by Adam Ross

Published by Affirm Press during the lockdown in 2020, The Dictionary of Lost Words was the first Australian work to be featured on Reese Witherspoon’s ‘Reese’s Book Club’ and has subsequently sold over 300,000 copies in Australia alone. The book has been translated into 28 languages and was featured on the New York Times bestseller list.

Inspired by actual events, The Dictionary of Lost Words is set in the early 20th century amid the women’s suffrage movement and the looming Great War. It follows Esme, a child who spends her days in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor. Esme begins to collect the words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Producer Lisa Scott (pictured, on right) of Highview Productions recently delivered Stan’s Jamie Dornan starrer The Tourist, and her co-producer Closer Productions’ Rebecca Summerton (pictured, on left) has been behind films such as Animals and 52 Tuesdays. The pair previously collaborated on the award-wining drama series The Hunting that screened on SBS Australia.

On securing the rights, Scott and Summerton said: “We fell in love with Pip’s novel just as readers all over the world have and are excited to be bringing this beautiful and thought-provoking story to the screen. Inspired by actual events, this heartfelt novel shines a light on the ignored contribution of women’s words and their history in the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary.”

The series will be a co-production between South Australian production houses Highview Productions and Closer Productions, with Anton Andreacchio joining as Producer, and Alex Dimos, Andrew Nunn, and Pip Williams serving as Executive Producers.