A number of quotations in the OED derive from a book with the title Meanderings of Memory. However, we have been unable to trace this title in library catalogues or text databases. All these quotations have a date of 1852, and some cite the author as ‘Nightlark’.
The only evidence for this book’s existence that we have yet been able to find is a single entry in a bookseller’s catalogue:
Have you ever seen a copy of this book? Can you identify the ‘well-known connoisseur’ mentioned by the bookseller?
UPDATE (20 May 2013): Below is a scan of one of the original citation slips for Meanderings of Memory, for the word ‘inscriptionless’. Note that the person who copied the text originally wrote ‘by Nighthawk’ after the title, but this is corrected (in a different hand) to ‘“Nightlark”’, in the usual place where OED shows the author.
UPDATE (4 June 2013): The handwriting on the original quotation slips from this book has now been identified. Peter Gilliver, an OED editor who is also working on a history of the Dictionary, recognized the hand as that of Edward Peacock (1831–1915), an antiquary who lived for most of his life at Bottesford Manor, near Brigg in Lincolnshire. He was one of the most durable contributors to the first edition of the OED: he began to collect quotations as early as 1857, and was still corresponding with the Dictionary’s Editor James Murray over fifty years later. He also published numerous books and articles on Lincolnshire topics, including a glossary of local dialect, as well as several novels. The OED’s archival files contain many quotations in his handwriting, many of which were printed in the Dictionary in due course; his own writings are also frequently quoted. The reliability of his other contributions makes it seem unlikely that the quotations from Meanderings of Memory are any less genuine.
It’s therefore tempting to regard Lincolnshire as now being the most likely place for a copy of the book to turn up. It’s also possible that Peacock’s own copy of the book survives; the staff at the John Rylands Library, where a large collection of his papers is now held, have drawn a blank, but other possibilities are being pursued.
Posted by OED_Editor on 3 May 2013 12.59