About the Author

Part Two

As I said, not all books tell stories. Dictionaries don’t tell stories, well not really although I do my best even with them. I compile dictionaries, you see. That all started in about 1976 when Ailsa and I were asked to prepare a Dictionary of the Environment. So that’s what we did, with the help of a few expert friends, with thousands of entries all typed on index cards and the job ending with a marathon typing session. The dictionary was popular, and went to four editions. Then, in about 1984, Oxford University Press commissioned us to prepare the Oxford Dictionary of Natural History. This was to be much larger than the earlier dictionary and, after calculating the amount of paper we’d need and the space we’d need to file it (and if there’s a fire?), we bought our first computer to handle all the entries. I think it may have been the first dictionary to have been compiled, from start to finish, on a computer ––– a marvellous machine called Superbrain. It was state-of-the-art in its day and allowed us to store our dictionary ––– dictionaries, because we used Superbrain for several more ––– on disks each of which held 128k of data. We ended with more than one hundred of those disks, and they were used to typeset the book as well. That may have been another first, although we still had to print out a hard copy of more than 1000 pages on our chattering dot-matrix printer with the purple ribbon. We bought a daisy-wheel printer later, which chattered in a different key and produced prettier text. Ailsa and I were next asked to prepare a Dictionary of Earth Sciences. After that more dictionaries appeared, covering botany, zoology, and ecology. All of these are available electronically through the Oxford Reference website as well as being paperback books you can purchase from here with a couple of clicks. Ailsa doesn’t do dictionaries any longer, so I’m in sole charge. At present I edit five dictionaries for Oxford University Press and I’ve recently prepared a Dictionary of Science for Gardeners for Timber Press. Oh yes, I do dictionaries. Want a dictionary? I’m your man. We live, my wife Ailsa and I, in a village in the West Highlands of Scotland. Our house looks out over a narrow stretch of sea to a large island. The scenery is spectacular. Before we came here we lived for nearly 30 years in Cornwall. Now we think we’re settled. If we include the dictionaries, I’ve written or co-authored just over 100 books and written chapters or sections in many more. I’ve helped write reports for the Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Meteorological Organisation of the United Nations and for what was then the Countryside Commission, for whom I also edited the first editions of the 15 official guides to the National Trails of England and Wales, and each year since 1974 I’ve written an article on ‘Environment’ for Encyclopaedia Britannica’s Britannica Book of the Year. If you’d like me to write for you, most likely I'll be delighted to. So just drop an email to my agent, Rupert Crew Ltd., at info@rupertcrew.co.uk.

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