Although it wasn’t the first dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary was a monumental undertaking. The dictionary took more than 70 years to complete and drew from tens of thousands of individual unpaid contributors who sent in 414,825 precise definitions.
The book The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary (originally published as the The Surgeon of Crowthorne in the UK), tells the story of the making of the OED. One of its most prolific early contributors, Dr. W.C. Minor was imprisoned in an a insane asylum.
If this sounds interesting, I do encourage you to read the book. The book is being made into a movie.
The book’s video trailer is after the jump.