When I was a youngster, I loved spending what seemed like hours, looking through the family encyclopedia set. It even started before I could read. I enjoyed looking at all the photos, charts, and graphs. I remember stumbling upon a page with a real nice photo of a man, with a banner above the photo featuring the man’s name. I recall asking my Mom, “Who’s this man?” Mom replied that he used to be the President of the United States. With this new knowledge, I kept scanning through all the volumes of our encyclopedia set and I kept finding more Presidents. “Here’s another one!”, “And another!” I would bring them to my Mom’s attention with each and every President I found. This discovery leads to one of my earliest passions as a youngster, learning about the U.S. Presidents. With Mom’s help and our trusty family encyclopedia set, I eventually learned all the U.S. Presidents in order by the time I was in 1st – 2nd grade.
I also recall my Dad showing me a chart in the encyclopedia about all the ranks in the U.S. Army. I also remember reading about Ben Franklin and all that he accomplished in his lifetime. As I grew older I use to look at the encyclopedias at school and at the public library. These volumes were so much nicer than what we had at home. So many more glossy photos and more spectacular text than what we had at home, although I still loved what we had at home.
In today’s world with the internet, Google, and Wikipedia at our fingertips, most folks don’t use the “old fashion” book version of the encyclopedia anymore. I was shocked to find out that most of the encyclopedias that were around for years are no longer being printed. Collier’s and Funk & Wagnalls ended printing their encyclopedias in 1997. Arguably one of the best encyclopedia sets was the Encyclopedia Britannica which published its final print edition in 2010. They now provide a subscription online encyclopedia service. From my research, the only available print version of a traditional encyclopedia set is World Book Encyclopedia. As it turns out, the World Book Encyclopedia was the set I recall enjoying at school and the public libraries with all the great glossy photos. Well, I did something in 2021 that I’m sure very few individuals have done in many years. Can you guess?????
That’s right…….I purchased a brand new World Book Encyclopedia set. Specifically I bought the 2019 World Book Encyclopedia set. In 2021, the 2019 was discounted to be less than 50% of the retail price. A pretty good discount, so I made the purchase. When it arrived it was so cool looking through all the volumes and all the glossy photos I remember so well. I had to thin out some of my older books, to fit the entire set on my bookshelf, but it was a thrill having my own set of encyclopedias for the first time in my life.
That’s not where this little nostalgic trip down memory lane ends. After enjoying my new World Book set, I got to thinking of our humble family encyclopedia set we had when I was growing up. I didn’t even remember the total name outside of “Bobley”. It was these books that I learned all of the U.S. Presidents as I mentioned previously. So, I turned to Google and eBay and ventured around the internet and to my surprise, I found the exact set that I grew up with. This was the Illustrated World Encyclopedia put out by Bobley Publishing. We had the 1965 version. (LBJ was President…but we had no Vice-President). I found it on eBay and as I said, it was the exact set and in great condition. So one thing led to another, and at this point, Johnny Boy now has 2 encyclopedia sets in our modest home.
No…believe it or not…I’m not quite done yet. I continued to enjoy the nostalgia of the looking through encyclopedias, including the same set I use to read as a youngster. I was remembering another set that was in my older brothers room. I’m assuming once they added stereos to their room, the books were evicted. I recall very colorful and photographic covers. I was really young with these memories, definitely not even reading age yet. My strongest memory of this set was one volume had photos of various insects/bugs on the cover. Back to the internet I went. After some more goggling and surfing on the internet, I found which set that was also. This set that my brothers had in their room was The Golden Book Encyclopedia, 1959 edition. As it turns out, Helen remembers this encyclopedia set as well. Helen’s sister said that their Father bought it a volume at a time at the grocery store. Again, I was fortunate enough to find a very nice set on eBay and very affordable. This set is only 16 volumes. For a 1959 set, the condition is phenomenal. By the way, the volume I remember, was Volume #8 with Jefferson on the cover along with the Taj Mahal, and many insects and bugs!!!!
And that’s my encyclopedic trip down memory lane, that turned this house from having no encyclopedia sets…….to 3!!!!!! I had to do some more rearranging to get all 3 sets on my bookshelves. Life is an ever-going cleaning, re-arranging process. Bringing back these 3 encyclopedia sets back into my life definitely brings a smile to my face. Sure, I still use Google, Wikipedia and other online sources, but sometimes it’s nice to pull a volume off the shelf and read what they have to say as well. Who thought the “Old School” way would still be fun!!!!!