Value in an old encyclopedia


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Value in an old encyclopedia

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Août 21, 2012, 1:36pm

I've got a 1957 edition of the Britannica as well as an encyclopedia devoted to science and technology. They're both lovely and informative, but they take up too much space.

Has anyone held on to their old editions? If so, how have you justified keeping them?

Août 21, 2012, 1:56pm

Haven't held on to them, but really regret getting rid of them. Hang on if you can. We had a 1970 set of World Books & a 1956 set of Funk & Wagnall's. What was I thinking!!?? I sold them to a Mexican fellow at a yard sale who thought they would help his kids learn English. I hope they did. We had a lot of fun looking at the pictures and reading them when we were growing up.

Août 21, 2012, 2:11pm

#1: I have a similar problem as I'm trying to get rid of lots of things - no encyclopaedias but certainly many books. The question I always ask myself is "when did I last look at this?" or "am I really going to look at this again?. From your post I get the impression you still get enjoyment and pleasure out of yours - so hang on as varielle says.

Août 21, 2012, 2:48pm

Thanks to you both; you echo many of my sentiments.

I posted this question in this particular forum because it's the science content I am most concerned about. I feel that these books aren't that necessary because so much of the material has been superseded. Any thoughts?

Août 21, 2012, 2:59pm

A lot of the information in science has been updated since 1957. However, some of the ideas remain the same. With older science books, there usually is some knowledge of value not available in newer additions. Some obscure but interesting opinions of people that have been forgotten, a different perspective on a particular phenomenon, or valid explanations that may be true, but have been trashed in light of new and more popular explanations.

One other thing: in 1957 science was conducted like science. That is, there were predictions made that could be tested through experiment or observation. When observations did not match the theories, observations won the battle, and new theories had to be formulated. Today, science has gotten a bit sketchy with non-scientific ideas creeping in that can never be tested. Observation of space has consistently gone against the big bang, yet fudge factors are thrown in to keep the theory alive (e.g. dark matter). String theory is like a religion where there are no tests, can never be tests, and you just have to accept everything on faith.

So your 1957 encyclopaedia on science is probably worth keeping.

Août 21, 2012, 3:07pm

I was a historian, not a scientist, so the context and interests of the times are what are most appealing to me in these old books.

Août 21, 2012, 3:39pm

5> My understanding is that the cosmic background radiation experiments pretty much proved that the big bang happened, or at least there aren't any compelling competing theories that can explain the data. Dark matter was proposed because the movements of the stars within galaxies act as if there is a lot more matter in the galaxy than the mass that we can see, although I believe that was only one of the anomalies that it's supposed to address.

In general I think that science has always had theories that went beyond the evidence, after all you can't design experiments unless you have a theory that you're trying to prove.

Août 21, 2012, 9:02pm

When we had to sell our parents home I advised donating the 1947 ? ish set of Britannica encyclopedias. At the time I thought they could be used as a historical chronicling of the Literati whose opinion held sway at the time and was accepted. I have since seen this done, referring to an article in a dated Britannica as an example of what scientific opinion was held in a particular year. Maybe the "popular opinion" might be more accurate. ;-)

Since I believe they are all in some kind of electronic format now a set would be just quaint perhaps.

Août 22, 2012, 12:37am

Back in 1996, my parents decided to buy a set of encyclopedias for each of my siblings who had children. It was a huge outlay of money -- there were six who qualified. And because I was the only one who had a computer, I also got the encyclopedia on a CD-ROM.

My folks had an Encyclopedia Britannica from, oh, I can't even imagine how old it was; and in the early 60s, got a brand new set of the World Book encyclopedia, which we used quite extensively, and I read random pieces from it often over the years. When they retired, one of my sisters took both sets, because no one else wanted them. About a year later, she donated them to her local library, and they were happy to get them. She died almost two years ago. MrsHouseLibrary and I went north to attend her memorial service. We also happened to visit her town's library (in Washingtonville, NY). It's a lovely old building. Inside, I found both sets of encyclopedias available to reference.

The ones my folks bought -- my kids NEVER used them. I've read a few sections of random volumes, and found them sorely lacking any in-depth information, and inconsistent in the writing styles. My kids have grown and gone, although one is back temporarily, and none have any interest in having them. We're in the process of weeding out (hopefully hundreds of) books we know we'll never read, and the encyclopedias have already been removed from the catalog. The library doesn't want them; the book stores don't want to buy them. More than likely, they'll be donated to Goodwill. Pretty damn sad...

Août 22, 2012, 2:56am

Aside from their decorative value, depending on the encyclopedia, some are still useful.

Older children's encyclopedias often included science fare and craft projects which are still of value or illustrate things which would be difficult to find out how-to-do today. For historical purposes they can also be extremely helpful. One example, I needed information on quill pens and found a wonderful article detailing their industrial production in England in a 1912 encyclopedia. Which I would never have found (other than as a passing reference as a writing instrument) in a modern one. The older encyclopedias tended to include more practical topics.

Août 22, 2012, 10:16am

Observation of space has consistently gone against the big bang, yet fudge factors are thrown in to keep the theory alive (e.g. dark matter).

Umm, no. Observation of space has consistently supported the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang is better supported now than it was at any point in the past. The concept of dark matter has nothing to do with Big Bang theory, it has to do with the measured luminosity of stellar objects compared to their measured mass.

The idea that dark matter is a fudge factor thrown in to keep the Big Bang theory alive is silly and completely at odds with history. The Big Bang theory was first formulated in 1931, based upon the observations of the redshift of distant galaxies. Dark matter was hypothesized in 1932 to help explain the motion of stars in the Milky Way.

Août 22, 2012, 10:25am

We had a set of Britannica growing up ... I also remember the yearly update volumes. I've occasionally wondered what ever became of those ... my mom sold the house and moved into a condo when I was in college, and I suspect that the encyclopedia got given away prior to the move, as I don't recall ever seeing them at the new place.


Août 22, 2012, 10:55am

I wouldn't keep a science and tech enyclopedia for anything other than historical/art reasons. They are out of date far too quickly. (cf Big Bang as above).

My parents still have a set that was published in the 30s I think. The Great War is in, but the 2nd hadn't happened yet. As kids we had some enjoyment out of looking up things that weren't in the books, and historical "facts". But it is pure sentiment, no other justifcation.

Août 22, 2012, 11:20am

I am in my early 20s. My family had a set of encyclopedias from the mid-70s in our house growing up, as well as an out-of-date globe from the Soviet era. We kept them for sentimental reasons (they belonged to my father's father, who passed away before I was born), but as an extremely nerdy kid, I thought there was nothing better than looking through the encyclopedias and seeing the old country names and borders. I had no confusion about how these were outdated. I loved looking at the old versions of things and then talking to my dad about how things had changed since the 70s.

I think it's key to view these as historical objects. I certainly didn't write any elementary school reports based on those encyclopedias!

->5 GaryPatella: Let me guess: you're into loop quantum gravity?

Modifié : Nov 5, 2012, 4:56am

In reply to "5/GaryPatella",

But, don't forget that Einstein himself used a fudge factor in the equation for general relativity. It's called "the cosmological constant," and so far no one's been able to really budge it.

Fév 11, 2013, 1:46pm

Yes, Einstein's cosmological constant was a fudge factor. However, I think there is a very big difference between a theory with ONE fudge factor and a "theory" that requires a plethora of fudge factors. At what point do we stop trying to force the square peg into the round hole? If you have a theory that needs 50 different fudge factors in order for it to work, maybe it's a sign that the theory wasn't really any good to begin with.

Modifié : Fév 11, 2013, 3:43pm

If this is still being discussed, you should know that #5 has it exactly backwards. Observations continually provide more and more evidence for inflation and dark matter, and attempts to deny these observations are trying to force the square peg into the round hole.

Fév 11, 2013, 3:11pm

16: But the cosmological constant has been reoriented so now it represents an addition to the energy and momentum of the universe. Exactly how is it a "fudge factor"?

Fév 11, 2013, 5:47pm

This discussion, having reached (in Posts 16 & 18) the cosmological level, has almost certainly reached its limit, at-least as defined by use-value. But before I get swallowed-up in a Black Hole, let me cast a vote for whatever course gives you the best chance for personal satisfaction. In my case, although I have made some cosmically stupid decsions about letting-go of books (and recordings, and art), I console myself with the thought of all the goodies which have come my way just by dumb luck -- or somebody else's agonized decision) of the sort which you're trying to make now. Be at peace -- decide -- AND MOVE ON! Best, -- Goddard