Talk:The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language

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Obscure information[edit]

In writing this article, I found certain information difficult to document. Information about the copyright disputes with Merriam is often scant and conflicting on the web. A case involving George W. Ogilvie (possibly a son or grandson of John Ogilvie) who controlled the Imperial is found at:


I have found no full account dealing with how Century Co. obtained rights to the Imperial, but apparently they didn't have exclusive rights, as the Imperial itself continued to be published in London by the Gresham Publishing. Co. until at least 1911, I have seen. I am looking into whether the New Gresham Dictionary is a spin-off.

There are other dictionaries based on the Imperial. I've been unable to find documented confirmation that certain non-Merriam Webster's editions were based on the Imperial, although it is pretty obvious from looking at the illustrations and the definitions. George W. Ogilvie Publishing published Webster's Imperial Dictionary in 1904, which is surely based on the Imperial (Annandale edition). I have another called, Webster's New Cosmopolitan Dictionary, 1907.

From there, it surely became Webster's Universal (World Syndicate Publishing Company.) The preface of the Universal (1936) is vague about its origins, but mentions George W. Ogilvie. The same dictionary was also published as Webster's Twentieth Century (Publishers Guild), and both were modestly revised in the 1940s to become ...New Universal... or ...New Twentieth..., with second editions in the 1950s. They were published into the 1980s with a few new words inserted into the 1950s text and almanac data updated.

These dictionaries were based on Noah Webster via the Imperial, were far outdated even in their time, and apparently very little work was put into revisions. They were called "unabridged," but covered little more vocabulary than a college dictionary, and few modern words. In their early editions, they do offer some semblence of the Imperial (which is very expensive in original form), including many "obsolete" words not usually found in modern dictionaries. However, the entries are often trimmed, the pronunciation method is over-simplified, and the illustrations are not as sharp. They are common thrift store items in one or two volume versions, often collected by dealers who charge far more than they are worth, possibly not realizing they were budget productions, or else playing on the public's ignorance.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, after these dictionaries went out of print the name Webster's New Universal was used as the title of a reissue of the Random House Dictionary, which is not the same dictionary.

I believe my conclusions are correct, but I don't tell most of this in the main article because it is only my personal observations from being familiar with the dictionaries, and my own filling of the blanks. However, I will also point out that a lot infomation found on the web, and even in books, is probably obtained the same way without being admitted as such. Then someone copies or paraphrases it somewhere else... I have found cases of such copied info which I know is inaccurate.

If anyone knows any reliable sources on this subject, please let me know here or at <>. (ERL) 10:12, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC) This entry revised: 22:09, 14 Feb 2005 (UTC) Revised again: 04:56, 26 Feb 2005 (UTC) Again: 06:44, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

George W Ogilvie[edit]

This was my great uncle, married to Caroline M McAyeal, who for some years edited the Midwestern Magazine published by the Greater Des Moines Publishing Company starting in 1906. George was an elusive fellow, who also served as General Freight Agent for several railroads. He was active in publishing in Chicago and New York, where he had a business with his brother. He was sued several times (via "front" companies) over the purchase of bible plates in England, and of course over the dictionaries. I haven't been able to track his whereabouts or activities after about 1915. I believe he may have died around that time. Howard S MacAyeal — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:32, 5 February 2012 (UTC)