Inside INdiana Business

IU library acquires massive dictionary collection

(photo courtesy of Kristen Wilkins/Lilly Library)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The Lilly Library on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus has established the Merriam-Webster Archive. The university says the archive was created from business correspondence recently acquired as part of the Madeline Kripke Dictionary Collection, which is considered the world’s largest dictionary collection.

Madeline Kripke was known as the “Dame of Dictionaries” and collected more than 20,000 linguistic books and ephemera before she died in April 2020, according to IU. Michael Adams, chair of the Department of English on the Bloomington campus, collaborated with Lilly Library Director Joel Silver to acquire the collection after her passing.

“It was of primary importance to the community of dictionary people that the collection stay together,” Adams said. “But we knew Madeline would have wanted the collection to end up at a public university, where all the very rarest materials would be available to everyone.”

IU says less than one-third of the collection, or about 6,000 volumes, have been inventoried. In addition to dictionaries, the collection includes correspondence and business records from the Merriam-Webster company, which is believed to include the original letter about the benefits of purchasing Webster’s 1841 edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language, Corrected and Enlarged.

The university says it will begin the lengthy task of creating an inventory for the remainder of the collection.

“We’re very pleased to be able to preserve Madeline Kripke’s remarkable collection here at the Lilly Library,” Silver said. “We’ll always be grateful for her unrivaled knowledge and dedication, which enabled her to assemble this matchless resource. We look forward to making it available to all interested researchers and visitors for many decades to come.”

IU says the Kripke Collection joins three other dictionary collections at the Lilly Library, including the Breon Mitchell Collection of Bilingual Dictionaries, 1559-1998; the Eric Partridge Archive, 1914-1966; and Clarence L. Barnhart Dictionary Archive, 1929-2005.

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