In this age of online encyclopedias, continuously updated newscasts, and daily blogs offering analysis of pretty much any issue you could think of, there are a lot of people who forget the value of a well-crafted book. I am fortunate enough to not be among them. I have been a fan of antiquities ever since I was a little kid, first browsing in my Grandfather’s bookshelves to see what I could find.
My grandpa had quite an impressive collection of antique books. He had boys books from his childhood, specialized scientific literature covering more than a century of thought, illuminated manuscripts that I was not allowed to go near, and a wide variety of other dusty leather bound books.
The highlight of his collection, however, was his shelf of antique encyclopedias. I did not know it at the time, but there were probably quite a few there that were extremely rare. Some of them might have been even one of a kind. Most of his antique encyclopedias were from the big companies. He had an antique Encyclopedia Brittanica from somewhere around the turn of the century that I used to love to look at, and a World Book Encyclopedia which was also very old. The most interesting ones, however, were those which were a little bit more obscure or specialized.
One of the best antique encyclopedias he had was an old copy of something called the Volume Library. It was meant to be used as a reference book for students, and was filled with information on almost every conceivable topic. There was info on history, science, mathematics, spelling, hygiene, composition, and probably a few other things I am forgetting now as I write it. Although some of the articles were a little bit dated, a surprising number would still be relevant today.
Some of the other antique encyclopedias were dedicated to one or another of my grandfather’s considerable range of interests. For example, there was a complete encyclopedia of local flora and fauna with extremely well-drawn and beautiful images of every species discussed. We used to take it with us on nature walks as a way to get to know the area and its plant and animal life. It was a lot of fun to compare those drawings with the actual species when we ran into them. In some ways, those sketches were even more useful than a photograph would be. They really brought each and every plant and animal to life for us.