The numbers are the page numbers in the cited volume.
I personally care a lot about “their physical form, the fact that we can touch them, their weight, their smell,”
A classic case of fetishizing the object. The essence of a dictionary is not its form, but the information it contains. I appreciate the beauty of many print dictionaries too, but that doesn’t mean that I prefer to use print versions over digital.
And what happens when your computer connection goes out? Then those of us with the print reference works will have the last laugh.
What happens when your house burns down along with your library? What happens when you’re traveling and don’t have those heavy volumes in your luggage? What happens when you’re working at home, but your dictionary is in your office? What happens when you need to display the dictionary entry to a class? What happens when you know a word is in the dictionary, but under a different, non-cross-referenced headword and you need full-text search?
There are lot more cases where print volumes fail you than there are for digitized failures. (And digital doesn’t necessarily mean online. I’ve got pdf copies of many dictionaries.)
I don’t want to seem that I’m dumping on print as a medium though. Print is still superior for a lot of texts, but dictionaries aren’t among them.