The Idea of a World Encyclopedia in Harper’s Magazine 174, No. 1043, pp. 472-482, April 1937

Harper & Brothers, 1937. 1st Edition. In November 1936, H.G. Wells delivered a lecture at The Royal Institution wherein her first presented the idea of a world encyclopedia. Following the lecture and also in 1936, Wells “issued a pamphlet of 32 pages entitled The Idea of a World Encyclopaedia” (Norman, History of Information). The first large publication of the lecture was appeared in the April 1937 issue of Harper’s offered here.

Wells begins by a statement on his preference for cohesive worldviews rather than isolated facts. Correspondingly, he wishes the world to be such a whole "as coherent and consistent as possible" (Harper’s, p. 472). He believed that 20th century encyclopedias had “failed to adapt to both the growing increase in recorded knowledge and the expansion of people requiring information that was accurate and readily accessible. He [asserted] that these 19th-century encyclopedias continue to follow the 18th-century pattern, organization and scale” arguing that they were essentially still in the “coach-and-horse phase of development… rather than in the phase of the automobile and the airplane” (World Brain 58).

Instead, Wells envisioned “a sort of mental clearing house for the mind, a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared” (ibid; Wells, World Brain,p. 49). Prior to the computer age, Wells believed that technological advances such as microfilm could be utilized towards this end so that "any student, in any part of the world, would be able to sit with his projector in his own study at his or her convenience to examine any book, any document, in an exact replica" (ibid, 54).

“Aspects of Wells's vision were eventually realized on the Internet through the Wikipedia in ways that Wells could not have imagined” (Norman). Two obvious ones are the non-commercial aspect of both as well as the international aspect of both. “In keeping with the universal vision, and anticipating a key Wikipedia norm, H. G. Wells was concerned that his [world encyclopedia] be an "encyclopedia appealing to all mankind," [meaning it therefore] must remain open to corrective criticism, be skeptical of myths (no matter how "venerated") and guard against "narrowing propaganda”” (Wikipedia). Item #1371

CONDITION & DETAILS: 10 x 7.5 inches. Complete original wrappers. Some wear to the wrappers; internally bright and clean.

Price: $475.00