Who, What and Whence

The largest private collection of dictionaries in the Southern Hemisphere

Graham Millar


Welcome to the largest collection of dictionaries in the Southern Hemisphere (as far as I know). But it is not just language that interests me - I define a dictionary as any reference work structured alphabetically. The collection is subdivided into art, biography, history, language, literature, philosophy, psychology, science and sociology. What I find so fascinating is to see how the range and depth of human knowledge has grown exponentially in recent centuries. I hope you enjoy my collection, but I also have a secret motive - donations of more dictionaries are always welcome!

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What do you collect?

My collection of dictionaries has about 367 titles ... I’m always looking for more ... donations welcome! Whilst not a bibliomaniac, I am certainly a bibliophile. I have learnt to contain my obsessive nature by limiting my acquisition of books solely to dictionaries.


My collection may well not be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It is just that I know of no other. The chap with the largest private collection of dictionaries in the Northern hemisphere appears to be Yingyu Wang in China with a collection of 2,345 different dictionaries. I am rather paltry in comparison.


I define a dictionary as any reference work structured alphabetically. Thus encyclopedias are fair game; particularly as writers and compilers use the words interchangeably, especially for marketing purposes. My budget does not run to collecting historical dictionaries as such. There are some magnificent collections in that area, particularly the Cordell Collection at Indiana University. I am more interested in collecting examples of current dictionaries.


If you know of any dictionary languishing on a shelf somewhere, unloved and unappreciated, let me know ... donations are welcome. Especially anything before 1526, the first recorded use of the word Dictionary!


I am located in Sydney, Australia 

Graham Millar  

02 9975 4240


How long have you been collecting?

What is so fascinating is the range and depth of human knowledge and how that knowledge has grown exponentially.


I have tried to subdivide the collection into simple, catch all categories: Art, Biography, History, Language (not just foreign languages but dictionaries about different aspects of the English language), Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, Science and Sociology, which latter category covers everything not contained in the others.


A word like "Fluorine" does not appear in the language until as recently as 1813. What happened before then?


But it is not just language dictionaries that interest me; it is more particularly subjects such as science or history ... one of my dictionaries' of Dates tells me that suttee, the practice of burning a widow on a husband's funeral pyre, was not forbidden until 1829, some 16 years after fluorine was named.


Oddities and Favourites

The oddest volume in my collection might a Dictionary of One Letter Words.


Of course there are some favourites in my collection. The Oxford English Dictionary must be the gem in any collection. It runs to 20 volumes. But ownership is beyond me. But at least I have the microfiche edition which is in 2 volumes and can be easily read using my desk lamp and magnifying glass.


Another favourite, the Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, for example debunks the idea that "Ring-a-ring o' roses" dates from the Great Plague. Similar lines were known apparently to the Irish Celts.


Every so often one stumbles upon a dictionary of particular personal interest. My 4 volume copy of Palgrave's Dictionary of Economics, previously owned by the late P.P. McGuiness, sometime editor of the Australian Financial Review, has his annotations still in place; that for "rational behaviour" does not actually mention whether collecting dictionaries is being rational!

Collection Details

Jun 1, 2014


Books - General
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