The Children's Encyclopedia

The Children's Encyclopedia

"The Children's Encyclopedia", originally titled "The Children's Encyclopædia", was a printed encyclopedia originated by Arthur Mee, and published by the Educational Book Company Ltd., a subsidiary of the Amalgamated Press of London. It was published from 1908 through to 1964, and was found in many family homes throughout the British Empire.

Format and descriptions

The format of the encyclopedia was unusual: because it was originally published in fortnightly parts, each section contained a variety of articles, developing its various topics as it progressed. (Novels had been published in frequent sections even in the times of Dickens.) The complete work could be used as a conventional reference library, or read from start to finish. It could also be dipped into at random to provide entertainment and reading matter whenever required. As well as factual articles, it contained many classic stories, nursery rhymes, songs, bible stories and poems.

The encyclopedia was organised into the following sections:

* Earth and its neighbours
* Men and women
* Stories
* Animal life
* History
* Familiar things
* Wonder
* Art
* Ourselves
* Plant life
* Countries
* Picture atlas
* Poetry and nursery rhymes
* Powers
* Literature
* Ideas
* The Bible
* Things to make and do
* School lessons

These sections appeared in strict rotation, although in later volumes some of the sections reach their final instalments before others.

The tenth volume (eighth volume in early editions) contained a traditional index so that the encyclopedia could be used as a standard reference work.

The tone of the encyclopedia was thoroughly didactic, written with an often far from neutral point of view. Articles reflected the often strong and occasionally controversial views of its editors and contributors, including religious views, eugenics, and also exhibit the overt sexism and offhand racism somewhat typical of the time. Offsetting this was a moderate and liberal standpoint in many areas.

Authors included Dr. Caleb W. Saleeby, Harold Begbie, Ernest A. Bryant, Edward Step, Frances Epps, James A. Hammerton, Edward Wright and many others. The illustrations were mostly anonymous but illustrators included Susan Beatrice Pearse, C. E. Brock, Thomas Maybank, George F. Morrell, Dudley Heath, Charles Folkard, H. R. Millar, Alexander Francis Lydon, Arthur A. Dixon, Arthur Rackham and others. The books also made extensive use of photographs, engravings, maps and graphics.

While "The Children's Encyclopedia" was never sold in the United States, it was re-edited for the US market and retitled "The Book of Knowledge" (1911-12). A new company, Grolier, was founded to publish and distribute the book.

The encyclopedia was sold door-to-door, and many families bought it wishing to better themselves and their children. It was also used extensively by schools and for teacher training. As such the book is widely recognised as being very influential for several generations of British and Commonwealth children, and has become the subject of study by social historians, as it gives a great insight into the social values of the society that created it, and which in turn was influenced by it.

The encyclopedia was initially published as a part-work, the first edition released in fortnightly parts between March 1908 and February 1910 which readers were expected to have bound into volumes.

As the initial run of "The Children's Encyclopædia" came to an end, it was reissued as the monthly "New Children's Encyclopædia". The title changed over the period of its publication, becoming "Children's Encyclopædia Magazine", "Children's Magazine" and, finally, "My Magazine" in 1914. From September 1910, the magazine included a supplement of news entitled "The Little Paper", the forerunner of Arthur Mee's famous "Children's Newspaper", launched in 1919.

"The Children's Encyclopædia" sold over 800,000 copies in 12 editions before being extensively revised in the early 1920s. The new 59-part, 7,412-page, 10 volume series debuted in October 1922 (as "The Children's Encyclopedia", the digraph having been dropped) and went through 14 editions by 1946 under the imprint of The Educational Book Co.. Translations appeared in France, Italy, Spain and China.

New editions of the "Encyclopedia" continued to appear until the final, much revised, edition, entitled "Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopedia", appeared in 1964.

External links

* [ Britannica abstract]

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