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  • Encyclopedia

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on October 24th, 2018 (All posts by )

    My wife was/is a children’s librarian, so we always had two sets of encyclopedias in the house.  We eventually got her down to one, and only recently, none. School libraries would rotate them out when replacing them, so we would tend to have a set that was five years old and another that was ten years old, or some such. When my 39 y/o son was about 9 he had to do a report about nutrition and started with the encyclopedia.* He chuckled at the line “Butter is highly nutritious,” as even he knew in 1988 that wasn’t right, because of what he had absorbed from his mother’s dietary dictates. It became a family joke for years.

    Except, as you know, things gradually changed and margarine was exposed as more of a problem than butter, and now, decades later, butter is considered superior again. That son now thinks he might like to have a complete 1911 Britannica, but otherwise, no encyclopedias.

    * Tracy insists that starting with the encyclopedia is fine for elementary school, it just cannot be your main source. She would know.

     

    13 Responses to “Encyclopedia”

    1. Dwight Green Says:

      When watching movies or shows on TV set in the 60s or 70s, I’m happy when I see a set of old encyclopedias on the bookcase. It brings back memories of our own sets. (Most people are happy to peruse bookcases in other peoples’ houses. I tend to do it when watching TV or movies, too.)

      Apologizing in advance for the arcane reference…After reading Ford Madox Ford’s “Parade’s End,” I can no longer hear a reference to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica without picturing Christopher Tietjens reading it and making corrections in the margins.

    2. Douglas2/Unknown Says:

      I was given as an adult the 1911 Britannica reprint as a gift by on older sibling who remembers my childhood reading of the encyclopedia.

      I note that volume 1 contains entries for the things beginning with the letters A & B, but the last volume is M–Z, with correspondingly fewer and smaller entries to keep the number of pages similar.

      So if using it as a reference for technology and state-of-knowledge of the time, hope that whatever you need to replicate comes early in the alphabet, otherwise your research will be an outline view rather than a detailed one.

      On this Leonard Bernstein centennial year I’ve had many time to mention to people my theory that in every work, he got to a certain point and then lost interest, from then on putting in the minimal work required to get to a state that the commissioner/publisher would accept as “finished” so that he could move on to the next interest. I get that feeling with the facsimile 1st edition Britannica as well.

    3. PenGun Says:

      I used have a full set from the 60s, picked it up fairly cheap. I also had the Compact Oxford Dictionary with the magnifying glass.

      I tossed it all, well passed it on, along with a large collection of Scientific American from before they went to … purgatory. ;) I have access to so much more now and the books took up space.

    4. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

      @ PenGun – exactly so. I have deeply loved many reference books, but there are almost none that I cannot do better online.

    5. Whitehall Says:

      World Book for me when I was about 9 or 10.

      Read each volume more than once.

      One of the best things my parents did for me, besides American citizenship and heritage.

    6. Grurray Says:

      he got to a certain point and then lost interest, from then on putting in the minimal work required to get to a state that the commissioner/publisher would accept as “finished” so that he could move on to the next interest.

      Maybe that’s why he was never able to answer the big important question despite looking at it from six different directions?

    7. Brian Says:

      I remember way back in school you could use an encyclopedia but had to use at least other sources, or something like that. You had to go look in the Periodicals Index to find others, usually. I think many schools today treat wikipedia the same way, if not banning it as a source altogether.

      It would be far better for a young kid today to have an encyclopedia than the internet. You will be safer, and you’ll learn far more flipping through a set of books, even if out of date, then you will clicking on a screen. I don’t think there’s any dispute that humans just don’t process screens the same way they do books. The brain doesn’t really accept the screen as being real.

    8. Anonymous Says:

      “It would be far better for a young kid today to have an encyclopedia than the internet.”

      No. This is Luddite thinking. The advantages that come from being able to use the internet are legion. The disadvantages from not knowing how this works, are crippling.

      I have not read a real book in many years. I just set up Amazon Family so my daughter could have access to my rather large Kindle library. Both the phone version and the Amazon reader on my computer work very well and I have read many books on screen. You might just need a better screen. ;)

    9. PenGun Says:

      Yup, I claim that one.

    10. David Foster Says:

      Brian….”It would be far better for a young kid today to have an encyclopedia than the internet. You will be safer, and you’ll learn far more flipping through a set of books, even if out of date, then you will clicking on a screen. I don’t think there’s any dispute that humans just don’t process screens the same way they do books. The brain doesn’t really accept the screen as being real.”

      I tend to agree about the encyclopedia, if for no other reason than the higher tendency to focus rather than to chase distracting links (or messages that show up on the screen and can’t resist being clicked.) But I’m afraid it’s unlikely to happen in very many cases. A friend of mine who is about 40 said that when she was younger–around 10, I think–she read through the *entire* World Book. Probably about the last generational cohort in which such a thing would be likely.

      Re the screen not being accepted as Real, I’m afraid it’s all too real to way too many people; indeed it has become the primary reality.

      For one thing, there is something about screens that grabs the eye. I find it difficult in a restaurant that has CNN or Fox on to keep my eyes from glancing that way, even though I don’t find TV to be a very efficient way of getting news.

      A flight instructor told me that when he teaches in planes with a large GPS screen, it is very difficult to get students to keep their eyes *outside*, even on final approach to a landing.

    11. Mike K Says:

      Brian….”It would be far better for a young kid today to have an encyclopedia than the internet. You will be safer, and you’ll learn far more flipping through a set of books, even if out of date, then you will clicking on a screen.

      When I was in about 8th grade, I found my cousin’s high school “World History” textbook and read it cover to cover. It read like a novel.

      The history ended with the First World War as he had graduated the year I was born.

      I went off to college and never returned home to live. I have tried for years to find a copy of that book but have not been successful.

      It probably got thrown out when my father sold the house.

      Wikipedia is an online simile but is unreliable on any controversial or political topic. The editors carefully delete any contrary opinion on global warming, for example.

      I can still remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my parents’ home when I was about 8 or 9, as an encyclopedia salesman tried to sell them an encyclopedia. I was so hoping they would buy it but, of course, they did not. I never saw my father read a book.

    12. OBloodyHell Says:

      I actually obtained a full 1905 EB in good condition. Unfortunately, i had to put them in stotlrage, and, while i recovered some of them, i wound up unable to pay the storage bill, and am prettybsure i lost 1/3rd to 1/2 the volumes. :-(

      I wish i knew where/how to get a new (“replacement”) set from that era…

      I think it’s a Real Good Idea to have a background of all that old technology at hand.

    13. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      Long ago, when the world was new, and so was I; my dad bought the the 1963 deluxe edition of the EB so I would have access to it. Yes, I used it like a reference book, but also browsed each volume reading articles that grabbed me. Still have them, and the yearbooks up to the mid-70’s and my own kids used them in school.

      Well worth having.

      In my town, we have a Core Knowledge School [E.D. Hirsch’s design] as a charter school in our District [K-10]. The District hates them. On about half as much money per student and minimal administrative overhead, they far surpass the results of the regular school system. The best teachers in the District fight to transfer to the Core Knowledge School, because they are allowed to really teach. They abolished the Valedictorian and Salutorian at HS graduation because for about 10 years they were all Core Knowledge students who had transferred to the regular high school in 11th grade.

      At the Core Knowledge School they have plenty of computer access for students. BUT, up through 3rd grade, they cannot use them, having to use books and encyclopedias for all research. This is to teach reading, comprehension, and data collection. Our TEA Party raised the money and bought them a new set of Britannicas for 3rd grade last year.

      Subotai Bahadur

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