I’m a sucker for old maps, old books, old reference material of basically any kind. So you can imagine my delight when, while wandering garage sales last summer, I discovered a complete 20 volume set of children’s encyclopedias from the 1920s, the humbly titled Book of Knowledge.
They are an absolute joy to peruse and the fact that they are written for children makes the condescending tone in which the “facts” are presented so much more fantastic. Unlike traditional A-Z encyclopedias, The Book of Knowledge is organized to be read end to end as a set of school books. Presumably as a nod to the short attention span of youth, the volumes are set up as a repeating set of “books”: The Book of Nature, The Book of Familiar Things, The Book of The Earth, The Book of Wonder, and so on. They are also written in a format heavy on question/answer. They are neolithic FAQs.
There’s far too much to include here, but I have included a sampling on the fascinating information to be gleaned from its pages. The books are too fragile to scan well — these pictures were taken with our Canon S70 on a tripod overhead without flash.
This barely scratches the surface, these books continue to fascinate me. I haven’t included the instructions for girls to make their own sewing boxes, discussions of why space travel is impossible, the unrecognizable skylines of new york or san francisco, or the pictures of Newfoundland, the British colony east of Canada.
Best $20 I spent that summer.