Are encyclopedias these days as helpful as they used to be?

For that matter, do they even make encyclopedias these days, or has web searching taken over the role those used to play?  Hmm, I’ll have to Google that someday, which illustrates my reason for wondering if sites like Wikipedia have taken on on that role for people today.


My grandmother’s 1937 Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia doesn’t have an entry for “Encyclopedia” but it does for just about everything else people could think of then.  They even tell us the history of the alphabet.  In the photo above, for instance, you hear all about the evolution of A:

You know, of course, that members of the bird family–notably the goose–helped teach men to write, by furnishing them with quills, but did you know that some of the bird people helped make the very letters that were afterward written with their quills?

The piece then goes on to explain the permutations that translated the picture of an eagle into the “A” that we know today as is traveled from Egypt to Phoenicia to Greece.

In the information age of my grandparent’s day, encyclopedias sought to show people the world they would probably never otherwise see, or hear.  Thus each volume has a pronunciation key at the front to educate your ear as well as your intellect.2014-01-01 14.42.15

The Easy Reference Fact-Index for the A volume is 49 pages long and filled with abbreviations, pronunciations, and definitions, and many handy little tables.  Here’s a TOC showing what extras you get in this volume, and a couple of quick pictures of the bonus materials.

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