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Thursday, 31 January 2013
Home arrow Archived pages arrow How to search OED arrow Author quotations
First quotations by author
Note: this page is now out of date following changes to the OED Online website made in December 2010.

How to search for the number of first quotations by an author 
It should be noted that the 'first cited author' search facility on OED Online is at present a blunt tool, since it retrieves only the first quotation in an entry, not the first quotation for different (subsequent) senses of the head word. So Carlyle, a much quoted OED author who uses language in unusual ways, provides the first recorded instance, in 1831, of sense 5 of abandonment = 'Freedom from restraint of manner, careless freedom, abandon', and also of sense 2 of abidingly = 'Enduringly, permanently'. But neither of these usages is picked up in a first quotation search, since neither is the first dated usage of the respective word (rather than this specific sense): quotations for abandonment start with one dated 1611 and for abidingly with one dated 1520.

Unfortunately, the only way to identify all the first quotations for any author is to (i) identify the entire body of quotations for that author (see Author quotations), then (ii) look up each of these quotations individually to check whether or not it is the first for a specified sense or sub-sense in its parent entry. This is not really practicable when dealing with an author such as Carlyle, quoted around 5,000 times. The instructions given below will often yield valuable results, however.
  1. Use a fresh ADVANCED SEARCH. Ensure that your results will not be based on any previous searches by clicking the RESET FORM button.
  2. Check that you are still searching the right edition.
  3. Ensure that the ENTRIES tab is selected. It should be red. This is very important.
  4. Enter the author's surname in the first search box (e.g. blake). Do not enter an initial (e.g. w. blake) as this will narrow the number of results you will find.
  5. Select FIRST CITED AUTHOR from the drop down menu.
  6. Enter your chosen author's quotation date range in the second search box. For Blake this is 1780-1828, as you should have recorded in 7 and 9 in the first search (Author quotations). For some authors, this will not work because some of the dates will be written as 17.. Usually, these unspecified dates appear at the top of the list when you order them by quotation date. This is the case for John Gay (search for gay in QUOTATION AUTHOR). The solution for this is to search for all the quotations before or after a certain date, depending on where the other authors of the same name appear. In Gay's case, this is after his last quotation, so search for -1800, which finds all quotations before 1800. Similarly, 1700- would find all quotations after 1700 (including the unspecified 17..).
  7. Select FIRST CITED DATE from the second drop-down menu.
  8. Repeat any author exclusions as before in 8.1-6 in the previous search (Author quotations).
  9. Click START SEARCH. For Blake in OED3, you should find 6 results.
  10. If there are more authors that you need to exclude, repeat the same process as before:
    1. Return to the initial search page from the results page, click the ADVANCED SEARCH tab if searching OED3; or the SEARCH tab for OED2. This will take you back to the initial search screen. Do not click back in your browser as this will nullify the search you have just done.
    2. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to check that your previous search is listed in the LAST 10 SEARCHES. This will not appear if you clicked back in your browser rather than on the ADVANCED SEARCH or SEARCH tabs.
    3. From the panel on the right-hand side, click the checkbox to RESTRICT SEARCH TO RESULTS OF PREVIOUS SEARCH, making sure that the radio button is selected. Alternatively, you could select the other radio button and enter the relevant number from the list of searches already carried out at the bottom of the page.
    4. Click START SEARCH.
  11. Follow the same principles as before to find the number of first quotations by a given author in a specified alphabetical range (see Author quotations in alphabetical range).
Last Updated ( Monday, 17 October 2011 )
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