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William Smith

English editor and lexicographer

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Biography

 William Smith
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Smith was born at Enfield in 1813 of Nonconformist parents. He was originally destined for a theological career, but instead was articled to a solicitor. In his spare time he taught himself classics, and when he entered University College he carried off both the Greek and Latin prizes. He was entered at Gray's Inn in 1830, but gave up his legal studies for a post at University College school, and began to write on classical subjects.

He next turned his attention to lexicography. His first attempt was the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, which appeared in 1842. In 1849 followed the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography, and the Greek and Roman Geography in 1857. In this work some of the leading scholars of the day were associated with him. In 1850 he published the first of the school dictionaries; and in 1853 he began the Principia series, which marked a distinct step in the school teaching of Greek and Latin. Then came the Students' Manuals of History and Literature, in which the Greek history was the editor's own work. In carrying out this task Smith was most ably seconded by John Murray, the publisher, who, when the original publishers of the dictionaries got into difficulties, volunteered to take a share in the undertaking.

The most important, perhaps, of the books edited by William Smith were those that dealt with ecclesiastical subjects. These were the Dictionary of the Bible (1860 1865); the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (1875 1880), undertaken in collaboration with Archdeacon Cheetham; and the Dictionary of Christian Biography (1877 1887), jointly with Dr. Henry Wace. The Atlas, on which Sir George Grove collaborated, appeared in 1875.

From 1853 to 1869 Smith was classical examiner to the University of London, and on his retirement he became a member of the Senate. He sat on the Committee to inquire into questions of copyright, and was for several years registrar of the Royal Literary Fund. He edited Gibbon, with Guizot's and Milman's notes, in 1854 1855. In 1867 he became editor of the Quarterly Review, which he directed with marked success until his death on the 7th of October 1893, his remarkable memory and accuracy, as well as his tact and courtesy, specially fitting him for such a post. He was D.C.L. of Oxford and Dublin, and the honor of knighthood was conferred on him the year before his death.

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Educated in classical literature and proficient in Latin and Greek, William Smith pursued the study of lexicography, or dictionary-making. He successfully published over five subject dictionaries during his lifetime and eventually became the editor of London's Quarterly Review. Smith's Bible Dictionary is a comprehensive A to Z glossary of Biblical names, concepts, places, objects, and technical terms. Organized alphabetically by first letter, this dictionary provides a simple method of understanding Biblical terminology. For each word, Smith indicates where the word appears in the Bible, its definition, and a modern equivalent of the word, when applicable. For additional assistance, the dictionary contains links to other encyclopedic and dictionary references. Smith's Bible Dictionary is easy to navigate and astoundingly efficient.

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