This comprehensive biography of an extraordinary man was written by his widow shortly after his death, and provides a fascinating portrait of a life progressing from the poorest and most deprived beginnings to an illustrious academic career at the University of Oxford. Anyone interested in the field of English dialectology will know of Joseph Wright and his 'English Dialect Dictionary', and find these volumes a mine of fascinating information.
Joseph Wright FBA (1855–1930) was an English philologist who rose from humble origins to become Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford University. Born near Bradford, and working as a "donkey-boy" in a quarry aged just 6, he later worked in a Yorkshire mill in Saltaire. He did not learn to read properly until l he was 15. But having done so, pursued his studies diligently both in Leeds and Heidelberg, while working as a teacher. In 1885 he gained his PhD. on Qualitative and Quantitative Changes of the Indo-Germanic Vowel System in Greek under Hermann Osthoff, later founding the field of scientific study known as English dialectology. From 1891 to 1925 he was first Deputy, and then full Professor of Comparative Philology at Oxford, specialising in the Germanic languages. Publications included a number of Germanic language grammars, as well as "A Grammar of the Dialect of Windhill" - "the first grammar of its kind in England." However, his greatest achievement was the editing of the six-volume "English Dialect Dictionary", which he published between 1898 and 1905, initially at his own expense. He was an important influence on J. R. R. Tolkien, one of his students, and he also corresponded regularly with Thomas Hardy.
Our two books are in very nice general condition, their blue cloth covers showing almost no signs of age, wear or use apart from some light sunning of the spines, and a pale patch on the back of Vol. I. The gilt title etc on the spines is a little faded, but clear to read. Inside, a previous owner's name is inscribed neatly on each front fep, and a Blackwell's label at the foot of each front pastedown. Bindings are firm with no loose pages (some pages uncut); pages almost all clean and bright - sadly a prominent brown stain mars pp.52-53 in Vol. I, and similar ones on pp.496-7 and 614-5 in Vol. II (presumably caused by use of unfriendly paper as bookmark); one tear to p.vii of the Preface in Vol I, possibly caused by attempting to turn an incompletely-cut page.; some brown marks at the top of pp. 604-5 in Vol. II. Tucked into Vol. I is a separate portrait of the man himself, presumably cut from a magazine or other publication.