Hidden within the rituals of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating mystery. Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. After numerous refusals from Minor to visit his home in Oxford, Murray set out to find him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, he was also an insane murderer locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is the unforgettable story of the madness and genius that contributed to one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters.
©1998 Simon Winchester (P)1999 HarperCollins Publishers Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
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Critic reviews

"...the linguistic detective story of the decade." ( New York Times Magazine)
"Winchester...tells how a murderer made a huge contribution to what became a major reference source in the Western world." ( Library Journal)
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Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Jerry on 07-07-03

Perfect example of a quality audible book.

Simon Winchester presents us with an amazing story about a piece of history that I would have never considered interesting or significant. The accomplishment of the combined efforts of the two main characters Minor & Murray added to scores of other volunteers is one if not the greatest achievement in the history of the English language.

The story is presented in a very logical yet unassuming manner, and maybe the perfect example of an audible book selection. The narrators voice is crisp, clear, and expressive.

Listen, enjoy, and recommend to a friend.

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91 of 92 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By RaisinNut on 12-10-12

Reads like a psychological thriller!

You may be thinking, "How good can a book about the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary really be?" The answer is, amazing! Far from dull or boring, this historical work has the edge-of-your-seat feel of a psychological thriller.

This is the story of two very different men who come together to help create the Oxford English Dictionary. Editor James Murray has a revolutionary idea: call upon volunteers to help build the massive collection of words. One volunteer stands out among the others for the quality and quantity of his submissions. This volunteer is Dr. William Chester Minor, an inmate at an institution for the criminally insane. Through their shared passion for the dictionary, the men form a friendship that transcends Minor's past, his insantiy and even the dictionary itself.

What I love about this book is its message of hope. Even for a person locked away in a mental institution, life can have purpose and meaning. Lifelong friendships can be formed. I admired Murray for his ability to see beyond Minor's past and present. I related to Minor for the tenacious way he clung to the dictionary, allowing it to become a life preserver keeping him afloat in the dark waters of his insanity.

Enhancing the experience of this book is the fact that it is narrated by the author, Simon Winchester. Winchester knows his material better than any other reader could, and he delivers it with heart and feeling.

ADDED BONUS: At the end of the book you are treated to an interview with Mr. Winchester, who talks about Murray, Minor, their friendship and the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This listening experience is not to be missed!

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55 of 56 people found this review helpful

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