There has never been, the author tells us, a book written specifically about the telephone book, which is weird, when you think of it, considering it’s one of the most used, most reprinted, most versatile books in history. According to common wisdom, the first phone directory was published in 1878 (although an earlier list of phone subscribers from 1877 could also be called the first directory). The telephone itself, as we all know, was invented by Alexander Graham Bell (although one Elisha Gray may have done it earlier). The story of the phone number itself is fascinating, its invention being spurred in the late nineteenth century by the threat of a measles outbreak in Lowell, Massachusetts, its very existence being decried in the 1960s by the Anti-Digit Dialing League. This is not merely a history of a book; it’s a history of the culture surrounding the book, and it will make you look at that big, heavy tome with new admiration. --David Pitt
About the Author
Ammon Shea is the author of two previous books on obscure words, Depraved English
and Insulting English
(written with Peter Novobatzky). He read his first dictionary, Merriam Webster’s Second International
, ten years ago, and followed it up with the sequel, Webster’s Third International
. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.