Back in the day, when google was something you wrote when you’d spelled goggle incorrectly, if you’d needed access to any information, you relied on an encyclopedia.
As a young teenager I travelled from Balham to Purley (might as well have been Pluto, it seemed so far away) to collect a set of ten 1928 Chamber’s encyclopedias from my dad’s boss. I still have them – there is so much dust on them, it looks like Miss Haversham could be my cleaner.
There are, however, many wonderful colour plates inside and, being nearly 100-years old, some interesting entries: Benito Mussolini: up and coming Italian politician; Dodo: flightless bird, in danger if humans ever visit Mauritius. It is also a great place to discover what countries used to be called, showing why you can never find a holiday brochure for German South-West Africa at your travel agent’s.
But there probably many encyclopedias in peoples’ houses: perhaps acting as doorstops or being used to create a set of steps if you’ve mislaid the ladder which gets you into the loft?
And what happened to door-to-door sellers of the Encyclopedia Britannica? Are they now trying to path over peoples’ drives with old books? I used to feel sorry for the salesman and bought the first once, thus making me capable of only knowing about things if they began with an A or a B. Perhaps they gravitated towards double-glazing salesmen? All 32 editions of the Britannica would certainly cut out a draught.
Next time any of my children/grandchildren ask me anything, I’m getting all ten volumes down, placing them on the floor and telling them the internet’s down.