Though entrusted with the greatest literary project in the history of written English, James Murray (1837-1915) came from outside the establishment of London intellectual society and grew up in a world far removed from the rarified halls of Oxford University. A self-taught master of more than a dozen ancient and modern languages (his formal education ended at age 14), he developed a comprehensive knowledge of and driving passion for words. Murray's scholarly work brought him into the staid and prestigious London Philological Society. It was there that the dictionary project was launched and there, in 1879, that Murray was given control of it. As the editor in chief, it was his job to ensure the absolutely accurate cataloguing of every word English writers have ever written. He oversaw a workshop of clerks and subeditors who received, sorted, and resorted the thousands of submissions pouring in weekly from hundreds of active contributors around the world. The readers' job was to find the earliest possible illustrative uses of every word, write them on slips of paper, and ship them off to Oxford. Some contributors were more trouble than use. Others distinguished themselves as invaluable researchers.