BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — For National Dictionary Day (October 16), IU’s Lilly Library established the Merriam-Webster Archive from books recently acquired as part of the Madeline Kripke Dictionary Collection.
Kripke, known as the “Dame of Dictionaries,” had more than 20,000 linguistic books and ephemera in her New York Apartment, which was often referred to as the world’s largest dictionary collection. She had passed away in April 2020 without reaching one of her lifelong goals: establishing a public dictionary library.
That’s when Michael Adams, chair of the department of English at IU Bloomington, came to help her reach that dream from beyond the grave. He had met her through the Dictionary Society of North America, and after she died, he had collaborated with Lilly Library Director Joel Silver to acquire her collection.
“It was of primary importance to the community of dictionary people that the collection stays together,” Adams said in a press release. “But we knew Madeline would have wanted the collection to end up at a public university, where all the very rarest materials would be available to everyone.”
The Kripke Collection will join three other collections that cement the Lilly Library as a must-see for dictionary lovers. The other collections are the Breon Mitchell Collection of Bilingual Dictionaries (from 1559-1998), the Eric Partridge Archive (from 1914-2005) and the Clarence L Barnhart Dictionary Archive (1929-2005).
Only 6,000 volumes of the Kripke Collection have ever been inventoried, so the library will now accept the challenge in spending presumably decades on finishing what was started.
“We’re very pleased to be able to preserve Madeline Kripke’s remarkable collection here at the Lilly Library,” Silver said in a press release. “We’ll always be grateful for her unrivaled knowledge and dedication, which enabled her to assemble this matchless resource. We look forward to making it available to all interested researchers and visitors for many decades to come.”
The total collections include 480,000 books, 8.5 million manuscripts and one of the world’s largest mechanical puzzle collections.