The above images are a few of my favorites from childhood through my late teens, once I enrolled in college and introduced to an entire new world of literature I thrived for more. However none can compare to the one book that initiated my love for reading as a whole.
The Living Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary
“It is the latest contribution in the great tradition of English-language lexicography, a tradition that includes the works of Nathan Bailey(1783,1730), Samuel Johnson (1755), Noah Webster (1783,1806, and 1828), Joseph Emerson Worchestor (1830) and Charles Richardson (1836-37). Our dictionary carries on the name “Webster” in recognition of and respect for American lexicographer, Noah Webster, whose work in the standardization of American usage and pronunciation set the quides for those of us who follow.”
Aside from the family photo album; this year my mother finally surrendered to me, my most cherished possession. The biggest book I had ever seen as a child and had always been curious as to what was inside. Once I began to learn how to read and my tiny arms were strong enough to lift it, putting it down then became the struggle. Perhaps my love for words was motivated by the wrong reasons in the beginning. My mother’s lack of education and struggles with literacy were an embarrassment as a child. Being a kid, I thought parents knew “everything” until it was time for me to begin school and found myself constantly debating with the teachers over certain words or phrases. My rebuttals were always “but my momma said…”, not understanding the conditions of the south where she grew up regarding the lack of education for many of color. However, that’s not to say momma was necessarily mistaken with her facts, but simply didn’t know how to express them. So I decided to take matters into my own hands learning as many words as my brain could hold. I entered every spelling bee I could, winning most with the help of “my” dictionary (I’ve always claimed it as mine even threatening my brother if he touched it). It helped me all the way through school, caring information on every subject taught. I’ve always had a love for drawing, mostly cartoons then soon fell in love during our vacations with building structures. The career guide(one of many features in the book) is what helped me discover I could become an architect, that is until I reached high school finding out how much math was required for that field of work. I used it to study the times table chart, learn about our first 38 presidents, foreign languages and phrases, moneys of the world(currency/units), the information was never ending. As I got older it became very useful for jobs with a “Secretaries Guide” showing how to format and address letters for specific individuals and budgeting with a “Salary & Compund Interest” table. Calorie conversions since I’ve done most of the cooking since the age of eight, “Metric System” and the list goes on. The only section I never took much interest in was the “Musical Signs and Abbreviations, but my favorite was the “Table of Alphabets” in Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, etc.
Although the back binding is worn, every page is still in tact. Inside it states that it is printed on glare-free long-life paper which apparently is accurate since my mom bought the dictionary along with her bible (which she still reads) back in 1971. I turned 49 a few days ago, so this book has been in my family fifty years, over four generations. Not only did I get great use out of it, but my children and grandson have as well. We all still refer to it on occasion or atleast I do, they simply google everything. I prefer the experience of rediscovering other aspects every time I open it, like seeing the words I’ve highlighted in pinks and yellows over the years or papers where one of us have taken notes that are still wedged between the pages. I cried when I opened it for this post and found where my mom was determined to learn the “Gettysburg Address” and remember it, written in her beautiful hand writing with notations along the side describing how long “4 scores” is. I remember the day she wrote it out. My brother keeps saying I should sell it. I did have it appraised out of curiosity, but even the thought of not having this dictionary with all the wonderful memories attached to it especially after begging for it for decades, saddens me. I couldn’t bare to part with it for any amount of money.