Research resources

I collect old editions of thesauri, phrasebooks, familiar quotations, and weird specialty lexicons.  Some just sit on my shelf, unloved.  Others get used every day.  Here are some favorites, many of which you can get very reasonably at online used book outlets.

All time biggest favorite:

Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, by Peter Mark Roget, M.D., F.R.S. Grosset & Dunlap New York, revised 1935 edition

This book will not offer “text” as a verb, nor “alright” as good English.   However, it will give you words you wished you knew and never knew existed.  Handle it gently.  The pages are brittle.


Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, Justin Kaplan, General Editor.  Little, Brown and Company, Boston, New York, Toronto, London, sixteenth edition.

My copy is the 1992 sixth printing of the sixteenth edition.  I suspect I would really love the 1955 edition, and go nuts for the 1910 edition.  I haven’t priced those.  This one I got for my birthday so I’m not looking it in the mouth.  It’s got goodies.


The Big Book of Filth: 6500 sex slang words and phrases, Jonathan Green ed.  Cassell, London, 2002 paperback.

Unbelievably handy for someone who has characters from ancient history on up to 2010 talking dirty.


777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley, Israel Regardie, ed.  Samuel Weiser, York Beach, Maine, 1988.

When you need a name for a demon, alien, vampire, or just a bizarre character.  Superior to, but not by any means completely overlapping with:


A Dictionary of Angels: including the fallen angels, by Gustav Davidson.  The Free Press, New York, 1971

This is grossly historically inaccurate but full of fun stuff.  I use it for a fantasy fiction idea source, not nonfiction papers.


These three have lots of overlap but it’s hard to say which I like better:

A Dictionary of Euphemisms, by R.A. Holder.  Oxford University Press, 1996.

A Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk, by Hugh Rawson.  Crown, New York, 1980.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: Buckish slang, university wit and pickpocket eloquence, by a member of the Whip Club.  Studio Editions Ltd., London, 1994.

The third is the real goods, supplying authentic English Regency slang, much of it impolite, from altitudes to zedland.


Butler’s Lives of the Saints, concise edition, Michael Walsh, ed.   Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1985.

This is the short version.  Good for many things.  Think about it.


Backstage Handbook, by Paul Carter.  Broadway Press, Louisville KY, 1994, third edition.

When I need stagehand geek stuff and my spousal unit isn’t around to tell me the answers.


A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. M. Grieve, F.R.H.S., Mrs. C.F.Leyel, Ed.  Dorset Press, New York, 1992.

Written in 1931, edited, in 1973.  Handy if you want to poison someone in the country.


A Pictorial Encyclopedia of Fashion, by Ludmila Kybalová, Oldga Herbenová, and Milena Lamarová, translated by Claudia Rosoux.  Hamlyn Publishing Group, New York, 1968.

Has over 1,000 pictures, all useful, although I could wish for more underwear.



Research resources — 7 Comments

  1. What I really like about my (more modern) Roget’s is that since it’s organized topically you get enormous clumps of closely related words, not the little ones you get with alphabetically organized ones.

  2. OOOOooooo.

    Always wanted the 1811 slang dictionary, and I love my thesaurus, and need more of them. (NOT dictionary style ones.) Need a Bartlett’s, but don’t want the new one. The pictorial on fashion sounds especially interesting. Is it a snip of history, or covering a lot of time?

  3. Oh dear, how I wish had I known about the BIG BOOK OF FILTH when I was writing REVISE THE WORLD. The hero was famous for his profanity, and it was -hard- to find appropriate period cuss words for him.

  4. I wish I had one of those “regency writer libraries” that were so much easier to assemble in the sixties and seventies, before everybody had snatched up all those resources…