Strange Book You May Have Missed: ‘Alexander the Corrector’

Born in Scotland in 1699, Alexander Cruden spent much of his life in and out of insane asylums, destroying any hopes of a career in the church. Over time he began working on a Bible concordance. Although not the first, Cruden’s was more systematic than previous efforts and provided the surrounding biblical verse and not just a chapter/verse reference.

He also worked in London as both a proofreader and a Bookseller by Public Warrant to Queen Caroline. He petitioned the Crown unsuccessfully to become the nation’s “corrector,” that is, he wanted formally to correct England’s poor spelling and grammar, which he saw as a threat to good morals. He despised graffiti and carried with him a sponge to deal with incorrect or immoral public signage. He was also an advocate of strict Sabbath keeping.

History had judged him mad until author Julia Keay published this very convincing work, which makes the case that he was a victim, institutionalized owing to jealousy, intrigue, and corruption, attempts to keep him from speaking out against incest among noble persons. He was also put away because of silly disputes with a landlady and his own sister, and after a misguided attempt to woo a member of the opposite sex.

His bids to defend his own sanity and prosecute those who put him away resulted over time in early penal reform: a serious reduction in both the application of the death penalty and the abuse of “private” madhouses to incarcerate people without due process (often because of personal grudges).

He died while in prayer, a devout Calvinist all his life.

To this day, the Corrector’s concordance has never been out of print.

It is a fascinating and maddening story. You must read it now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s