On each slip were written quotations sent in from all over the globe, especially following Murray’s public Appeal to the English-speaking and English-reading public (1879). This was crowd-sourcing on an epic scale only the Victorians could have dared contemplate. Many of those who sent in material were linguists, librarians, scholars or teachers; but one of the most prolific contributors, with over thirty thousand citations, was a certain Dr W.C. Minor – who turned out to be an inmate of the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, a murderer, and American to boot.
Over the course of this Herculean project, a correspondence was generated so voluminous that a pillar box had to be installed directly outside Murray’s front gate. As well as being a man of prodigious energy and diligence, he was a stickler for efficiency, so shortening the distance between his desk and the world beyond was important for him. Pity the poor postman who had to lug vast sacks of envelopes up and down the Banbury Road (some addressed simply: ‘Dr Murray, Oxford’) year in and year out, three times a day, every day.