Why this journalist shelled out $1200 for the only encyclopedia still in print

Originally published at: Why this journalist shelled out $1200 for the only encyclopedia still in print | Boing Boing


We’re retaining our old copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica and Americana for reference purposes. I’m not sure when we will eventually ‘sunset’ them, but it won’t be soon, considering the ever increasing shitstorm of misinformation online. Wikipedia (like ChatGPT or MidJourney) is a good beginning, but shouldn’t be the end.
My children’s librarian still has the 2020 World Book set, and will probably get a new one in a couple of years.


My father tried his hand as a World Book salesman in the early seventies. I’m not sure if he had much success but one of the bonuses of the job was a complete set including the excellent children’s encyclopedia. As a child, those books represented the sum total of all human knowledge to my inquisitive mind.


We had a set, too. I was such a little nerd, I used to sit and just read random articles.

And the kid’s version was great. I remember it exposed me to the concept of compounding interest via a mathematical “proof” that vampires aren’t real (it assumed that every vampire turned a human into a vampire when it fed, thereby running out of humans in relatively short order, I believe)


@johnawerner and @jhutch2000:

The children’s version was called Childcraft. I read every single story in all 15 volumes in the 60’s. As you’ve said, just pick it up, open it, start reading. Lost myself those books many, many times.


Any old edition of EB or World Book is great as a time capsule of where science and politics were at any given time, a historical snapshot. Wish I still had my World book from the '60s. Also would love to get my hands on the 11th edition, published in 1910-1911. A window into the times just before WW1, the peak of British Imperialism, and groundbreaking scientific discoveries.


Same here. It was right there on the shelf, offering all those bite-sized nuggets of knowledge faster than any download.

quote=“chgoliz, post:5, topic:250555”]
The children’s version was called Childcraft. I read every single story in all 15 volumes in the 60’s.

Those rainbow volumes obviously helped transform many of us into the Happy Mutants we are today.


There can’t be but 500 million USAians almost kinda waiting to be let off the hook that that’s -not- the sum total of all human knowledge.


My family had an encyclopedia Brittanica with supplements describing what happened after the war.


I still have a 1962 edition, which I inherited from my grandmother. I think the only person who is the subject of an article in it who is still alive is King Charles.


I worked in a library that had a copy of the 11th edition of the Britanica, famous for having some famous writers for the articles and the racisim of the same.

My favorite trivia about the World Book is that in 1962 they released a Braile edition which ran to 145 volumes.


“I gotta get to the library before it closes!” :wink:

(Kid in a classic Encyclopedia Brittanica commercial)

ETA: As a now-adult with glasses, remembering that kid running through the rain, I realize he probably couldn’t see where the fuck he was going. :man_shrugging:


Oh but Flossy, is there really anything more to know than what was known when we were kids?

You know, back when Pluto was the 9th planet and national borders were very, very different.


We had a full set of World Book encyclopedias and the Childcraft series too. I read them inside out and backways. They were an amazing resource for homework as a kid. At the time I didn’t appreciate that we were probably one of the only families with these books (and more, thanks parents!). I do think they set me on a path to be inquisitive and to become an engineer.


The folks have a World Book set from 1970 or so, and it makes an amazing time machine, especially for world leaders, scientists, writers, and artists who are now obscure. We used to have a Childcraft set, but a lot of those were lost to water damage or decay. :frowning:


That, and the -rest- of the the Alice Cooper’s Encyclopedia 2025 Ad should be lots of fun.


Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia…

We got a set of these vintage 1952 encyclopedia from a relative (I’m assuming) in the early '70s. Twenty years out of date but still saved me a trip to the local library to do a report on the brain.

(seeing that picture in the google search brought back the memory of the smell of those musty old tomes.)


… each year the spines form a different polyptych


That was a surprisingly-interesting article. I was particularly engaged by the author’s concerns about the dangers that public knowledge housed on the Internet faces a threat of very rapid degradation due to advances in AI. I wish I could say I didn’t think that was a plausible danger.


Same here. Library stuff is very cool! Even better when it’s at hand at home.