First Edition of the OED

The First Edition of the Dictionary was originally issued in short parts or sections—now often called ‘fascicles’—as well as in volumes (and, later, half-volumes). The earliest fascicles were called ‘parts’, and contained over 300 pages. From 1894 it was decided to issue shorter fascicles called ‘sections’; a typical section contained 64 or 72 pages. The aim was to produce at least one section every quarter; sometimes it was possible to issue a ‘double section’, or even on occasion a ‘triple section’, containing twice or three times the usual number of pages. It continued to be possible to purchase the Dictionary in the form of ‘parts’ of roughly the same size as the earliest fascicles, these being generally equivalent to five single sections. Many parts and sections were issued with Prefaces—or, in some cases, short prefatory notes—written by the relevant Editor; in addition, when a volume, or a half-volume, or a particular letter was completed, a separate Preface might be produced for it. This section includes all of the known Prefaces issued during the publication of the First Edition (1884–1928).

Many of the prefaces listed below have been available for some years in printed form as Dispatches from the Front (UW Centre for the New OED, 1987), edited by Dr Darrell Raymond, formerly of the University of Waterloo (Ontario). Dr Raymond has kindly supplemented and reformatted his text for online access.

First Edition staff and contributors

Volume I: A and B

Volume II: C

Volume III: D and E

Volume IV: F and G

Volume V: H to K

Volume VI: L, M, and N

Volume VII: O and P

Volume VIII: Q, R, and S-Sh

Volume IX: SI – ST and SU – TH

Volume X: TI – TZ and U