Madeline Kripke

Madeline Faith Kripke (September 9, 1943 – April 25, 2020) was a book collector who held one of the world's largest collections of dictionaries.[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Madeline Kripke was born on September 9, 1943, in New London, Connecticut, to mother Dorothy Karp Kripke and father Myer S. Kripke, a rabbi. Kripke's brother was philosopher Saul Kripke,[1] and her sister was Netta Kripke Stern, a social worker.[2] She graduated with a bachelor's in English from Barnard College.[1]

Dictionary collection and careerEdit

In fifth grade, she recalled receiving a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary from her parents, which she said "unlocked the world for me".[3] Kripke acquired a collection of approximately 20,000 dictionaries in her two-bedroom apartment. The oldest dictionary in her collection was a Latin dictionary published in 1502 by Ambrogio Calepino.[3] She placed a special emphasis on collecting dictionaries regarding obscure slang.[4] Her collection includes the only known copy of Larks of London (1840), a dictionary of slang from the London underworld.[5] Simon Winchester said that her collection of slang dictionaries represented "the very living and breathing edge of the English language".[6] Jesse Sheidlower described her collection as better than that of the Library of Congress.[5]

After graduating from college, Kripke held several jobs, including as a welfare case worker and a teacher. She eventually became an editor and a publisher, doing copyediting and proofreading. She also worked at several bookstores, eventually becoming a book dealer.[3]


Kripke died on April 25, 2020, due to complications of COVID-19.[1]

Awards and honorsEdit

Kripke was a founding member of the Dictionary Society of North America and attended every meeting for nearly forty years. In 2015 she was one of six Fellows elected to the Society, its highest honor, along with Anatoly Liberman and John Simpson.[7] She received their Richard W. Bailey Award for Distinguished Service to Lexicography and Lexicology in 2017.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Roberts, Sam (30 April 2020). "Madeline Kripke, Doyenne of Dictionaries, Is Dead at 76". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  2. ^ Martin, Douglas (3 May 2014). "Rabbi Myer Kripke, Early Buffett Friend and Investor, Dies at 100". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Krieger, Daniel (15 August 2013). "The Dame of Dictionaries". Narratively. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  4. ^ Lubovich, Wendy (9 June 2016). "Inside a Book Editor's Legendary Home Library". The Cut. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b Robinson, Sal (4 February 2014). "Madeline Kripke's incredible dictionary collection". Melville House. Retrieved 2 May 2020.
  6. ^ Winchester, Simon (8 March 2012). "The Mongrel Speech of the Streets". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  7. ^ Shea, Ammon (2015). "DSNA Elects Six New Fellows" (PDF). DSNA Newsletter. p. 8. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  8. ^ "REQUEST FOR NOMINATIONS – CASSIDY and BAILEY AWARDS". Dictionary Society of North America. Retrieved 2 May 2020.