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Visual Dictionaries for Quick Reference and Inspiration

Updated on November 28, 2014

Learn quickly with pictures and short definitions

Find the best visual dictionaries, and read a book review of Webster's Pictorial Dictionary filled with the small pictures that make big dictionaries so much fun to read. As you'd expect, the illustrations are arranged alphabetically and remastered for this compilation of six different early editions of the classic visual dictionary from the 19th century.

Pictorial Webster's is light-weight and compact -- perfect during the morning commute or waiting for an appointment. The book is great any time you have just a moment to rest your eyes and relax -- for the few minutes that the baby is asleep, or during a coffee break at work.

Pictorial Webster's is an artistic visual reference of what was important to the American public in 19th Century America. The volume is printed with the original wood engravings and copper electrotypes of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries of the 19th Century, including the first illustrated dictionary in the United States: The American Dictionary of the English Language published in 1859 and the 1890 International Dictionary by Webster.


But wait, there's text too

❝The Pancreas❞

One of the most rewarding parts of the book may be the last chapters with "additional dissertation" by Carrera. He calls the section "The Pancreas", for some reason (it's a good story). After providing interesting details about the original printing blocks used to produce the book and the history of the visual dictionary, the author provides ideas on how to use the book as a source of inspiration and creativity.

When looking through the illustrations in the book, we can come to know how our minds work by understanding the detailed impressions we have that are associated with all of these objects. And when we compare two things, we make mental connections which can lead to creative moments of insight. I think the book can also be used for any number of games that can be invented for kids or adults, like charades or story-telling games, or even bibliomancy.

The author also offers an informal discussion about the working of the brain and "the machinery of thought". His hypothesis is based in current notions in physics and his ideas can be tested and applied to our lives. And for some Bizarre reason, in the last pages of the book, he defines Frank Zappa (in part) as ...Some believe he was 211213-I, the same number... . A rather curious chapter, indeed.

Beautiful visual reference books - Graphic design, typography

Pictorial Webster's Wall Cards: Icons & Curiosities from A to Z

Companion set to the book (along with the rubber stamp set). Big, beautiful images with high-quality printing - from A to Zed. Use them as flip cards for kids (they will hold up for a long time) or hang on the wall in the playroom.

Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles, Volume 1

Just the first volume of typefaces with some background on the history of each type face and the personalities behind type foundries in Europe and America.

The Art of American Book Covers: 1875-1930

Book binding and book covers as a complete art form in itself. These examples come from the finest books published during the high point of the modern age.

Dare to eat chocolate covered insects
Sample some delicious chocolate covered, edible insects and candy using bugs of every description - scorpions, crickets and other yummy, wriggling creatures.

More Visual Dictionaries - Fixed price offers and auctions online

Visual dictionaries loaded with images about hundreds of special topics

LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary: Updated and Expanded
LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary: Updated and Expanded

Visual dictionary of the entire universe of Lego Star Wars figures, past and present, published by DK books for high-quality photos and binding.


Gifts that go with the books - From Quercus Press and John M. Carrera

These gift ideas are also published by Quercus Press about the Pictorial Dictionary. Use some of these beautiful engravings with your art projects and games for young and old.

Noah Webster in 1859
Noah Webster in 1859

Making the deluxe edition

Typesetting, printing and bookbinding

Watch a very well produced video about the original inspiration for the book and the process of creating the hand-crafted, "standard" edition of 100 copies (with a jazzy soundtrack).

The author narrates this 8 minute video about his experience selecting 4,000 illustrations to use for the book from more than 13,000 engravers blocks from the original editions. Carrera uses an antique linotype machine to set type for the image captions. Side note: This is the same kind of linotype machine that appears in a Twilight Zone TV episode "Printer's Devil", with actor Burgess Meredith and his twisted cigar.

The second part of the video is a great introduction to hand-made bookbinding. Carrera works with friends to sew the text blocks (quires) onto the spine, covering the book with leather, and setting the gold leaf. You can also find out how he printed the unusual end papers that appear in every edition of Pictorial Webster's.

Take a walk through a few pages of these familiar images and find inspiration...

— Noah Webster

Visit the author's website - The illustrations and the book

The best quote in the book

❝...allow yourself the time to saunter through the book and see what new poetry may populate your dreams.❞

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Pictorial Webster's Visual Dictionary book review

A whole book of drawings that make it fun to read a dictionary

"When we think of a concept, it has
a pattern that will have synchronicity
with many other patterns in our brain ..."

Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities

Dictionaries with pictures! - Have you ever used a visual dictionary?

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    Post Comment

    • dotpattern profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Moire 

      7 years ago from West Village, New York City

      @CruiseReady: Thank you so much for your comment. Visual dictionaries are essential reference for many professions. Almost every architect uses Architectural Graphic Standards, 11th Edition, masseurs and physical therapists use Grey's Anatomy (the book).

    • CruiseReady profile image


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      I have never used a visual distionary as an adult, but it sounds like much fun! (Of course, kid and grandkids had pictoral dictionaries and encyclopedias when they were young.)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I loved the pictures in dictionaries when I was younger and I still prefer to see pictures today. Nicely done!


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