The Oxford English Dictionary.
It calls itself “the definitive record of the English Language”, and rightly so. If you’re a writer, a poet, or even just a “word-lover” (first documented usage in 1857, says the OED), you might just lose yourself in it. Very possibly to the annoyance of those around you who don’t quite share your enthusiasm. (Ahem.)
For those unfamiliar with the OED, here is its claim to fame:
As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from those of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You’ll still find these in the OED, but you’ll also find the history of individual words, and of the language—traced through 3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to films scripts and cookery books.
The writer David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) once wrote:
No really serious writer should be without an OED, whether it’s bought or stolen or hacked into the online version of or whatever you need to do. Nothing else comes close.
We agree with PART of that.
And anyway, no hacking necessary. The Jones Library subscribes to the OED online so that you’ll always have this classic resource at your fingertips — in the library, at home, or about town. Just visit www.oed.com and “Sign in” with your Jones Library card number. (Or take the scenic route: visit www.joneslibrary.org, click Online Resources at the top left, and locate the OED among our many subscriptions. Then, click “Sign in”, enter your Jones Library card number in the “Library card login” field, and click Go.)
Of course, if you’d prefer to flip through the physical, hold-it-in-your-hand, printed and bound OED, just visit our Reference Room. We’ve got 17 volumes worth on the shelf.
In closing, you’re welcome.