The OED began to go out of date soon after the first fascicle, A-Ant, was published in 1884. New words continued to be coined, and existing words, already recorded, continued to take on new meanings, or to shift in sense. By the completion of the Dictionary in 1928 its early volumes in particular looked insufficiently in touch with current usage, as witnessed by their exclusion of several hundreds of words which had special resonance for an early 20th-century audience (see further our page on the First Supplement (1933) in OED Editions).
The necessity for eventual supplementation of the OED had been recognized in the terms under which the Philological Society had handed over the Dictionary to Oxford University Press, in an Indenture of 1879 which provided that ‘The Delegates [of OUP] may also at any time, and from time to time, prepare and publish a Supplement or Supplements to the principal Dictionary’ (quoted from OED archives, OED/B/2/1/2). So by the time the last fascicle was published in 1928, ‘a great body of quotations had been amassed with a view to a Supplement on a grand scale, which should not only treat the new words and new meanings that had come into being during the publication of the successive sections…but should also correct and amplify the evidence for what was already in print’ (unpaginated Preface to the Supplement, in Murray 1933). But this, the publishers thought, was too ambitious a scheme. Instead, they decided to produce a single supplementary volume restricted to new words and senses, along with a smaller number of current words which had for some reason been omitted from the main Dictionary.
Also included was a most valuable historical introduction, which can (as of January 2019) be read online at the OED website [accessed 31 August 2019], and a bibliography of works cited in the OED, prepared by two of the long-term staff, F. J. Sweatman and H. J. Bayliss. (Unfortunately this was not a complete record; as Craigie and Onions acknowledge in their prefatory note it instead comprised ‘the titles of such works as have been most frequently quoted in the Dictionary’).
The Periodical announced both the new Supplement and the re-issue of the first edition of the OED in its issue of October 1933, p. 91, reproduced below. More information on the Supplement can be found in the 1934 issue of The Periodical, and a fuller account of its construction and editing takes up chapters 2-3 of Brewer 2007b (see also Gilliver 2016 chapter 9). Our page on the First Supplement in OED editions tells you more about its content, and a further page on quotation collection for the work is in preparation in our Quotations section (due for completion in 2020).
Last updated on 29 September 2019