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The Professor and the Madman Audiobook

The Professor and the Madman

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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: This is a fascinating cubbyhole of literary history that plays like the best fiction: the most-prolific contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary turns out to be an imprisoned murderer. Listening to Simon Winchester's quirky and endearing narration, I found myself infected by his obvious enthusiasm for the story - and for the detective work it took to uncover it. —Steve Feldberg

Publisher's Summary

Hidden within the rituals of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary is a fascinating mystery. Professor James Murray was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon who had served in the Civil War, was one of the most prolific contributors to the dictionary, sending thousands of neat, hand-written quotations from his home. After numerous refusals from Minor to visit his home in Oxford, Murray set out to find him. It was then that Murray would finally learn the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterly wordsmith, he was also an insane murderer locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics. The Professor and the Madman is the unforgettable story of the madness and genius that contributed to one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters.

©1998 Simon Winchester; (P) 1999 HarperCollins Publishers Inc., All Rights Reserved, Harper Audio, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"The linguistic detective story of the decade." (New York Times Magazine)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (2372 )
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4.2 (1498 )
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4.3 (1484 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Bianca 06-26-16
    Bianca 06-26-16 Member Since 2015
    ratings
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    8
    2
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    Story
    "Interesting read"

    Listened to this book on a long drive. Would recommend. Made the drive a lot shorter, surprisingly for a story on the OED.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretchen Hunter Greenfield, IN United States 01-10-16
    Gretchen Hunter Greenfield, IN United States 01-10-16 Member Since 2017
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. While this is a narrow aspect of history, I was so taken with the story. Who knew the Oxford English Dictionary had such a wild past.


    Have you listened to any of Simon Winchester’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes. This one is the best.


    What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

    How dictionararies are written.


    Any additional comments?

    I've recommended this book to many people and told more the story. Just a great book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 12-10-15
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 12-10-15 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not as good as I had hoped"

    This story had some dull parts, particularly at first, but I am certainly glad that I stayed with it. While the life of Minor in the asylum was interesting for the most part, Murray's biographical information was not. Once the book delved into the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, I was fascinated. The process prior to the existence of computers was fascinating and something I never thought about before. I always took having a dictionary for granted and never dwelled on how it came to be. The process was painstaking and I can see why it is described as a labor of love. The OED took 70 years to compile and only one word was lost during the manual process that included handwritten slips of paper. The author notes that supplements were printed over the years and once computers came to be, another complete edition was published as well as an online version. I have to wonder what Minor and Murray would think if they could look at their creation online!!!!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lois Whitehead 10-04-15
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    6
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    "Fascinating story, fantastic reader"

    I was pleasantly surprised with the voice of the author. Sometimes he was a bit too forgiving of Dr. Miner, and sometimes he speculated too much about things he did not know about (eg, psychiatry) for a non fiction work, but interesting and enjoyable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richa 07-19-15
    Richa 07-19-15
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    4
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    Story
    "Great listen and wonderfully narrated."

    Great storyline and wonderfully presented. Amazing how 3 lives intertwined to give us the OED. Fascinating listen and wonderfully narrated. I liked how the author would skip to a Scottish accent when reading Murrys notes and letters. Would definitely recommend this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Megan 06-15-15
    Megan 06-15-15
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    4
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    Story
    "Decent"
    Any additional comments?

    Pretty interesting book. You never think about how a book, like a dictionary, comes to life so it was fascinating hearing about how things were done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kate M. 05-20-15
    Kate M. 05-20-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Fascinating story about an obscure subject"
    Where does The Professor and the Madman rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This book would probably rank in the top 1/3 of all audiobooks I've listened to.


    Which character – as performed by Simon Winchester – was your favorite?

    Dr. Minor, the "madman" was an interesting and tragic character. His brilliance was undeniable, and his part in the creation of the Oxford Dictionary was critical.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    This was not an overly compelling story--there was no hurry to finish it


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 05-15-15 Member Since 2012
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    19
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    "Simon wrings blood from stone cold lead typeface"

    Always a pleasure to hear Winchester orate. I imagine Mark Twain must have held audiences similarly in thrall when he performed his own material. I love the story of the OED, even without the added touch of melodrama. If you read, you've been enspelled by the magic of language already, and this is a book for anyone who loves written and spoken words.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Mathur Cleveland, Oh 05-06-15
    E. Mathur Cleveland, Oh 05-06-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A strange yet intriguing tale..."
    What did you love best about The Professor and the Madman?

    Simply that it was unlike anything I ever read or really would think to read.


    What other book might you compare The Professor and the Madman to and why?

    I'd have to say, this is a pretty unique book. I can't compare it to anything else.


    What about Simon Winchester’s performance did you like?

    I always love it when the author read their own books. They usually give so much more emotion to their characters.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    the second half, yes!


    Any additional comments?

    I can honestly say when I started this book I thought it was boring. I was wondering why I even purchased it. But towards about the middle I was glued to it. Hang in there, its a good book, just dry in the beginning.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ar-dub 05-04-15
    Ar-dub 05-04-15 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "fascinating but lengthy"

    The story itself is intriguing: both the madman's life and the compilation of the OED. Yet the author provided too much distantly related information (out of despair of the shortness of the book?) which diminished it overall quality.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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