful for his unparalleled knowledge and dedication, which enabled him to bring together this incomparable resource. We look forward to making it available to all interested researchers and visitors for many decades to come. “

IU says the Kripke collection joins three other dictionary collections at the Lilly Library, including the Breon Mitchell collection of bilingual dictionaries, 1559-1998; the Eric Partridge Archives, 1914-1966; and Clarence L. Barnhart Dictionary Archives, 1929-2005.


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