Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue (1707)

In her paper called "Eighteenth grammars and book catalogues", Anita Auer quotes Feather (1985:34) on the popularity of Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue: between 1733 and 1747, 33 editions came out of the work, to a total of 265,000 copies, "or nearly 18,000 copies a year, of which a mere handful is extant".

ECCO includes 15 editions and reprints of Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue, form the 2nd edition of 1710 down to a 102nd edition published in 1800. Thisis a phenomenal record, comming close to that for Lindley Murray’s grammar of 1795. Though Dyche had died in the 1720s, his name still appears on the title-page of this late edition, so it must have acted as an important selling device at the time. Google Books even includes a reference to a reprint dated 1821, which shows that the book contintued to be popular well into the nineteenth century.

These figures make those which I discussed for the publication history of Lowth’s grammar (Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2008) seem very insignificant indeed: there, I argued that down to the early 1780s one and often two editions or reprints came out of his grammar every year, in a printrun of a thousand copies each. This seemed like an innovation in the field of grammar publishing, until I encountered the figures quoted for Dyche.

But Dyche’s Guide to the English Tongue is not a grammar (which also explains why Alston does not list it in Volume 1 of his bibliography) but a guide on pronunciation. The author evidently used the word tongue in a narrower sense, i.e. as referring to speech, not language (see OED, s.v. "tongue" ), than for instance Brightland and Gildon in their Grammar of the English Tongue (1711) (see Buschmann-Goebels 2008). Still, it is interesting to see that a guide to pronunciation was so popular throughout the eighteenth century. Dyche did publish a proper grammar as well, in 1732. However, Alston notes that no copy was ever located: he found that it was merely announced in the London Magazine of that year.

Reference: for the papers by Auer, Buschmann-Goebels and myself, see Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade (ed.), 2008, Grammars, Grammarians and Grammar Writing in Eighteenth-Century England, Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

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  1. Noel Osselton

    ‘No copy of Dyche’s grammar.’ Well, what about the Compendious English Grammar(10pp.) prefixed to the Dyche and Pardon dictionary of 1735? No reason to suppose that it is not by Dyche; interesting and original approach; see Ian Michael 1970, System 35. Also, I see that the corrected reprint of Alston 1974 records a copy of Dyche’s Practical Grammar (1720 edn) in Philadelphia.

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