Middle English Dictionary records, 1925-2008
Using These Materials
- The records are open without restriction.
- Middle English dictionary.
- The Middle English Dictionary (MED) is a comprehensive dictionary of the English language as it was used between 1100 and 1500. The MED was in production at the University of Michigan from 1930 to 2001. The collection contains correspondence of the chief editors, administrative records, files on editorial matters, and miscellaneous files and production material.
68 linear feet (in 98 boxes)
1.5 GB (online)
- Call Number:
- 2011100 Bimu 2
- Finding aid created by Robert E. Lewis, 2010, 2012, 2017
- Scope and Content:
In August of 2001 the administrative records and most of the materials pertaining to the history and making of the Middle English Dictionary (MED) from its beginnings at the University of Michigan in 1930 up to its completion in 2001 were deposited in the Bentley Historical Library by the project and by the administrative unit responsible for it, the Office of the Vice President for Research. These materials consist primarily of correspondence, administrative records (including budget), files on editorial matters, and miscellaneous files and notes on other matters. In February of 2010 the remainder of the MED materials was transferred to the Bentley Library from the Buhr Storage Facility, where they had been kept since the fall of 2001, along with the books from the former MED library (now dispersed), under the supervision of the Special Collections Library. All of these materials form a collection separate from the citation slips used in the printed MED (along with the supplementary slips), which are now catalogued as Middle English Dictionary Citation Slips. The total number of boxes in the present collection is 98 (of various sizes), amounting to 68 linear feet.
The Middle English Dictionary records are organized in three major subgroups, RECORDS BY EDITORIAL ERA, MISCELLANEOUS MED MATERIALS, and NON-MED MATERIALS.
In the first 20 boxes (21 linear feet) the materials are in standard-size boxes in 8 1/2" x 14" folders and are arranged strictly chronologically by the editorial eras of the chief editors: Samuel Moore (1930-1934), Thomas A. Knott (1935-1945), Hans Kurath (1946-1961), Sherman M. Kuhn (1961-1983), and Robert E. Lewis (1982-2001), except that the Moore and Knott eras have been combined because of the difficulty of separating the files, other than correspondence, in those two eras. In the later MED boxes (21 through 78), the materials are stored in a mixture of formats (8 1/2" x 14" folders, 6 1/2" x 9" cards, 3" x 5" cards and slips, etc.), and the organization is topical, though still generally chronological. Non- MED materials (specifically, the Early Modern English Dictionary (EMED) materials) appear at the end (in boxes 79 through 98).
- Biographical / Historical:
The idea for a dictionary of Middle English goes back to 1919, when William A. Craigie, the third editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), proposed a series of period dictionaries of English to extend and supplement the treatment in the OED. By 1925, when Craigie refined his proposal, the dictionaries he envisaged were for Old English (before 1175), Middle English (1175-1500), the Tudor and Stuart period (1500-1675), Modern English (1675 to the present), Older Scottish (circa 1375 to circa 1700), Modern Scottish (circa 1700 to the present), and American English.
The available dictionaries of Middle English at the time Craigie was writing were either highly selective or incomplete (as in the case of Ewald Flügel's dictionary of a single writer, Geoffrey Chaucer, left unfinished at Flügel's death in 1914) or containing only brief glosses and with either just references to illustrative examples or a selection of (usually fragmentary) quotations (as in the case of Francis Stratmann's comprehensive Middle-English Dictionary, revised by Henry Bradley in 1891). The fullest treatment of the Middle English vocabulary at the time was to be found in the OED, which in its soon-to-be-completed first edition (1928) devoted approximately eight per cent of its over 15,000 pages to this period, but the OED was intended primarily as a dictionary of Modern English, and Middle English usage, though adequately presented as background for later usage, is not treated from the point of view of the period, which has its own unique characteristics.
In 1922 the Middle English Language Group of the Modern Language Association of America (MLA) began to take an interest in the project of a comprehensive Middle English dictionary, and by 1925 the MLA had assumed responsibility for promoting the compilation of such a dictionary. In that year Cornell University received a two-year grant from the Heckscher Foundation to begin work on it, with Clark S. Northup as Editor in Charge. Flügel's Chaucer materials were turned over to the project, and Northup was able to secure from Oxford University Press the Middle English slips from A through G collected for the OED (amounting to approximately 130,000 slips). All of these materials remained at Cornell until 1930 and were supplemented there during this period under Northup's supervision. The supplementation involved primarily the excerpting of various Middle English texts: from the approximately 20,000 pages read, about 175,000 quotations were copied out, frequently in shortened form, on 3" x 5" cards (in some later MED reports, the number of slips generated at Cornell is estimated to be 240,000). By 1928 work on the dictionary was in serious jeopardy, the funds from the Heckscher Foundation having been exhausted.
The project's connection with the University of Michigan began in early 1930, when the University invited the MLA to move the dictionary to Ann Arbor. The reason for the invitation was that it was thought that the presence of the dictionary would benefit the Early Modern English Dictionary (EMED, 1475-1700), which since 1928 had been in progress at the University under the direction of Charles C. Fries and to which the OED had already donated its entire stock of quotations for the Early Modern period. The invitation was accepted, the Cornell materials (including Flügel's materials and the OED slips from A to G) were transferred to the University of Michigan, and Professor Samuel Moore of the Department of English was chosen as editor. The OED's Middle English slips from H to Z were already in Ann Arbor by this time, the total donation (A through Z) amounting to approximately 430,000 slips, including both those used in the printed dictionary and those rejected; and in the next few years the slips prepared for the 1933 OED Supplement were also transferred to the University of Michigan. In 1931 the Rockefeller Foundation, through the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), began to contribute funds to the project, supplementing the University's contribution.
Moore era (1930-1934)
During Samuel Moore's editorship the main activities of his small staff were testing the stock of available quotations for inclusiveness and accuracy and carrying out an extensive and systematic reading program in order to supplement the original collection of citations. The nucleus of the MED's collection was the OED donation, which provided a good start, but it had certain omissions and biases. Moore tried to fill in the gaps by enlisting most of the outstanding Middle English scholars of the time, as well as others, not to mention members of his own staff (well over 100 people were involved), and they read as many of the published Middle English texts as they could, along with a number of texts still in manuscript. At the same time, Moore evaluated the usability of Flügel's materials for the special purposes of the MED and decided to set them aside because they were "heterogeneous in character" and to a large extent "in a highly disordered state" (see Moore's 1931 progress report to the ACLS [October 1932, p. 106]). He preferred instead to rely upon the Concordance to the Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer by J.S.P. Tatlock and A.G. Kennedy (1927) and his own reading program to round out the OED materials. By mid-1934, some 66,000 additional pages of Middle English texts had been read or reread, and 280,000 additional quotations taken out, with the result that the collection had grown to nearly 900,000 slips. Also during Moore's editorship a dialect survey, based on 310 documents from 208 known localities, was completed, by Moore himself along with his colleagues Sanford Meech and Harold Whitehall; it was published shortly after Moore's death as "Middle English Dialect Characteristics and Dialect Boundaries," in Essays and Studies in English and Comparative Literature pp. 1-60 (1935), and for many years thereafter was the standard work on the subject.
Though Moore had not worked out his editing procedures in detail before he died, he was in the process of formulating an editing plan, the principal features of which can be gathered from his correspondence with scholars in the United States and Europe. As Hans Kurath summarized them in a confidential report, dated November 15, 1946, to the University's Committee on Dictionaries, "The main entries . . . were to be in the Southeast Midland form; forms and spellings from other dialects were to be systematically treated . . . preference was to be given to 'illustrative quotations for word meaning' from 'passages which are the clearest and least ambiguous evidence of the meaning' . . . for early and late quotations and for forms 'only the more definitely dated texts' were to be used [and] cruces were not to be quoted in the Dictionary . . ." (p. 5). Moore thought that it would have been premature to experiment with editing because the material was incomplete, but during 1933 and 1934 he did prepare a few specimens, with entries borrowed from the OED, to circulate among scholars (see Moore's 1933 progress report to the ACLS [October 1934, pp. 102, 105-6]). Some pre-editing and sub-editing were done on certain letters, however: these two procedures involved, respectively, "identifying all obscure, doubtful, and ambiguous words, and alphabetizing the quotations" and "alphabetizing into one alphabet all . . . quotations for words that are immediately identifiable" (from Knott's 1935 progress report to the ACLS [July 1936, p. 105]).
Moore died unexpectedly, and prematurely (aged 56), in September of 1934 from complications after an operation. Shortly thereafter Thomas A. Knott, who had been the general editor of Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language (1934), was chosen as his successor; between then and Knott's arrival in Ann Arbor in February of 1935 Sanford Meech was interim head of the project.
Knott era (1935-1945)
Thomas Knott's editorship was beset by difficulties arising in part from the Depression and the depletion of the staff during World War II and in part from changes in editorial policy. The Rockefeller Foundation (through the ACLS) stopped its support just a year after he arrived in Ann Arbor, which meant that beginning in February of 1936 the University of Michigan (through the Department of English and the Horace H. Rackham Foundation primarily) had to bear the entire financial burden of the project. Confronted with an uncertain future, Knott decided to limit the dictionary to approximately 4,000 pages (later raised to 4,500) and to change radically the editing plan that Moore had in mind. It was now to include full and exact definitions, considerable encyclopedic knowledge about the Middle Ages, limited treatment of forms and spellings (including dialectal spellings), and very few illustrative quotations.
At one point Knott proposed using as few as only the earliest and the latest quotations for each sense; at another, the earliest and usually several others; at yet another, the earliest, the latest, and one other. (For the outlines of Knott's editing plan, which was never formalized, see: Knott's 1935 progress report to the ACLS [July 1936, p. 109]; unpublished descriptions of the MED by Knott from 1935 and 1941, along with the unpublished "Stylebook of the Middle English Dictionary," presumably written by Knott in 1936; and Kurath's summary on p. 7 of his unpublished 1946 report.)
As Kurath characterized Knott's editing plan in his unpublished 1946 report, it "was ill-conceived and unfortunate. It attempted to do what cannot be done satisfactorily and failed to do what can be done well. It did not square with our resources and failed to take into account the extent of our knowledge in the linguistic field; on the other hand, it did not recognize the as yet insuperable limitations in our knowledge of semantics . . .and of Medieval science and technology" (p. 8).
During his editorship, Knott and his staff prepared entries for the letters A, B, C, D, L, and parts of M in accordance with his editing plan. In 1937 a thirteen-page specimen of L was printed and circulated to a number of scholars (medievalists, historical linguists, etc.); this specimen caused disappointment and produced serious criticism from some reviewers, and the Executive Council of the MLA decided against printing it in the form in which it had circulated.
In April of the next year, 1938, based primarily on the limited financial resources available and as a result of a recommendation from Kenneth Sisam of Oxford University Press, the University's Committee on Dictionaries (which was responsible for both the MED and the EMED) decided to suspend work on the MED and combine the staffs of the MED and the EMED and set them to editing the letter A for the latter dictionary. It became clear, after nearly a year of experimentation with this arrangement, that it would be impossible to meet Sisam's (and Craigie's) expectations for the EMED, and in March of 1939 the Committee on Dictionaries, on Fries's recommendation, decided that work on the EMED should be postponed indefinitely and all of the University's resources put into producing the chronologically prior MED.
In 1940 a forty-eight-page typed specimen of letter A of the MED was circulated to a smaller group than the previous specimen (primarily the MLA's Advisory Committee for the MED and Oxford University Press, the intended publisher); based on shortcomings in it as determined by the Advisory Committee, the Executive Council of the MLA decided that it could not "give a blanket endorsement to the standards . . . prevailing" at that time at the MED (see PMLA 57 [1942, p. 1206]). Editing continued into B and then C, though with a depleted staff because of World War II, and no further specimens were circulated during Knott's editorship.
Knott and his staff did, however, make substantial additions to the collection of quotations: in addition to arranging for cut-ups of the OED, E.A.F. Mätzner's Wörterbuch (1878-91, with additions to 1900), the Bradley-Stratmann Dictionary (1891), the Tatlock and Kennedy Concordance (1927), the blueprints of John Trevisa's translation of Bartholomeus Anglicus's De Proprietatibus Rerum, and other texts (which were then pasted on slips by Works Project Administration and National Youth Administration workers and filed with the quotations for the convenience of the editors), new reading was done in areas which had been either slighted or ignored before, e.g., (1) English words in Latin and Old French documents, which are a rich source of the names of everyday items, customs, taxes, and the like, and (2) place and personal names, which often provide the first occurrences of words remaining from Old English and Old Norse and, for personal names, from Anglo-French. It has been estimated that by 1944, the year before Knott's death, the collection of slips had grown to 1,360,400.
Knott was on sick leave from March of 1945 until his death in August, and early in that period a search for a new editor began. After looking at a number of possibilities in the spring of 1945, the Committee on Dictionaries finally decided on Hans Kurath, who was chairman of the Division of Modern Languages at Brown University and director of the Linguistic Atlas of the United States and Canada. From March of 1945 until Kurath's appointment later in the year, associate editor Hereward T. Price was interim head of the MED.
Kurath era (1946-1961)
In the fall of 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, the University of Michigan reaffirmed its intention to see the MED through to completion. Hans Kurath began his editorship in March of 1946 and by the end of the year had drawn up a formal editing plan. This plan, which is closer to the one envisioned by Moore, had three main components and was based on what Kurath believed could be done well. First, there was to be a full display of quotations from the collection. As Kurath put it in his unpublished report of 1946, "We have an unsurpassed collection of quotations from all M[iddle] E[nglish] sources and must display it fully in the Dictionary. The quotations, our primary evidence for M[iddle] E[nglish] usage, will retain their value undiminished long after the opinions expressed by the editors in the definitions and the arrangement of the senses will have been superseded (or viewed with the skepticism with which we now approach the semantic and historical treatment of the vocabulary in Grimm's great German Dictionary (1854-) or in the earlier volumes of the monumental Oxford Dictionary (1888-))" (p. 9). Second, there was to be a systematic treatment of "the formal features of M[iddle] E[nglish]spellings, grammatical forms and regional variants," the evidence for which was "ready to hand in our great collection of quotations and texts from all the dialect areas of England" (p. 9). And, finally, the meanings of the Middle English words were to be conveyed "in the briefest form possible--by giving the Modern English equivalents (with clarifying comments, when needed) and resorting to explicit definition only when translation into M[oder]n E[nglish] is not feasible or [is] misleading" (p. 9).
Kurath also observed that Middle English usage varies so greatly during the period, both chronologically and regionally, that only a dictionary of considerable size could do justice to English usage of this age, which is also the formative period for a large part of the Modern English vocabulary. He therefore decided, early in 1947, that the MED should run to approximately 8,000 pages, which would allow him to present a considerable part of the quotations stored in the files and thus produce a dictionary of independent value that would serve scholars for years to come.
The bibliographical apparatus also presented a formidable problem, which needed to be solved before editing progressed too far. As Kurath explained it in his annual report on the MED for 1947:
The bibliographical apparatus of the MED, as it was in 1946, was found to be quite inadequate for our purposes. It had simply accumulated over a period of years and had never been systematically reviewed. Much of it had been taken over uncritically from the O[E]D or culled piece-meal from the introductions to edited texts. Some texts were assigned composition dates, others MS [manuscript] dates (which sometimes are a century apart). For some texts the MS date reflected the opinions of early paleographers who were inclined to push the MS dates rather far back; for others the more conservative dating of recent paleographers was accepted. In some cases different texts from one and the same MS, written by one and the same hand, had very different dates. Some texts were quoted under two or three different titles without anyone being aware of it. (pp. 2-3)
A thorough overhauling of the bibliographical apparatus was undertaken between 1946 and 1949 by Margaret Ogden, Charles Palmer, and Richard McKelvey, and the system that was adopted contained the innovation of what has been called the "double-dating" feature. As Kurath put it in his 1947 report, "We have decided to assign the MS date to all texts, and to add the composition date in parentheses if the text was composed a quarter of a century or more earlier than the date of the MS from which we quote. Paleographic evidence gives us a fairly reliable approximate date for all the MSS, whereas the composition date is often highly conjectural. Mixing MS dates and composition dates, as in the past, is very misleading" (p. 3).
Between 1946 and 1952 editing began on E and then progressed to F (A, B, C, and parts of D had already been edited according to Knott's plan but were postponed for re-editing until Kurath's plan had been tried out on E and F), all slips were refiled using Southeast Midland headwords, the dating of manuscripts was set by correspondence with librarians and scholars, and the short titles with their dates (or "stencils," as they were called at the MED) were put into final form.
Before World War II the University of Michigan had an understanding with the Clarendon Press in Oxford that the MED would be published there, with a subvention from the University. When negotiations were resumed in 1950, printing costs had risen so sharply and the potential European market for the MED had shrunk so drastically that the University felt unable to meet the increased financial demands. On the recommendation of Kurath and the University's Committee on Dictionaries, the University of Michigan Press declared its willingness to publish the MED by offset if the delegates of the Clarendon Press would release the University from the original understanding; the release was granted in April of 1951. In 1952 the first fascicle (the first part of E) was published, and from then until the end of publication in 2001 the final camera-ready copy for the fascicles (which were normally of 128 pages) was prepared by the MED staff in its offices, then printed lithographically and bound in Ann Arbor by Cushing-Malloy, Inc., and finally distributed and marketed by the University of Michigan Press.
Two years later Kurath published a description of the editing plan and a full bibliography, in a fascicle entitled Plan and Bibliography (1954), and from then until the end of his editorship in 1961 the editing progressed slowly but deliberately, with a staff that fluctuated between four and seven mostly part-time editors (many of whom were also part-time faculty in the Department of English), reaching the beginning of the letter G (and publication of all fascicles from A through F).
Kuhn era (1961-1983)
Sherman M. Kuhn became editor on Kurath's retirement in 1961. Kuhn had come to Michigan as associate editor in 1948 from what is now Oklahoma State University and had considerable first-hand experience under Kurath. During the first thirteen years of his editorship (1961-1974) the editing continued to progress slowly but deliberately and by the end of 1974 had reached the middle of the letter M. Kuhn's editorial staff consisted of six or seven mostly part-time editors and included John Reidy from the University of Western Ontario, who spent the 1960-61 academic year as a visiting lecturer at the University of Michigan and then, on Kuhn's succession, became associate editor of the MED. Fascicles continued to appear at an average rate of two per year during these years, progressing from G to the end of L.
From 1930 to 1974 the project had been supported almost entirely by the University of Michigan, except for the assistance in the 1930s, already mentioned, from the Rockefeller Foundation through the ACLS. But, in order to hasten the completion of the editing, a decision was made in early 1974 by University administrators for the project to solicit external funding. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was approached, and in the winter of 1974-1975 application was made for funds to expand the editorial staff. The application was successful, and in 1975 the project was awarded a grant of $950,000, which enabled it to appoint seven new full-time editors in 1975-1976 and move to larger quarters. In 1980 the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) contributed matching funds for the Mellon grant.
Between 1975 and the end of Kuhn's editorship, with a staff that fluctuated between eleven and thirteen editors (nearly all full time), the editing proceeded at a somewhat faster rate. Fascicles continued to appear at an average rate of two per year, progressing from M to the end of P. Up through 1983, as during Kurath's era, the final copy for the fascicles continued to be produced on two IBM Executive typewriters (one for the secretarial font and the other for the boldface font).
In the spring of 1977 the Office of the Vice President for Research ordered a review of the MED, partly as a matter of periodic routine for all of its units (which the MED had become in 1975) and partly to assess the progress of the project and its goals for completion two years after receiving the Mellon grant. Beginning with an internal self-evaluation in June, followed by a visit from three external reviewers in August and their report in the fall, the review resulted in December in a set of recommendations to alleviate the backlog of copy waiting to be reviewed, to provide additional support to the editors, and in general to move the project along to completion expeditiously.
In accordance with the most urgent recommendation, a search for a co-editor, to assist Kuhn with the reviewing and to become editor upon his retirement, began in the winter of 1978. Later in the year a British scholar was offered the position, and he came to Ann Arbor in the summer of 1979 for a trial period, intending to return in the fall of 1980. But he never completed the necessary documentation for a visa, and the offer of the position was withdrawn by the University in August of 1981. A new search was constituted shortly thereafter, and Robert E. Lewis, professor of English at Indiana University, was chosen as co-editor, the appointment to take effect in the fall of 1982.
Lewis era (1982-2001)
During 1982-1983 Robert E. Lewis worked with Kuhn during Kuhn's last year on the University of Michigan faculty, becoming editor-in-chief on Kuhn's retirement in 1983. During Lewis's editorship, as during Kurath's and Kuhn's, the reading program, which began under Moore in the 1930s, was continued, as editions of unpublished Middle English texts began to appear with ever-increasing frequency after World War II (and especially from the 1970s onward) and many previously edited texts began to be reedited. These were read by the staff, as they came to their attention and as time allowed, and quotations extracted from them for use in the words still to be edited.
Between 1982 and 1996, with a staff that again fluctuated between seven and thirteen editors (mostly full time), the editing continued to proceed at the faster rate, despite the fact that the amount of data was increasing, through the continuing extraction of quotations from newly edited texts. In 1996, as the editing was nearing its end, the number of editors had to be reduced, and, finally, in late 1997, approximately fifty years after it began according to Kurath's plan, the editing was completed by the three editors who were chosen to remain.
In 1982 the NEH awarded the project its second grant (with four additional ones to come between 1985 and 1994), in both outright and matching funds, and in 1985 and again in 1988 the Mellon Foundation made two additional large awards. From then to the end of 1996 the editing was supported jointly by the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment. In 1993, however, when application was made to the NEH for the one last editing grant it needed, the matching funds from the Mellon Foundation were nearly exhausted, and the project undertook a three-year fund-raising campaign in North America to raise replacement funds. Thanks to an initial gift (and subsequent gifts) from A. Richard Diebold, Jr., and to contributions from well over two hundred individuals and institutions, the project was able to meet its matching-fund requirement, with enough left over to assist in completing the last stages of the editing in 1996-1997. Continued funding from the University of Michigan, primarily through the Office of the Vice President for Research, supported the other parts of the project to its conclusion in 2001.
In early 1984, after exploring various word-processing and printing systems during the previous year and a half, the project replaced its typewriter-generated production system in use since 1952 with a computer-assisted system, which allowed the MED, beginning with the Q-fascicle and Plan and Bibliography Supplement I, to update and revise its fonts and to increase its rate of publication to an average of three fascicles per year between Q and the final X-Y-Z fascicle in 2001. (The increased rate of publication can be attributed partly to an increase in the amount of reviewed copy, thanks to the use of one or more reviewers in addition to the editor-in-chief from 1983 on, and partly to a strict timetable for completing the final stages of the project between 1996 and 2001.) From Q through S the format of the earlier typewriter-generated pages was kept, but with the first T-fascicle, thanks to a customized package of Times Roman softfonts, some formatting changes were incorporated to increase readability (the most important of which were boldfaced dates and italicized short titles for the Middle English texts), and these changes continued through the rest of the alphabet.
With the publication of the final X-Y-Z fascicle in the summer of 2001, the completed MED proper runs to 14,939 pages in 115 fascicles (combined into thirteen volumes), with 54,081 separate entries and 891,531 quotations. The final figure of 14,939 pages is nearly double the 8,000 that Kurath had projected. That is partly because the definitions became more elaborate and more detailed as the MED progressed, but primarily because the number of illustrative quotations increased, though this was partly by default: there was simply more data added to the files (especially from the fifteenth century) as the editors proceeded through the alphabet.
In 2007 the final piece of the MED, the Plan and Bibliography, Second Edition, was published. This new edition contains a complete reshaping and rewriting by Lewis of Kurath's original Plan, with an up-to-date history of the project and a comprehensive guide to the entries and their constituent parts, and a revised Bibliography by Lewis and Mary Jane Williams, with the assistance of Marilyn S. Miller, of the texts used in the print dictionary, which amounts to over 7100 full entries, nearly half again as many as in the original 1954 bibliography and the 1984 supplemental bibliography combined, with notes on the changes in date, title, manuscript, or edition that took place in the print dictionary between 1952 and 2001.
Since 1998, thanks to a separate grant from the NEH in the previous year and with support from various units at the University of Michigan, an electronic version of the MED, under the direction of Frances McSparran of the Department of English and John Wilkin of the University Library, has been available to subscribers online; it constitutes one of the three resources in the Middle English Compendium (the other two are the HyperBibliography of Middle English, based on the MED bibliographies, and the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse, a series of fully searchable electronic texts linked to the HyperBibliography). The letters A through P of the print MED were keyboarded and then converted to SGML markup, the electronic files of Q through T were also converted to SGML markup, and the MED production staff themselves encoded U through Z in SGML, with the result that all of the existing print MED was made available online by the end of 2001.
From the early years of publication a print supplement was part of the long-range plan. The files for it began to be organized during Kuhn's editorship, and between then and 2001 they were systematically added to, with the result that by 2001 there were eighteen boxes of alphabetized supplementary materials. Public references to a supplement began to appear by 1961, and in the printed fascicles from R through Z cross-references were inserted to "Suppl." entries.
The kind of supplement envisioned originally was a short one, in which the obvious errors would be corrected, definitions and etymologies revised that were known to need revision, and the new words in the MED files added, much like the supplement to the Scottish National Dictionary (1976). But as work continued through the remainder of the alphabet, it became increasingly clear that, in view of the length of time that had elapsed since the first fascicle appeared (1952) and the changes in editorial practice that had taken place since then, the kind of supplement that would best serve the scholarly community would be a full and systematic one, which, in conjunction with the completed MED, would provide a coherent whole in which all entries would be similar in treatment, fullness, and coverage from A to Z.
The cost of producing this fuller kind of supplement, or even the shorter version, was beyond the University's means at the time, but some preliminary work was done during the summer of 2001, after the final fascicle had been sent to the printer, through a grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research awarded to Frances McSparran, when four members of the MED Production Staff organized and classified the supplementary materials, partially entered the additional quotations into the computer, and proofed them against the texts. Nothing further has been done on these materials since 2001 (except for some work by Lewis leading to an article on a Middle English prefix in 2005), but they are now available for consultation at the Bentley Library.
Chief Editors of the MED Date Event 1930-1934 Samuel Moore 1935-1945 Thomas A. Knott 1946-1961 Hans Kurath 1961-1983 Sherman M. Kuhn 1982-2001 Robert E. Lewis
- Acquisition Information:
- Records were transferred to the Bentley Library in August 2001 (donor number 9126 ).
No further additions to the records are expected.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Finding aid prepared using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
- Additional Descriptive Data:
For the citation slips used in the printed MED (along with the supplementary slips), see the Bentley Library record group Middle English Dictionary citation slips (Call number 0183 Bimu 2).
For other University of Michigan holdings with administrative records related to the MED project, see College of Literature, Science and the Arts (University of Michigan) records (Call number 8779 Blmu C22 Bimu C22 2); Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies (University of Michigan) records (Call number 87198 Bimu C161 2); and especially Office of the Vice-President for Research (University of Michigan) records (call number 87258 Bimu B6 2 UBlmul B6).
For videos of the presentation of papers on the history of the MED and of the celebratory dinner and the festivities connected with it that took place in the afternoon and evening of May 9, 2001, during the Dictionary Society of North America Biennial Conference in Ann Arbor, see Office of the Vice-President for Research (University of Michigan) records, Box 170 (BMC 1575 and 1576).
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Early Modern English Dictionary.
English language -- Middle English, 1100-1500.
English language -- Lexicography.
Middle English dictionary.
Digital file formats.
Knott, Thomas A. (Thomas Albert), 1880-1945.
Kuhn, Sherman M. (Sherman McAllister), 1907-1991.
Kurath, Hans, 1891-1992.
Lewis, Robert E.
Moore, Samuel, 1877-1934.
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[item], folder, box, Middle English Dictionary records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan