ALARGE-SCALE dictionary of Middle English (the English language from 1100 to 1475) was first undertaken by Professor E. Flügel of Leland Stanford Junior University, with the financial support of the Carnegie Foundation. After his death the Modern Language Association of America took up this project and Professor Clark S. Northup of Cornell University assumed the duties of editor. At Cornell the work was supported by funds from the Heckscher Foundation. In 1930, because of the aid which the Middle English Dictionary materials could furnish to the Early Modern English Dictionary and because of the obvious economy of doing both dictionaries at the same place, the Modern Language Association accepted the invitation of the University of Michigan and moved the Middle English Dictionary to Ann Arbor. Two representatives of the Modern Language Association, Professor Carleton Brown of New York University and Professor G. P. Krapp of Columbia University, and two representatives of the University of Michigan, Professors O. J. Campbell and C. C. Fries, then agreed upon an editor, and Professor Samuel Moore was invited to undertake the direction of the work. In September, 1934, Professor Samuel Moore died suddenly, and Professor Thomas A. Knott, who had been the general editor of Webster's New International Dictionary (2d ed., 1934) was called to the University to become the editor of the Middle English Dictionary.
The years from 1930 to 1936 were devoted to gathering the material necessary to complete the evidence upon which to base the editing. One hundred and eleven volunteer readers assisted the staff by copying out the quotations from Middle English texts, especially from those texts that have been made available in printed form since the first half of the Oxford Dictionary was published. In all, with the materials sent from Oxford, the slips gathered at Cornell, and those from the contribution of the volunteer readers and the staff at the University of Michigan, there are in the files of the Middle English Dictionary approximately one million quotations for the 45,000 vocabulary entries that will be necessary to represent the language of the Middle English period. From this material the Middle English Dictionary is continuing to make major changes in the recorded history of a large proportion of English words — the results of synthesizing all our knowledge of English life from 1100 to 1475. Such a new, well-focused, adequate Middle English Dictionary, utilizing all the published documents and resources, is needed not only by students of language and literature, but also by students of law, science, philosophy, history, and government.
From 1930 to 1937 this project at the University of Michigan was financed by funds supplied by the American Council of Learned Societies. The total support received from this source and from the research funds of the University of Michigan was approximately $75,000.