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William Alexander Craigie's Biography (Books)

Sir William Alexander Craigie (13 August 1867 - 2 September 1957) was a philologist and a lexicographer.

A graduate of the University of St Andrews, he was the third editor of the Oxford English Dictionary and co-editor (with C. T. Onions) of the 1933 supplement. From 1916 to 1925 he was also Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Oxford. He married Jessie Kinmond Hutchen of Dundee, born 1864 or 65, died 1947, daughter of William.

He lectured on lexicography at the University of Chicago while working on the Dictionary of American English and the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, a project he pioneered. Many twentieth-century American lexicographers studied under Craigie as a part of his lectureship, including Clarence Barnhart, Jess Stein, Woodford A. Heflin, Robert Ramsey, Louise Pound, and Allen Walker Read.

During his career as a man of words, Craigie edited loads of other dictionaries, the Temple Classics edition of 'Burns' and wrote monographs (detailed scholarly pieces of essay or book length on a specific subject) and textbooks on the English language. Craigie also wrote a large number of papers for the Society of Pure English, founded by Robert Bridges, including several on the evolution of English spelling. In addition to his grasp of what Anthony Burgess called the 'Anguish Languish', Cragie was the author of many other works that became definitive texts on the philology and literature of Scotland and Scandinavia. If you're interested in things like 'ologies' and 'uistics' and 'ographies', philology is the study of language from written historical sources, lexicography is the art or craft of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries, and linguistics is the scientific study of human language.

Craigie was also fluent in Icelandic and an expert in the field of rimur. He made many valuable contributions in that field. His interest was awakened by a winter of study in Copenhagen, then the centre of Norse philology. He compiled the complete Oxford edition of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, with previously untranslated tales being supplied by his wife. He befriended many of the great Norse philologists of the time and came across sera Einar Gumundsson's seventeenth-century Skotlands rimur, dealing with the Gowrie Conspiracy. Being a Scotsman himself, there was no way back, and he continued research in that field till the end of his life.

Cragie's brainchild is now known as 'DOST' and covers the language from the era of 'pre-literary' Scots, when there was a very meagre, extant literary output (literally nothing more than Barbour's 'Brus' and the 'Legends of the Saints'), through that of 'early' Scots (1375 to 1450), to 'middle' Scots (up to 1700). The dictionary was intended to present the entire Older Scottish vocabulary as it was preserved in literary, documentary and other records. In a 1937 preface to the earliest volumes, Cragie wrote that "it may not be superfluous to mention that in undertaking and carrying out this work I have had the advantage of a familiar knowledge of the Scottish tongue from my earliest years, and an interest in its older literature from the age of twelve." Sir William Alexander Craigie died at the age of ninety years and one month, in Watlington, in Oxfordshire, on the 2nd of September, 1957.