Philology in Turbulent Times: Joseph Bosworth, His Dictionary, and the Recovery of Old English

Dabney A. Bankert

Publications of the Dictionary of Old English 10 • xxx, 314 pp. • ISBN 978-0-88844-910-8 • Cloth • $95.00

From its inception in 1838, Joseph Bosworth’s A Dictionary of the Anglo-Saxon Language was widely viewed as flawed. The denigration proved widespread by the time T. Northcote Toller revised it in 1898. Critics, however, knew very little about the creation of the Dictionary or the struggles of its creators. This book is a project of recovery: it situates the Dictionary culturally and historically, reconstructing that history from a wealth of archival materials – surviving manuscripts, correspondence, annotated books, and other documents.

It opens up a larger investigation into the central role played by Joseph Bosworth’s work in the birth and growth of Old English studies, or Anglo-Saxon studies as it was called, in the nineteenth century, a period during which competing ideologies and methodologies clashed, particularly in England. And it also examines the challenges Toller faced in completing the major revision of the Dictionary after Bosworth’s death, as well as his compilation of its major Supplement in 1921.

Philology in Turbulent Times aims to rectify widespread disciplinary ignorance of the Dictionary’s conception, compilation, and publication, and to examine its impact on the development of the discipline.

Published for the Dictionary of Old English by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies


Dabney A. Bankert is former academic unit head and Professor of Medieval Literature Emerita in the Department of English at James Madison University, Virginia. Her research centres on Old English literature, in particular nineteenth-century lexicography and scholarship on the early English Middle Ages, and on post-medieval Old English glossaries.


Customers in North America please order through University of Toronto Press Distribution by phone (1-800-565-9523) or by email ( If you would like to order through UTP Distribution using another method such as mail or fax, please click here for a full list of contact and ordering methods. PIMS books are also available on (for Canadian customers) and (for customers in the U.S.).

Customers outside North America please order through Brepols Publishers. PIMS books are available through the Brepols online catalogue.

go back to top