The Barnhart Dictionary Archive
THE BARNHART DICTIONARY ARCHIVE
Offered for sale on behalf of Barnhart Books (i.e. Rogers Knox & Barnhart Inc.) by Rulon-Miller Books, Inc., of St. Paul, Minnesota. This archive, consisting of something in the neighborhood of nine tons of correspondence, business records, project files, reference books, citations, etc. (approximately a garage stall and a half) dates from 1929 to 2005 and contains manuscripts, typescripts, carbon typescripts, mimeographs, Xeroxes, random notes, proposals for future projects, production files including paste-ups and proofs, film footage, and audio recordings, together with numerous miscellaneous files on language and lexicography in all its aspects, as described more fully below.
For the better part of a century the Barnhart family has passionately believed that the development of vocabulary and usage is a reliable and unique reflection of history; it is hoped that this intact collection will attract the attention of language, social and cultural scholars well into the future.
Clarence L. Barnhart was arguably the most talented of all American lexicographers working in the 20th century.1 Like many brilliant men, he was a figure of contrasts. He could be formidably charming; he could also be arrogant, opinionated, self-interested, a perfectionist, and difficult to work with. That the Barnhart dictionaries did not attain the name recognition granted by the general public to the likes of a Merriam-Webster or a Random House dictionary was due in part to Barnhart’s personality, but even more importantly to his desire to remain independent of corporate structures. Throughout his career he chose to make dictionaries as he conceived them rather than be dictated to, a choice which changed the face of American lexicography, but which denied him, perhaps, the wealth and fame he might otherwise have achieved. Due to the changed nature of dictionary-making in the 21st century (with the new focus on corpus work, and the technologies which allow for that focus), Clarence Barnhart is likely to have been the last independent lexicographer working with the English language as a whole. Interestingly, it was his work, his innovation and foresight, which paved the way for the changes which are now rendering the old ways obsolete.
Barnhart’s enduring friendship with the noted linguist Leonard Bloomfield must be recognized as one of the most important relationships in American education, as it was Barnhart who introduced Bloomfield’s theories to the dictionary world, and who subsequently merged modern linguistic theory with lexicography. The rise of modern linguistics fostered a scientific approach to the study of language in general, which resulted in better observation of both the oral and written language. Consequently, and largely due to Barnhart’s dogged pursuits, lexicography is now recognized as a subject field within linguistics itself.
Another important relationship was with psychologist and educator Edward L. Thorndike, whose lexicographical theories adapting linguistic and psychological principles to learning were applied by Barnhart, first in the series of Thorndike-Century school dictionaries, and later in Barnhart’s own.
Barnhart also aggressively pursued new words and new usages in ways other dictionary editors did not, developing a vast citation file documenting the English language as it was actually being used. Because of the way the collection was assembled, it remains a unique file – as far as can be determined, the only private, most inclusive, and most directed of any existing archive of American English. It preserves through citational evidence America’s history as revealed in its language from the earliest days of settlement through the emergence of the United States as the dominant global power as the twentieth century ended.
One direct result of the citation file was the groundbreaking Barnhart Dictionary of New Words. First published in 1973, its sudden and unexpected success caught Merriam-Webster, Random House, and even the OED flatfooted, forcing these firms to rush competitive books to market. Barnhart’s influence in this arena remains in effect today, as these “new words” dictionaries continue to be virtually annual staples of dictionary publishing.
The American College Dictionary, edited by Barnhart, was also the first of its kind; it had an outside, independent editorial board consisting of linguistic scholars (Bloomfield and Kemp Malone among them), and paid close attention to both historical and current usage. It was also the first dictionary with a specialized standard of pronunciation. This pronunciation system of the ACD especially profited from the research of the pronunciation committee of the Thorndike-Century Senior Dictionary, which led to a vast reduction in the confusing symbols representing English phonemes. This linguistic influence altered the system by which pronunciation is now recorded, and led to a less authoritarian attitude by dictionary editors.
Barnhart was innovative, too, in bridging the gap created by the emerging technologies of the early 1960s, being one of the first to use punchcards in the making of a dictionary (even inventing “top secret” templates which allowed the combined use of photocopiers and punchcards in order to speed data entry). It was a bridge, though, that would later collapse as the Barnhart firm (essentially a family enterprise, and constantly under financial constraints) was unable to switch to the newer technologies of magnetic tape and eventually computers in the 1970s and ’80s. Nonetheless, the all-important citation files continued to be maintained by hand into the 21st century.
List of Barnhart Dictionaries and Educational Books
American College Dictionary, 1947, 1948, 1954, 1957, 1959, 1960, and annually from 1962-70
The Early Years
Clarence Lewis Barnhart (1900-1993) was born in a small Missouri town to a poor, working-class family. His father was a railroad line foreman who moved his family frequently as the railroad required, and dabbled fairly heavily in local politics in a homespun kind of way, relying on “speechifying” and oration. One of the family’s stops was in Kansas where Barnhart met and befriended Reason A. (“Al”) Goodwin, who would go on to become a “wildly talented”2 linguist, and who would later collaborate with Barnhart on the World Book Dictionary. During their time in Kansas Barnhart and Goodwin formed the nucleus of a “self-conscious coterie” of adolescent intellectuals, who differentiated themselves from those around them by their love of books and language.
Goodwin attended the University of Chicago, becoming the youngest (at that time) graduate in the history of the school; Barnhart attended Transylvania College in expectation of becoming a minister before switching to the lexicography/linguistics departments at the University of Chicago (with some fitful starts and stops – he would spend the better part of 10 years acquiring his undergraduate degree and dabbling in graduate work, without ever putting forth a thesis).
During his time at the U. of C. Barnhart may well have assisted with (and was certainly influenced by) the final stages of Sir William A. Craigie’s work on the Oxford English Dictionary (Craigie took a professorship at the U. of C. beginning in 1925 with the understanding that he would continue to work on the OED while in residence). Barnhart and a number of other graduate-level students certainly did assist with the beginning stages of Craigie’s work on the Dictionary of American English (on which Craigie broke ground before the OED was complete). Fellow friends and students who also would go on to become important 20th century American lexicographers included Jess Stein (who would later work with Barnhart on both the Army Dictionary and the American College Dictionary), Robert Ramsay, Louise Pound, Woodford A. Heflin, and Alan Walker Read.
Most importantly for Barnhart, while at the U. of C. he had the opportunity to study under Leonard Bloomfield, the noted linguist and primary founder of the Linguistic Society of America. Bloomfield would prove a major, ongoing influence in Barnhart’s work: his support for the theory of corpus (or quantitative) linguistics, in which what is studied is “real-world” or “natural” language, would have a lasting impact on Barnhart as he developed word lists based on frequency of use, and citation files based on real-world examples; Bloomfield’s focus on structural linguistics and its impact on how the brain actually thinks about language would directly influence Barnhart’s development years later of the Let’s Read series of language-learning books for children. More immediately, the work Barnhart did under Bloomfield would pave the way for Barnhart’s collaboration with psychologist and learning expert Edward Thorndike for the Scott, Foresman publishing house.
Barnhart had initially worked for Scott, Foresman in the shipping department (just one in a series of low-paying, menial jobs he took in his youth). His talent and acumen were rapidly recognized; he was promoted to associate editor, and Scott, Foresman paid for portions of his education in exchange for a promise of employment when his studies were complete (at the time a seemingly nebulous milestone).
In the late 1920s Scott, Foresman (SF) was primed for innovation; in just a few years they would become famous for their then–ground-breaking Dick and Jane series. So when Thorndike approached them with his ideas for a dictionary based on his Teacher’s Word Book (1921) and upcoming Teacher’s Word Book of the Twenty Thousand Words Found Most Frequently and Widely in General Reading for Children and Young People (1932), the SF editors were intrigued, though a little confused by Thorndike’s grandiose academic theories and complex explanations. They asked him to draw up a proposal, which he did; Barnhart, primed by his studies under Bloomfield, was brought in to explain it to them3.
Thorndike, Barnhart told them, had figured out what, when, and most importantly, how children are able to learn. Existing dictionaries for children – like the ones put out in the teens and twenties by Merriam-Webster – just dumbed down adult dictionaries. Thorndike’s ideas were revolutionary in that he had analyzed how children learn language; then he had gone out and performed counts of words occurring in children’s literature and other works to which children could expect to be exposed. These were the words they needed to know and to be at ease with, the ones that would form the building blocks upon which more sophisticated vocabulary could be stacked – and the ones, he said, which should be emphasized in a dictionary aimed at them.
So it was that Barnhart and Thorndike4 began working together on a dictionary that would set the world of lexicography –and the world of selling dictionaries – on fire (“Merriam-Webster didn’t know what hit them”). The dictionary itself was not the only innovation: To sell it (and their other books of the period, including Dick and Jane), SF mobilized a huge sales force, skilled at generating “buzz.” Through the Great Depression years, when other dictionary-makers, lexicographers, philologists, and linguists (including Barnhart’s friend Al Goodwin, who was then using the full force of his linguistic brilliance to write advertising copy) found themselves un- and under-employed, the SF sales force sold books hand over fist, and Thorndike and Barnhart continued to plug away, producing first the Thorndike-Century Junior Dictionary in 1935, then the Thorndike-Century Senior Dictionary in 1941; a revised edition of the Junior Dictionary came out in 1942, followed by the Thorndike-Century Beginning Dictionary in 1945.
In the midst of all this, World War II broke out, and the United States Army found itself with a need for a dictionary of technical and military terms. They approached the Linguistic Society of America seeking assistance, and Barnhart and his old U. of C. chum Jess Stein suddenly found themselves transported from Chicago to the Army’s editorial offices at 165 Broadway in New York where they churned out the Dictionary of United States Army Terms (1944).
While in New York, Barnhart heard rumors that Bennett Cerf had plans to produce an “Americanized” version of the Oxford Concise Dictionary. To that end, Random House had acquired the rights to the Century dictionaries and the Dictionary of American English in the late ’30s and early ’40s. With characteristic swagger Barnhart finessed his way through the door and convinced Cerf to let him have complete control over the project, from concept to design to implementation, resulting in the revolutionary American College Dictionary, published in 1947. As Sidney Landau says, it was the dictionary that “has come to define the modern genre.”5
This was a busy period for Barnhart personally, as well. In 1931 he had married his wife, Frances (then an executive secretary at Scott, Foresman); his first son, Robert, was born in 1933; his second son, David, was born in 1941. During his work for the Army he was forced to leave his young family behind in Chicago, but the move to Random House in the mid-’40s allowed him to bring his wife and sons east, settling them in Bronxville, New York.
In the early 1950s, Barnhart began revising the Thorndike-Century series of graded dictionaries. His stature in the lexicographic community had by then risen to the point that the new books were titled the Thorndike-Barnhart Dictionaries. The first Braille edition would come out in 1961; A Dictionary of Canadian English: The Beginning Dictionary (edited by Walter Spencer Avis but based on the T-B dictionaries), was published in 1962. The series continues (under other editorship) to the present day. Meanwhile, while continuing to work on the T-B books, Barnhart compiled and published the New Century Cyclopedia of Names (1954) followed rapidly by a companion volume, the New Century Handbook of English Literature (1956).
The University Dictionary
The University Dictionary (unpublished) was intended to be the capstone of the Thorndike-Barnhart Dictionary series. It originally was to have been published by some combination of Barnhart, Scott, Foresman/Doubleday, and the Thorndike family, and was envisioned as being much larger than the existing collegiate dictionaries, with reworked definitions (common meaning first), new vocabulary, and more usage citations – altogether a very different sort of book from what was then on offer in the marketplace. “It would also have been more accessible than Merriam-Webster’s 3rd, the International that made everyone so mad” – but it would still have been as advanced in terms of linguistic information, choice of entry list, etc. – “though not nearly as large – a more soothing new dictionary.”
But when the World Book Dictionary (WBD, published 1963 – see page 9) was proposed, publication of the UD was postponed to permit development of the WBD. Over time, due to changes in management at the publishing houses, a shifting economic environment, and the fact that Clarence Barnhart was becoming increasingly difficult to work with – often late with deadlines, and constantly quarrelsome about money – the UD was shelved, despite the support all parties had given to the project.6
The demise of the UD would represent the beginning of the final unwinding of the relationship between Barnhart, Scott, Foresman, and Doubleday, but the project was not a complete waste. The word list from the UD would later serve as the basis for the selection of entries in the Dictionary of Etymology (1988; see page 10), although the etymologies from the
UD themselves were not used. By comparison sparse and by then old, the UD etymologies “served merely as hooks on which to hang new scholarship.”
The unpublished – and nearly finished – dictionary is contained in the archive in 6x9 boxes which are not citation files, but actual manuscript pages for the UD, written on loose 6x9 slips and kept in file boxes, not notebooks (this methodology allowed for insertion of additional words and/or material, as needed). These slips have been Xeroxed and both originals and the Xeroxed copies are in the archive.
Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Barnhart maintained his close ties to his University of Chicago professor, Leonard Bloomfield, with whom he had plans for introducing a new method of teaching reading. Both men had tried to sell the idea to various publishers, who had shown little interest in disturbing the basic reading market. Despite many rejections and setbacks, Bloomfield and Barnhart had an agreement that they would pursue publication of the Bloomfield system; whoever survived the partnership would continue the search for publication. In 1949 Bloomfield died, and, despite the agreement, over the years Barnhart “pretty much forgot about it.” Luckily Harold Basilius, then the director at the Wayne State Press, had been at the University of Chicago under Bloomfield; he knew both men and was aware of the materials. Eventually he arranged with an outside foundation for Barnhart to receive $25,000 to “whip the material into shape,” and in 1961, a dozen years after Bloomfield’s death, the Let’s Read series was finally born.
Subtitled “A Linguistic Approach,” one of the Let’s Read innovations was to incorporate all of the spelling patterns that exist in the English language. Whereas traditional teaching methods had focused on the difficult and the “exceptions to the rule,” the Let’s Read series emphasized the simple and straightforward, stressed pattern-recognition, and encouraged active rather than passive learning. It highlighted the notion that, contrary to the popular view of English as difficult, ornery, and irregular, the truth is that English is actually 80-90 percent alphabetical and regular.
A Family Affair
Early in the ’60s Clarence’s first son, Robert, had begun working with his father on the Let’s Read series. In the years after the publication of the first single-volume edition, Robert Barnhart came to believe that the one-volume version, as a text for children, was far too bulky and contained too little practice reading.7 He began a decade-long project to re-write the Let’s Read program in a format more compatible with the needs of both children and classrooms. The result was a series of nine Let’s Read readers and accompanying workbooks. (Let’s Read remains to this day the most financially significant and durable independent publishing effort for Barnhart Books, which continued to publish and market the reading series until the late 1980s, when Educators Publishing Service contracted to publish it. The series was revised in the 1990s and is still published by EPS.)
As book piled upon book, more family members joined the fray. Clarence’s second son, David, helped with editing the Thorndike-Barnhart dictionaries; starting in 1982, he would assist his father in working on the quarterly Barnhart Dictionary Companion. A respected linguist in his own right, David has also in more recent years written the Barnhart New-Words Concordance as well as two non-dictionary books on words.
Robert continued to work with his father into the 1980s, first on the revisions of the World Book Dictionary (see below) and then on all the later dictionaries. In 1955 he had married Cynthia Ann Rogers8 effectively adding a fourth lexicographer to the team – although, as a point of interest, Cynthia Barnhart had actually preceded both Robert and David in working for their father: as a teenager she had received 50 cents an hour for reading and recording citations for Barnhart’s files. Cynthia did, however, briefly escape the family’s lexicographic clutches, spending seven years as a senior editor at the Cambridge University Press before permanently returning to the fold.
Together, Clarence, Robert, and Cynthia (and to a lesser extent David) would produce innovative dictionaries and readers into the 1990s. After Clarence’s death in 1993, the younger generation would continue the tradition into the 21st century.
The World Book Dictionary
In the meantime, the next major project was the World Book Dictionary (1963). The WBD was unique in that it was designed especially as a companion to the World Book Encyclopedia, giving information on the meaning, spelling, pronunciation, and origin of the words used in the Encyclopedia. Because the Encyclopedia itself was updated annually, annual editorial revisions to the dictionary were also required. Then, too, were the occasional major revisions – the most recent being completed by Robert and Cynthia Barnhart in 1996.
One distinguishing aspect of the WBD was the unprecedented number of specialist advisers the Barnharts engaged to work on it. This practice of enlisting specialists in certain fields was not new – in fact, Barnhart himself was using outside advisors and editorial boards as early as his work on the American College Dictionary in the 1940s. But the WBD was different in that these individuals, numbering literally in the hundreds, were not mere figureheads lending the weight of their credentials to the project, but were actively engaged in the making of the dictionary: generating policy, reviewing manuscript entries, and making and reviewing corrections.
Today, in the dictionary-making environment of the 21st century, the notion of supplementing in-house research with outside help, or for that matter, criticism, is largely unheard of – and certainly to do so on such a scale would be virtually fiscally impossible. The Internet may yet, of course, change all that, and the WBD can, in a sense, be considered a precursor to the concept of the “wiki,” in which large numbers of geographically-dispersed individuals with specialties in far-flung fields come together to share their expertise.
The Dictionary of New English
The citation files begun in the ’40s were added to substantially during the creation and maintenance of the World Book Dictionary and the minor revisions of other existing dictionaries during this period; because of this the Barnharts found they had accumulated a vast number of new words and new usages not accounted for in any existing dictionary. The ’60s and ’70s were a time of great change, linguistically as well as culturally (“language was going berserk – coinages, usage changes – the language was becoming less stilted – all these collocations and expressions that were different – everything was different”), and in response to this linguistic furor, the Barnharts decided to develop a new kind of dictionary – one that contained only words coined (or old words used in new ways) after 1963. The result was the Barnhart Dictionary of New English (or BDNE), published in 1973, with completely new editions, the BDNE2 and BDNE3, in 1980 and 1990.
The BDNE9 was an entirely new concept. Uncertain of its reception by publishers, Barnhart and son Robert promoted it in person at the Frankfurt book fair in 1972 to Longman and Langenscheidt, and to Harper & Row in the United States. It unexpectedly sold very well indeed, and had much the same effect on the marketplace in 1973 as the first Thorndike-Century dictionary had had in 1935, with Merriam-Webster scrambling to put out a 12,000-word dictionary containing contemporary usage; Oxford, too, rushed out an “additions” volume.
Another major innovation came in the BDNE2, which incorporated longer articles (most written by Barnhart’s old friend Reason “Al” Goodwin and edited by Cynthia Barnhart) on changes in modern usage due to social and cultural pressures and events. These included discussions on the use of “-gate” as a suffix (e.g. “Watergate”), death and dying as concepts (e.g. pertaining to euthanasia and abortion), women’s rights, etc.
An innovation considered and discarded for the BDNEs was the use of text in single columns (rather than the traditional double or triple column format). Because these dictionaries were far more narrative and discursive than dictionaries based on a general corpus of words, a single-column format would have seemed more readable than the multiple-column format – but the complaints from the advisory board came flying fast and thick when the change was proposed (“It doesn’t look like a dictionary,” was commonly heard. “But we didn’t want it to look like a dictionary!” says Cynthia Barnhart); the idea was shelved.
The Barnhart Dictionary of Science was published in 1986. It was originally conceived as a joint-publishing venture between the Hammond Company and Barnhart Books, but after publication Hammond’s contract was purchased by Houghton Mifflin and the dictionary was rebranded as the American Heritage Dictionary of Science; it is now out of print.
From the work on the unpublished University Dictionary came the Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology (BDE, 1988), considered by many to be one of the most comprehensive books of its kind. It is unusual in that it traces multiple lines of descent and dates usage. Figurative and extended usages are included in addition to the first, or core, use. Borrowing from the more discursive, narrative style pioneered in the BDNEs, it uses dating based on both the OED and Kurath and Kuhn’s Middle English Dictionary. The BDE was originally published by H.W. Wilson, and is now sold by Chambers. It was financed by advances against royalty as well as by the Barnhart firm. The Barnhart Shorter Dictionary of Etymology was published under a subsidiary agreement between H.W. Wilson and HarperCollins. It is a slightly shorter version of the original etymology dictionary achieved principally by cutting out the Indo-European.
In 1995 the firm produced the Barnhart Abbreviations Dictionary, a dictionary of terms and their abbreviations, unique for its two-way reverse alphabetical listings.
Clarence Barnhart died in 1993, Robert Barnhart in 2007, but Cynthia Barnhart has since produced yet another dictionary, The Facts on File Student’s Dictionary of American English (2008), and David Barnhart continues to edit the Barnhart Dictionary Companion and the Barnhart New-Words Concordance.
The Corporate Structure(s)
The series of names under which the Barnharts operated as a business can be a source of confusion. The first business entity was nominally called “Clarence L. Barnhart.” Subsequently, a corporation was created called “Clarence L. Barnhart, Inc.,” as distinct from the originating entity, a corporation which was not dissolved until 1992. This was supplanted by “Rogers Knox & Barnhart Inc.,” which continues as a business entity today (and is the owner of this archive). Since the 1980s, the company used “D/B/A Barnhart Books.”10
Clarence L. Barnhart, Inc. began when Clarence Barnhart completed first the Dictionary of Army Terms for the United States government, and then the American College Dictionary for Random House. As previously noted, by virtue of his association with the Thorndike-Century dictionaries and his growing reputation as an innovative and creative editor, he succeeded in securing contracts with Scott, Foresman (textbook publishers) and Doubleday (trade) with the passive participation of the Thorndike family to redesign, update and rebrand the Thorndike-Century school dictionaries as the Thorndike-Barnhart (T-B) dictionaries.
The contracts that set the creation of the T-B school dictionaries in motion were complicated because they had to recognize the residual interests of the Thorndike family (Thorndike’s name was essential in marketing the series) as well as Barnhart’s authorship rights and the publishers’ rights. Included in the cost of development of the dictionaries was the collection of usage citations. Initially, while the dictionaries were being created and the original contractual relationship was functioning, a period of about twenty years, the costs of collecting were borne by all three entities. During that time, all three parties to the agreements had ownership rights; when the Main Agreement, which was the founding agreement for the T-B dictionaries and for the Barnhart enterprise, was renegotiated (with difficulty), the Barnhart firm gained sole ownership of the all-important citation files.
The major Barnhart publications were financed by their respective publishers (fees and advances against royalty); “independent” ventures of the Barnhart company were financed by the company itself. The quotation file was, after about the mid-1960s, financed entirely by the Barnharts.
Works produced under the (Thorndike family, the publishers, and the Barnharts) included all T-B graded school dictionaries sold in schools by Scott, Foresman, and in the trade market by Doubleday; the T-B Comprehensive Desk Dictionary, a general purpose dictionary based on the T-B High School Dictionary but enlarged and modified to meet the needs of adult users; and the T-B World Book Dictionary (Doubleday acted as representative of World Book with the agreement of – and recognition of the financial interests of – the other parties).
The Barnhart Citation / Quotation File
A distinguishing feature of most Barnhart dictionaries was the number and quality of citations (i.e., examples indicating real-world usage) included with the definitions. During the 1940s, Clarence Barnhart began amassing his own citation files, consisting of hundreds of thousands – and eventually millions – of individual citation slips which would form the basis for many of the dictionaries he and his family would publish over the next 60 years. He also arranged to purchase the unused “American English” OED citation slips from the University of Chicago, approximately 10,000 of them, used by Sir William Craigie in compiling the Dictionary of American English. Once that project was complete and Craigie had returned to the UK, the Oxford University Press was anxious to de-accession the file. The Barnhart firm bought it despite the fact that it needed a great deal of work (the most costly and important task being to alphabetize it, which was done, at length, through the fourth letter of every word cited). The University of Chicago slips (as they were referred to at Barnhart Books), dating usage from about 1600 through the late 19th century, significantly deepened the already impressive Barnhart citation collection.
The citations, which now total approximately 4 million, were used variously for all the Thorndike-Barnhart dictionaries, the three Dictionaries of New English, the World Book dictionaries, the Dictionary of Science, the Dictionary of Etymology, the Dictionary of Abbreviations,and the unpublished University Dictionary. Not only did the quotation file furnish information about changing vocabulary and use among American speakers – when Robert Burchfield and the Oxford University Press began work on the Oxford Supplements, Barnhart Books sent to Oxford many thousands of citations of British usage.
From the beginning, the focus of the Barnhart quotation file was to monitor and sample a balanced selection of English usage from both American and British publications; to this purpose, for about 30 years Barnhart Books hired readers in England and the United States. The readings were directed in the sense that the publications were selected by Barnhart Books and the guidelines for readers were from time to time modified either to remedy perceived weaknesses in the emerging file or to direct attention to areas of special activity (such as scientific or technological), or development (as of social, cultural, political events, etc.). Such selectivity on the part of Barnhart Books was dictated in part by the linguistic philosophy of the Barnharts and in part by the cost of collecting, as well as by the requirements of particular projects underway. Over the years, citations were increasingly drawn from non-print sources, including casual publications, radio, television, and the Internet (an important source for more or less anomalous – and very creative – usage), as well as from current literature and topical writing.
About one-fourth of the quotation file is comprised of the citations first collected by the Barnhart organization. These citations date from about 1947 to 1963 and represent roughly the portion of the file that was jointly financed by the Three-Way Agreement (see page 11). The second part of the file dates from approximately 1963 to 1990, and is itself in two parts. This second part of the file was divided because of citations extracted from the main file for the 1975 revision of the World Book Dictionary and for the Dictionary of Science, as well as the second and third BDNEs. It was decided that the expense of re-interfiling these two parts of the citation file was not warranted.
The 1963-1990 file was not originally combined with the first group of citations because, in a search for more cost-effective ways of maintaining the file, in the early ’60s the Barnharts switched to the then-new technology of using data punchcards and machine sorting. The quotations themselves were still typed onto each card, but the headword and bibliographic information (i.e., who collected the citation, from where, and when) were punch-coded onto the cards. The punched information was then used to keep the cards sorted by machine. The machine sorted by the headword, up to four characters, so ‘sandal’ and ‘sandpaper’ and ‘sandbox’ might all be mixed in next to one another; still, it was a huge cost and time savings over having the filing done manually.
In the 1970s, with the development of reliable and inexpensive photocopiers, this system became even more cost-effective when a Barnhart employee devised the super-secret technology required for photocopying directly onto the cards. This involved templates which allowed them to place the cards directly into the paper slot of the copy machine. This worked remarkably well for a number of years. By the early 1980s, though, the machinery was becoming worn out. The firm went looking for a new sorting machine and couldn’t find one – the modern age was looming, and, with the advent of electronic data processing, punch card technology was being replaced by computers and magnetic tape.
The doomed punchcard system11 required a rethink of how to maintain the files. The most cost-effective strategy proved to be the least-modern and the lowest-tech: photocopying citations onto index cards and hand-filing them alphabetically; this remained the method for maintaining the files from the late 1980s through to 2006.
These citations are contained in thirteen 8-drawer files and approximately 1200 6 ½ x 9″ file boxes; the earliest citations are in manuscript, others are typed, some are mimeographed, others are on punchcards, and others still are photocopied. Citations in orange-banded boxes were used in the latest revision of the World Book Dictionary and the Dictionary of Science. All of the different parts of the quotation file are in alphabetical order and are easily distinguished by the dates of the sources cited and labels on the file boxes themselves.
The archive includes approximately 35 cartons of books from the Barnhart reference library, including some “corpus” books (i.e., books read by Barnhart staffers searching for citations), and file copies of many but not all of the various Barnhart publications. Most of the books contain Barnhart ownership markings and/or shelf marks (usually, but not always, internal). Many of the books are marked up in one way or another, some rather aggressively; others have manuscript or typed notes laid in. Of particular interest are disbound sets of the OED and the Oxford Concise (the former is marked up on virtually every page), as well as the Barnhart’s own Dictionary of Etymology, and the Merriam-Webster 3rd International, each with manuscript revisions.
Approximately 60 file drawers of business records, project files, manuscripts, typescripts, correspondence (incoming and often with retained copies of outgoing correspondence), proposals for future projects, production files, etc. Among those names figuring prominently in the correspondence are Jess Stein, Leonard Bloomfield, Rudolf Filopovic, Robert C. Aukerman, Harold Grove, Robert Hall, Leon Metcalf, Hans Galinsky, Angus McIntosh, Mitford Mathews, Frances Neel Cheney, Robert Ramsay, Woodford A. Heflin, Guy Jean Forgue, Reason A. (“Al”) Goodwin, Yutaka Matsuda, Louise Pound, Alan Walker Read, Sol Steinmetz, Caroline Agnus Brady, Albert C. Baugh, Hans Kurath, Miles L. Hanley, S. I. Hayakawa, Kemp Malone, Ralph Linton, C. T. Onions, Yakov Malkiel, Henry Warfel, R. W. Burchfield, Frederick Cassidy, Randolph Quirk, William Safire, Lawrence Urdang, and Carleton Wells, among many others.
There are hundreds of miscellaneous files, and while we do not pretend to list every one, the following sampling should give an idea as to the breadth of this part of the archive. They are listed below in the order in which we encountered them; clearly, there is some reorganization that needs to be done as a file in drawer 3 labeled, for example, “Scott, Foresman” should be placed with other Scott, Foresman files that might be found in drawer 44. The many three-ring binders which were often (but not always) found in the file drawers, have been extracted and are treated separately below.11
Drawers 4-5: alphabetical, A-Z, covering subjects such as...
Drawers 7-14: alphabetical miscellaneous files such as...
Drawers 15-16: Materials dealing with...
Drawers 18-19: materials relating to dictionaries and lexicography plans, proposals, ideas, finished products, methods, all filed by dictionary title (e.g. AED, OED, ED, etc.), with lots on (but not limited to):
Drawers 20-24: older (1929-1960) files, including...
Tear sheets for the Random House College Dictionary, Webster’s New College Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, BD, TBID, RHSD
In-House Three-Ring Binders
Much of the in-house material was not stored in the file cabinets, but rather in 3-ring binders; there are over 100 of these notebooks in all, some quite full, others with just a handful of leaves. The list below is nearly complete.
Random Manuscripts & Typescripts Encountered
Appendix: How a Barnhart Makes a Dictionary13
Table: Some Important 20th-Century Dictionaries and Their Influences
Prod./Publ. Date(s) Title Author/Editor
1Per Sidney Landau, Barhnart was “the doyen” of American lexicography; Dictionaries, the Art and Craft of Lexicography, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
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