On Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 8:09 AM, William Pietri <william(a)scissor.com> wrote:
On 01/23/2010 02:59 AM, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen wrote:
William Pietri wrote:
I note that just last night I was browsing EBay
to see what a set of the
1911 Encyclopedia Britannica goes for. For $10, I could get it on DVD.
Or I could pay hundreds for a physical set. I would never buy the DVD,
but I might buy the physical set. And I already own a reproduction of
the 3-volume 1768 edition.
Out of curiosity, how does the three volume edition
I'm not quite sure how to answer that. Is there something you wanted me
to measure it against?
Personally, I find it a delight, and am prone to flipping through it
when I'm wondering what exactly an encyclopedia is. More for inspiration
than knowledge, of course. But it's nice to see the familiar features:
articles, large and small; redirects, see-alsos, illustrations,
references; even a proto-NPOV, where on topics of dispute, both sides
My second-favorite thing about it is that the three volumes, which were
published serially, are A-B, C-L, M-Z. I've always suspected they
started out with a surplus of ambition and then realized what they were
up against. And my favorite thing is the preface, which starts out,
"Utility ought to be the principle intention of every publication."
Reading through it never fails to remind me what a great enterprise an
encyclopedia is, both theirs and ours.
If there isn't a copy in the WMF office, I'm glad to leave mine there
upon request for a while.
In terms of "started out with a surplus of ambition and then realized what
they were up against." I think nothing surpasses the preface statement
Johnson <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Johnson>'s A Dictionary of the
English Language 1775, which was a remarkable (and solo) attempt to make a
complete dictionary. I think it rings true for the efforts we make on-wiki
today - still "chasing the sun":
"...the writer of dictionaries; whom mankind have considered, not as the
pupil, but the slave of science, the pioneer of literature, doomed only to
remove rubbish and clear obstructions from the paths of Learning and Genius,
who press forward to conquest and glory, without bestowing a smile on the
humble drudge that facilitates their progress. Every other author may aspire
to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this
negative recompense has been yet granted to very few….
When first I engaged in this work, I resolved to leave neither words nor
things unexamined, and pleased myself with a prospect of the hours which I
should revel away in feasts of literature, the obscure recesses of northern
learning, which I should enter and ransack, the treasures with which I
expected every search into those neglected mines to reward my labour, and
the triumph with which I should display my acquisitions to mankind…
But these were the dreams of a poet doomed at last to wake a lexicographer.
I soon found that it is too late to look for instruments, when the work
calls for execution, and that whatever abilities I had brought to my task,
with those I must finally perform it. To deliberate whenever I doubted, to
enquire whenever I was ignorant, would have protracted the undertaking
without end, and, perhaps, without much improvement; for I did not find by
my first experiments, that what I had not of my own was easily to be
obtained: I saw that one enquiry only gave occasion to another, that book
referred to book, that to search was not always to find, and to find was not
always to be informed; and that thus to pursue perfection, was, like the
first inhabitants of Arcadia, to chase the sun, which, when they had reached
the hill where he seemed to rest, was still beheld at the same distance from
A Dictionary of the English Language
-Liam [[witty lama]]
Peace, love & metadata
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