As time went by, the number of monolingual dictionaries of English mushroomed. At least thirty-five new compilations were issued between Johnson in 1755 and the turn of the century, followed by more than fifty during the first half of the nineteenth century with an ever-expanding number after that.
All were useful, few memorable. An outstanding exception was A New Dictionary of the English Language by Charles Richardson, a London schoolmaster, published in parts between 1835 and 1837. What was particularly noteworthy was that Richardson's work was entirely original; that is, he didn't copy. For each entry there was a definition – basically, a list of semi-synonyms – and then, like Johnson, supporting quotations. But Richardson had many quotations – far, far more than Johnson. Furthermore, he didn't use any from Johnson.
To illustrate these points, we can repeat Johnson's definition of
(from page 136), and compare it with Richardson's:
JOHNSON to incommode, to vex, to teaze, to molest
RICHARDSON to hurt, to harm or injure, to trouble or molest
Johnson included four quotations, including one from Spenser's Fairy Queen. Richardson had fifteen quotations, quite different. They went back to Chaucer, and included one from the Fairy Queen (but not the same one as Johnson).
As illustrated for hot and sweet on pages 95–6 and 100–1, Johnson typically distinguished several senses for important words, and attached quotations to each. If a word functioned as both noun and verb, and if it had derivations, Johnson had a separate entry for each (for example, dance as verb, dance as noun, derivation dancer). Richardson had none of this, believing that each word had a single basic meaning. The rationale for this is explained on pages 150–1.
To accommodate all the quotations, Richardson's dictionary was an overwhelming document. Over 2,000 pages, each with three columns in very small print; not at all easy to use.
One issue on which Richardson was absolutely unsatisfactory concerned etymology. To explain how and why, an overview is needed.
Some dictionaries confine themselves to describing how a word behaves in its accustomed habitat. Others also supply information about where it came from and what its form and meaning were in an earlier stage of the language, or in a language from which it was borrowed. A scholarly treatment – in a large dictionary – should surely trace each word back as far as can be.