BBC News: The book that influenced all others.
Samuel Johnson, born 300 years ago this week, wrote one of the most important books in the English language. So what made his dictionary so special? "Dictionaries", said Samuel Johnson, "are like watches: the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true." It may not have achieved perfection, but Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755, is generally regarded as one of the most important works of scholarship in the English language.
Such was its authority that it remained the most pre-eminent of its kind for more than 170 years, until the advent of the Oxford English Dictionary in 1928. Johnson introduced a literary quality to lexicography that remains an influence to this day. Remarkably, during the nine years it took him to complete his work, his wife Elizabeth, known as Tetty, died and he suffered increasing bouts of depression that had afflicted him throughout his life.
So glad the article mentions Blackadder episode about the dictionary (Blackadder the Third, Ink and Incapability), though the BBC is wrong, it was Edmund's novel, not Baldrick's. Johnson's dictionary has a lot of his opinions in the definitions, and he had quotes for each of the 40,000 words included. In 2005, the Oxford English Dictionary had 301,100 main entries.
Delenn: Ivanova sent me to find you. She said you haven’t been sleeping, you have hardly been eating; she said that you have been, in her words, "carrying on cranky." I looked up the word "cranky." It said "grouchy." I looked up "grouchy," it said "crotchety." No wonder you have such an eccentric culture: none of your words have their own meaning! You have to look up one word to understand another. It never ends.
John Sheridan: [not paying attention] Something here doesn’t make sense.
Delenn: That is what I thought when I came across "crotchety." This cannot be a real word, I said.
Babylon 5, season 3, episode "And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place"