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Charles McGrathAs Henry Hitchings points out in Defining the World, his concise and informative history of Johnson's dictionary and how it came to be written, the impulse behind it was the great 18th-century passion for organization and taxonomy - the belief that all knowledge could be codified and, indeed, that all of it was knowable. Johnson was assisted by a half-dozen amanuenses (most of them Scots, as it happened), but the dictionary was essentially a one-man operation, both the product and reflection of his prodigious learning. As Hitchings's title suggests, Johnson's dictionary really did encompass the world as it was then understood. It incorporates the latest in scientific knowledge (defining worlds like atom, gravity, parallax and gymnospermous) and also such new fads and innovations as toyshops, tobacconists, beauty spots and umbrellas.
— The New York Times