1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Murray, Sir James Augustus Henry

MURRAY, SIR JAMES AUGUSTUS HENRY (1837–), British lexicographer, was born at Denholm, near Hawick, Roxburghshire, and after a local elementary education proceeded to Edinburgh, and thence to the university of London, where he graduated B.A. in 1873. Sir James Murray, who received honorary degrees from several universities, both British and foreign, was engaged in scholastic work for thirty years, from 1855 to 1885, chiefly at Hawick and Mill Hill. During this time his reputation as a philologist was increasing, and he was assistant examiner in English at the University of London from 1875 to 1879 and president of the Philological Society of London from 1878 to 1880, and again from 1882 to 1884. It was in connexion with this society that he undertook the chief work of his life, the editing of the New English Dictionary, based on materials collected by the society. These materials, which had accumulated since 1857, when the society first projected the publication of a dictionary on philological principles, amounted to an enormous quantity, of which an idea may be formed from the fact that Dr Furnivall sent in “some ton and three-quarters of materials which had accumulated under his roof.” After negotiations extending over a considerable period, the contracts between the society, the delegates of the Clarendon Press, and the editor, were signed on the 1st of March 1879, and Murray began the examination and arrangement of the raw material, and the still more troublesome work of re-animating and maintaining the enthusiasm of “readers.” In 1885 he removed from Mill Hill to Oxford, where his Scriptorium came to rank among the institutions of the University city. The first volume of the dictionary was printed at the Clarendon Press, Oxford, in 1888. A full account of its beginning and the manner of working up the materials will be found in Murray’s presidential address to the Philological Society in 1879, while reports of its progress are given in the addresses by himself and other presidents in subsequent years. In addition to his work as a philologist, Murray was a frequent contributor to the transactions of the various antiquarian and archaeological societies of which he is a member; and he wrote the article on the English language for this Encyclopaedia. In 1885 he received the honorary degree of M.A. from Balliol College; he was an original fellow of the British Academy, and in 1908 he was knighted.