Why Buy an Old Encyclopedia?

There is more than just the smell of dust in an old set of encyclopedias.  As in any encyclopedia, there are facts and figures, definitions and information, but many of the articles are colored by the culture of the times.

Sometimes this coloring is good, sometimes bad.  But whether we agree or disagree with the political correctness of the content by today’s standards, it is still interesting to look at and study.

In our collection of books at bFranklin Bookseller we have a Nearly Complete (missing one volume, #23 REE-SAI) of the 1911, 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  This is a very special edition, because it Encyclopedia Britannicais the first edition of Encyclopedia Britannica published in the US and not Great Brittan.  It also had more women editors than previous editions, was published as a set rather than one volume at a time, and more.

I don’t know if  you were like me or not, but when I was a kid I loved to look through encyclopedias.  Just seeing the random bits and pieces of knowledge was fascinating to me.  What I also like is to think about all the people who have opened the book before me.  In this context, the older the better.

In Volume 9, EDW-EVA, you won’t find a reference to Albert Einstein.  When this set was published he was only 32, and his published Theory of Relativity was only about 4 years old.

So if you are looking for the latest and greatest information on a topic, Google it! But if you want to experience a bit of history, to feel the ages past, then pick up an old encyclopedia and take a trip back in time.

Happy Hunting!

Scott Walker



Why Buy an Old Encyclopedia? — 3 Comments

  1. I remember spending hours in the library, reading and studying the encyclopedia. Not much has changed except now I research from home every subject begins with www.

  2. Love the thought of old encyclopedias. My favourite browsing collection was our set (only up to first world war) of American Heritage books. My introduction to Frederick Remington and Charlie Russell paintings came from there. And all those great grandiose works celebrating American manifest destiny. Ok, we can discuss the correctness, political, moral, or other of that concept some other time. But the fact remains, I love history because of those books. You need a good copy of those to supplement the Britannicas. Still, brilliant that you’ve opened. Can’t wait to browse. And get that free cup of coffee!

    • I remember those books myself. Also the World Book Encyclopedias and the National Geographic’s. I remember spending hours looking through them. Unfortunately we don’t have a copy of the American Heritage books, but we do have a nice four book collection of Universal World History. I’ll set it aside for you!

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