Lexicography: The writing of dictionaries, or lexicons. The practice of lexicography, which dates back to ancient times in cultures ranging from the Mesopotamian to the Chinese to the Roman, has evolved over time, with its focus shifting from the explanation of difficult words in specific disciplines to more general coverage in the sixteenth century to the complex system in place today, in which a host of elements including etymology, pronunciation, quotations, spelling, and usage may be included along with the definition of the word.
EXAMPLES: The Chinese Erya (third century B.C.) and the Homeric glossary (c. first century A.D.) of Apollonius the Sophist are early examples of lexicography. Influential dictionaries in English include English writer Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755) and American lexicographer Noah Webster’s An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (1999), recounts the colossal undertaking of the OED, focusing on its editor, a professor named James Murray, and one of its major contributors, Dr. W. C. Minor, a delusional American Civil War veteran committed to the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum in England for murder.