Everybody’s Book Of Knowledge (Review)

I slid the book from the new books shelf because of the title.  Everybody’s Book of Knowledge.  I was immediately reminded of the set of encyclopedia we had in our home when I was young.  Our family’s 20 volume set was packed with concise articles about BookOfKnowledge-covervarious topics of interest to children up to high school age. I liked it so much, that I read the entire set, covers to covers.

The book in my hands, at the Norfolk (Nebraska) Public Library, turned out to have a different pedigree than the Book of Knowledge of my childhood.  Everybody’s Book of Knowledge: A Giant Compendium of Yesteryear’s Facts is a product of the United Kingdom.  It’s the second edition of the book originally published in London as Every Boy’s Book of Knowledge.  I quickly flipped through a few pages and decided to borrow it.

At home, I began to closely examine the book.  The introduction explained that the book is a condensed version of a two volume British encyclopaedia called Everybody’s Enquire Within.  The books were an offshoot of the common household tomes from the Queen Victoria era onward.  The “Enquire Within” books generally contained information about etiquette, household tips, and articles about curious topics.


Once I got past the awkward British rules of verb conjugation and how their culture names many  common objects, I set about to enjoy the pages that are generously illustrated.

Right away, I noticed that each mini article was titled as a question.  For instance one is entitled, “How Many Hairs Has Your Head?” Another comes under the heading, “Why Do We Sometimes Lose The Sense Of Smell?” Another is, “Can Butter Be Distinguished From Margarine?” Even the full color foldout illustrations use questions in the titles. “What Is That Butterfly Called? All The Species Found In Britain.” I pose my own question. “Were the Victorian compilers of this book instructed to only use titles in the form of questions?”

Many of the questioning titles are ridiculous to the point of absurdity.  “Is The BookOfKnowledge-ducksSteeplejack’s Calling Dangerous?”  “Did Napoleon Play Cards?”  “What Is Brocolli?”  “Why Has The Billy-Goat A Beard?”  “Are Any Monkeys Civil Servants?” The last title is a loaded question that we will likely answer in the affirmative without even reading the article.

After awhile I forced myself to ignore the peculiarity of question-titles, and simply enjoy the quaint nature of the articles’ content and the dated nature of the illustrations.  The drawings are quite detailed and artistic in their own rights.  The photographs are fascinating simply because of their ages and subjects.

BookOfKnowledge-tartanThe entries are not presented in alphabetical order as is the case with modern encyclopaedia. The pages contain topics that are totally unrelated.  For example, we find: “Where Is The Golden Gate?” “How Can Boiled and Raw Eggs Be Distinguished?” Did Cinderella Wear a Glass Slipper?” “Which Well-Known Poets Kept Strange Pets?”  All of these topics appear on one page.

I couldn’t help but compare how the act of reading Everybody’s Book of Knowledge is similar to random surfing of the Internet.  Thankfully, there is an index.

Overall, the book is rather entertaining as it opens a window on bygone times.

{ Everybody’s Book of Knowledge: A Giant Compendium of Yesteryear’s Facts; Edited by Charles Ray; 320 pages; published by Prion in London, UK; ISBN: 978-1-85375-880-5 }

J 7-1-01The Blue Jay of Happiness could not find an entry about blue jays in this giant compendium.

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in art, Books, cultural highlights, Entertainment, History, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Everybody’s Book Of Knowledge (Review)

  1. Hariod Brawn says:

    Ah, life’s eternal questions. . . ‘What is broccoli?’ and so many, many more. . .

    I love the way they subtitle the book ‘Yesteryear’s Facts’; it implies a sort of inbuilt redundancy or anachronism.

    Maybe I’ll write a book myself: ‘Broccoli Reconsidered’.

  2. But did you find a post about the Blue Jays baseball team? I’ve been meaning to bring that up but never had an excuse before.

    • swabby429 says:

      Good one. I don’t think Toronto fielded a baseball team during Queen Victoria’s reign. The book only has a general entry about crows and jays, but no reference to North American Blue Jays, birds or sports teams. 🙂

      • I actually didn’t know whether Europe had the blue jay species in it at all until international trade caused every species to be everywhere on earth. Mind you, I’ve read that there were lions and beaver in England until they were hunted to extinction about 1,000 years ago. Now there probably are again.

      • swabby429 says:

        There are two dominant species of blue colored jays in North America. Steller’s Jay, which is found in the Western States, and the Blue Jay, which is nearly everywhere else on the continent.

        Americans have been destructive of wildlife, too. Fortunately, Blue Jays are wiley enough to avoid extinction.

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