Reviews Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made. Jonathon Green. New York: Henry Holt and Co. / London: Jonathan Cape, 1996. Pp. xviii + 510 pages. $30.00. T'he title phrase of Green's book, "chasing the sun," comes from Samuel Johnson's Preface to the 1775 edition of his dictionary, which furnishes the epigraph for his book: "to pursue perfection [as a lexicographer] was, like the first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chace the sun, which, when they had reached the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from them" (vii). The phrase doesn't recur in Green's book until the last page, where he says: "To abandon the subjectivity of a Johnson or a Webster is feasible, even desirable. To abandon all humanity, to achieve some Platonic perfection of an entirely disinterested dictionary is impossible ... the dictionary maker is part and parcel of the dictionary that is made. The intrusion may be limited, but to ask otherwise is to not merely to chase the sun, but to suppose one can catch it too" (468: the ungrammatical repetition of to is Green's, representative of a problem to which I will return) .
Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America – Dictionary Society of North America
Published: Apr 4, 1998