Join the Project Team!

Would you like to join the Johnson’s Dictionary Online project team?

This project, funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, is putting two editions of Johnson’s famous 18th century dictionary online.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Johnson’s dictionary was the most influential English-language dictionary in the world. It was relied upon not just by noted literary authors, such as Hawthorne, Emerson, Dickens, and Austen, but also by the authors of America’s founding documents. Many researchers still use it to determine the meanings of words from this period; it is regularly cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. This dictionary was the first in English to systematically illustrate definitions with quotations, and by doing so, it helped establish a canon of English literature. For all its importance, though, the lack of an authoritative text and usable interface have made this resource more difficult to use than it should be.  You can help us solve that problem.

Work can be completed remotely. Past volunteers have used this work to earn Federal Work Study hours, Florida Bright Futures community service hours, or UCF independent study credit (graduate and undergraduate). Here are the kinds of tasks you can help with: 

  • Proofreading – Help us catch errors while you learn about interesting words and word histories. For example, what makes an animal solidungulous? How do you play a game of hotcockles? What do you think people in the 18th century meant when they asked for a diet-drink? And how does this dictionary describe the taste of a seacow, aka manatee (hint: not like chicken)? 
  • Image quality-checking – We’re creating entry-sized images from full-page scans. These images are mostly created through a custom software process, and we need human beings to identify the images that the software doesn’t get right. No prior image editing experience necessary (but if you have some, let us know)!
  • Bibliography research – We are working to identify sources of Johnson’s illustrative quotations. You can help us locate basic bibliography information by searching the English Short Title Catalog and other sources, a task that is not as straightforward as it sounds.
  • XML – XML is an important data markup language used in the digital humanities and in many other fields. We’ll teach you what you need to know to help us edit the XML markup in Johnson’s dictionary. (requires UCF affiliation)
  • Other – Miscellaneous tasks that are vital to the dictionary’s infrastructure. For example, because the 18th century alphabet differed from today’s alphabet, we are numbering the words in the dictionary in the order that they appear so that we can reproduce the order on our site. Numbering words gives you the same entertaining look at words as proofreading, only faster.

For more information, please contact us.