…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World
Back in my childhood, when I was about seven years old, I inherited a ten-volume set of Arthur Mee’s Children’s Encylopedia, and I still have it to this day – I can remember the moment quite well when I received the big box of books, largely made up of this heavy set, but also including a couple of other books, one is about chess, which I still have, but have no interest in.
I say I “inherited” these books, but they were given to me by my grandparents, but because my grandad’s death followed shortly after in my memory of things, it now seems that his passing was expected, but I was perhaps too young to have that explained to me, and these books were given to me as a gift, as a part of their belongings that they were in the process of clearing out.
These books don’t form an Encyclopedia in the traditional sense – Volume One doesn’t begin with the Aardvark, and Volume Ten doesn’t end on Zoology (although it does form an index). No, it has what seem to be random articles, stories and projects aimed at different age groups, from very young children who are still to learn their alphabet, to older children who’s intelligence and command of mental arithmetic is pushed beyond that of my own.
As Wikipedia says:
The encyclopædia was originally published in fortnightly parts between March 1908 and February 1910. Some readers could have bound their collections … Each section contained a variety of articles, developing topics as it progressed. The work could be used as a conventional reference library, as the last volume had an alphabetical index, or each section could be read from start to finish. [link]
It is this span of time and the age span of the targeted reader, that makes reading the Encyclopedia quite charming and also a fun challenge.
Indeed, because of the challenge these encyclopedia sat on a top shelf in my childhood bedroom, dipped into rarely, for some ten years, sometimes carefully lifted down – although one time they did suffer some abuse at my hand when I had the not so bright idea of using them as lifting weights… to be fair they didn’t arrive in my care in pristine condition, but they are a little more fragile now with the passage of time and those occasional little mishaps.
I think I always had it in my intention to one day read the Encyclopedias, like the Bible, but it was one of those ideas that risked remaining a “one day…” thing. 2013 year saw the beginning of that “one day”, and I made a start – I read Volume One. The next year Volume Two, This year I have been slowly progressing through Volume Three.
From time-to-time I have been sharing (and will surely continue to do so) little snippets in my blog – some of the things I find of interest, and the little gems I think deserve to be immortalised, rather than lost within dusty pages which few people might have access to, so I thought I’d write this as a sort of belated introduction.