Following an unsatisfactory early education, Webster studied Latin and Greek privately and at the age of 15 entered Yale College, where he came under the influence of [[Ezra Stiles]] and [[Timothy Dwight]]. He went on to study law and teach school before turning his attention to writing a series of newspaper articles promoting the American revolution and urging a permanent separation from Britain. After founding a private school in Goshen, New York, he produced a three-volume compendium, ''A Grammatical Institute of the English Language'', consisting of a speller (1783), a grammar (1784), and a reader (1785). <ref> David Micklethwait, ''Noah Webster and the American Dictionary'' (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2005), 21-22, 54-73, [ view on Zotero]. </ref> These works provided alternatives to imported English textbooks and established a uniquely American approach to teaching children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. Webster’s speller was the most popular American book of its time, with 15 million copies sold by 1837. <ref> Catherine Reef, ''Education and Learning in America'' (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009), 22, [ view on Zotero]. </ref> In 1787 Webster founded ''The American Magazine'' with the intention of promoting an American cultural identity distinct from that of Britain. <ref> Edward E. Chielens, "Periodicals and the Development of an American Literature," in ''Making America, Making American Literature'', ed. by A. Robert Lee and W. M. Verhoeven (Amsterdam and Atlanta, Ga.: Rodopi, 1996), 95-96, [ view on Zotero]. </ref>
 Proceeds from the speller funded Webster’s work on a dictionary through which he intended to promote a distinctive American language with its own idiom, pronunciation, and style. In 1806 Webster published ''A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language'', the first truly American dictionary. He immediately began work on a more ambitious work, ''An American Dictionary of the English Language'' (1828). His research on word origins necessitated learning 28 languages, including Anglo-Saxon, Aramaic, Russian, and Sanskrit.<ref> Kendall, 2010, ___, [ view on Zotero]. </ref> Webster also documented unique American words that had not yet appeared in British dictionaries. Comprising 70,000 words &mdash; 12,000 of which had never been published before &mdash; the ''American Dictionary'' surpassed the scope and authority of [[Samuel Johnson]]’s magisterial ''Dictionary of the English Language'', published in 1755. <ref> Joshua Lawrence Eason, "Dictionary-Making in the English Language," ''Peabody Journal of Education'', 5 (May 1928): 349, [ view on Zotero]; Joseph W. Reed, Jr., "Noah Webster's Debt to Samuel Johnson, ''American Speech'', 37 (1962): 95–105, [ view on Zotero]. </ref> Despite his monumental achievement, Webster made little money from his the dictionary and he went deeply into debt in order to finance a revised and expanded second edition, which was published in 1841, two years before his death.
--''Robyn Asleson''
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Noah Webster

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