Thursday, October 13, 2016

Encyclopedia me!

The first set of encyclopedias I can remember in my home growing up was purchased volume by volume by my mother at the grocery store, one a week. I was fascinated with them and would pull a volume from the shelf and start reading. I did this with the dictionary too, especially the one from Reader's Digest which proclaimed to be a Great Encyclopedia Dictionary. I know that's what it's called, because I still have it.

When we married, my husband and I bought a set of Encyclopedia Britannica. Now, that was an expense! But we valued the knowledge contained within. Plus, the Internet in all its glory was a good 25 years away, had we even thought such could exist.

But I still love encyclopedias and when someone donated an 1891 set to the library for the book sale, I bought it. The covers of the eight volumes were all off, some holding on via Scotch tape. The pages were rough around the edges. I really wanted the beautiful old maps. Antartica hadn't even been explored when this book was written! I know that for several reasons, not the least of which is the notation about that continent of: Supposed Antarctic Continent.

I thought I would go through it page by page and relieve this set of its drawings of birds and mammals, historical places, anything of interest. Eventually, I'd find something to do with my ill-gotten gain and make some money for the library. I didn't expect to start reading again.

It has a decidedly English bent to it, and as the first edition was published in Edinburgh, that makes sense. It also explains that Scotland has its own map and is not part of the one of England.

So what have I been distracted by? Zulu. Texas. Kangaroo. (No drawing!) Indians, America. And Henry Stewart Darnley, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and interesting, according to the book, chiefly on account of said marriage. Also, and this is the part I've committed to memory: he was "fatally destitute of all moral and intellectual power."

You just can't write that any more.

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