Webster’s New International Dictionary – 1920

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been busy working on the website and the timeline while I wait for edits to come back on Black Earth: Dark Masquerade. So while we all wait for the release of Dark Masquerade (which will be soon, I assure you), I thought I’d (finally) post some of the old books I acquired during my last trip to California.

The first in my collection isn’t one I acquired for free – it cost me $3, and that was after I talked the guy down from $5. Call me a cheapskate if you will, but I call it bargaining. And when you don’t have $$$ and you’re trying to build a collection of books, you get what you can take. This little treasure is a 1920 edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary. This book is HUGE!

The book’s condition isn’t stellar, but it isn’t the worst condition I’ve seen a book in either. Pages are worn, as are the tabs, and the binding is a bit loose and the cloth of the binding is frayed in certain places.


When you first open the cover, you’re greeted with some old newspaper articles and clippings that the owner of the book glued in. I actually don’t mind this because it gives little pieces of history with the book.

The pages are India Paper, some of my favorite to be found in old books and Bibles. Because of how thin the paper is, some of the pages in the dictionary are ruined from the 90+ years this book has been around, mainly because they became folded when the book was shut and it creased the paper permanently, or the book was dropped and the pages took a beating.

What I love about this version of the dictionary is the added content. The cover states this version contains a reference history of the world, which is a nice section in the back that references exactly what it states – the history of the world. Broken down in chronological format within categories of countries and periods, it details key events in countries around the globe.

Elsewhere in the book you can find, among the basic dictionary entries, pages full of key information, like flags of the world, cathedrals, or human anatomy. This thing reads more like an encyclopedia in certain areas than a dictionary, but that’s okay with me.

The thing I love about these older books is the treasures from previous owners that are hidden within random pages. Here’s a document written (a list of dictionary words?) by who I’m assuming is the original owner of the dictionary – Ida M. Hays from Palto Alto, California 1920 – which is exactly what’s written in the first blank page of the dictionary.

Ah, just blogging about this book excites me. I find it remarkable how much care and craft was put into creating this stunning dictionary, a literary item many of us take for granted, especially us writers. Of course, many of the dictionaries nowadays aren’t this stellar, used more as quick, convenient tools than in-depth reference material, which is why I wanted to bring this lovely masterpiece home and add it to my small but growing collection of book gems.


As far as the history of this particular edition of Webster’s New International Dictionary, I haven’t been able to pull up too much information on it. Wikipedia has information on a 1909 and a 1934 edition, but the edition I have is clearly a 1920 according to the title page which states it is a revision of the 1890 and 1900 edition. There is a copyright page which lists copyrights for 1909 and 1913, but beyond that, I don’t know much about this beautiful tome. Doesn’t matter though, it’s going to sit beautifully on my shelf until maybe I have the money someday to have it restored and preserved for the generations who come after me.


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