Kate Loveman’s Samuel Pepys and his Books (Oxford, £60) abounded in memorable touches: Pepys buying a Mass book in 1660 and reading it aloud late into the night ‘with great pleasure to my wife to hear that she long ago was so well acquainted with’; or Pepys writing handy memos to self: ‘Consult Sir Wm Petty about the No. of Men in the World &c’. I like the ‘&c’.
From The Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver (Oxford, £40) I learnt that Charles Onions, 1872–1965, the OED’s fourth editor, pronounced his name like the vegetable and, on a larger canvas, of the stupendous struggle to wrestle millions of pen-and-ink quotations from 1,000 years into a history of the language.
My biggest surprise was to be swept away by The Bird of Dawning by John Masefield, which should be republished and made into a Netflix series.
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