Who compiled the first English Dictionary?
The first ENGLISH DICTIONARY was A Table Alphabetical!, containing and teaching the true writing and understanding of hard usual! English words compiled by Robert Cawdrey a schoolmaster formerly employed at Oakham and Coventry, and published in London in 1604. It contained about 3,000 words. The only surviving copy is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
The first dictionary of the English language containing the word in its title was Henry Cockeram’s The English Dictionary, London, 1623. The term had been used earlier in the titles of foreign-language dictionaries (q.v.) published in Britain. Cockeram’s Dictionary was unusual in that it gave a guide to correct usage. ‘Vulgar’ words were given their ‘refined’ equivalent.
The first English dictionary to attempt the definition of words in common use, so-called ‘easy words’, was The New English Dictionary by J.K., London, 1702. J.K. has usually been identified as John Kersey. His work contained only `such English words as are genuine and used by Persons of clear Judgment and good Style … omitting such as are obsolete, barbarous, foreign or peculiar … and abstruse and uncouth Terms of Art’.
The First COMPLETE ENGLISH DICTIONARY (complete in the sense that the lexicographer included all the English words known to him) was the Universal Etymological English Dictionary of Nathaniel Bailey. London. 1721. It was also the first dictionary to give the derivation of words, and so justified the inclusion of such simple terms as `man’, `woman’, ‘dog’ and ‘cat’ which would have been superfluous in earlier compilations concerned only with definition. (Indeed Bailey’s definition of ‘cat’ consisted of a curt phrase: `A creature well known’) Used by Samuel Johnson as a basis for his own, better-known dictionary, Bailey’s work remained the chief rival to that of issued until 1802. Of the revised editions, the 1727 version of Bailey is notable as the first dictionary to contain illustrations, and that of 1731 as the first to give some guidance as to the correct pronunciation of words.