Believe it or not, I still have the dictionary my parents bought for me when I started high school: Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (copyright 1960!) Ok, ok! So what if you can do the math?!
What is interesting for me is that on page 772, at about a third of the way down the second column, I had placed an * in pencil between the words serenata and serene. At the bottom of the page, also in pencil, I added * serendipity because apparently the G & C Merriam Co., Publishers of Springfield, Mass. U.S.A. forgot this most important word.
The dictionary continues in constant use over half a century later in spite of water glass stains and duct tape on the book’s spine to keep it together. When did I go in search of “serendipity”? Was it as a just-off-the-bus freshman? Or was I a “wise fool” of a sophomore? It could have been much later in my career, but the pencil handwriting looks young and untested by time and events.
It must have taken some courage to edit the great Webster’s NEW Collegiate Dictionary in that manner. But, it didn’t appear arrogant – just a brief reminder to the publishing world that they didn’t have a monopoly on editorial perfection.
There is something special about knowing a private little example of “serendipity” sits on my bookshelf, engraved in pencil in a young girl’s imperfect but memorable penmanship.