In honour of my extra storage subscription …

… my first graphics-heavy post.

For the first time in awhile I stopped to look at a set of those books I keep far less for their content, really, than for their value to me as objects.  These would be my complete – yet imperfect*** – set of:

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“In Sixteen Accurate, Fact-filled Volumes Dramatically Illustrated with More Than 6,000 Pictures. The Only Encyclopedia for Young Grade-school Children. Accurate and Authoritative. Entertainingly written and illustrated to make learning an adventure.”

This encyclopedia is surely my very first source of many things learned and I remember looking through it repeatedly and for hours throughout my childhood.  (In family lore, however, these books served a far more important purpose for if not for them it’d have been far more difficult to get me to submit to potty training. )

The paper is thick.  There are no photographs or acetate sheets in here.  Obviously produced by many hands, the illustrations for the entries are coloured drawings, in various comic styles and some trying to approximate photos.  Consistently illustrated are the maps such as this piece of the map accompanying the article on Canada.

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Of course much of the information is now dated.  Many subjects are hardly those to interest grade-school kids today.  And the prose is obviously aged.  Still, one might expect to read outrageous things which wouldn’t make it into such literature today; yet, as far as I can tell the contents are relatively progressive or liberal.

A random example:

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Yes, thanks to the Golden Book Encyclopedia –

I’ve information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical

Ok, not quite, and only as a result of looking at this entry this very day did I learn that it’s called a “patter song.”

But speaking of gaiety, here’s an illustration not likely to find its way into a contemporary children’s encyclopedia.

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Oh, those ancient Greeks fellas, all gay from the waist down, taking quiet chariot rides in the country, stomping grapes together clad in nothing but loincloths, and sometimes clad in nothing but sky, rastlin’ in twos and threes and fours or more!  Can you make a lyre go bow-chicka-bow-bow?

Anyway …. Last night I did a little internet searching on the Encyclopedia.  Wiki informs me that Golden Press has switched hands several times in the last few years.  I’d thought some time back that a new digital edition preserving the original style would be neat (with or without any illustration of one naked man mounting another on all fours).

***Our set had the matte finish covers.  My cousin Bill had the glossy finish covers.  This set I now possess – not the same one as my childhood – is matte finish save for 1 volume, Volume 5 which is glossy and will face replacement should the opportunity present itself.  I acquired these volumes at a flea market north of Peterborough several years ago, an occasion subject to a nostalgia all its own.

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