Why I'm keeping my Encyclopedia Britannica -- all 24 nondigital volumes
‘But I need them!’ I exclaimed. Gently, my wife asked, ‘When did you last use them?’
My wife came into my study with a suggestion bordering on heresy.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“Why,” she asked, “don’t you get rid of your encyclopedia?”
She is of the view that my study should be tidy, unmoved by my protestations that it is a place of work.
It is true that although my study probably has about 200 feet of shelves for books, they are fully occupied. Excess books are piled upon books, and cascade out of the shelves into piles.
It is also true that I have books cached in other rooms of the house, as well as on about 150 feet of shelving in my campus office at the university where I teach. Books, in my view, are clearly not meant to be discarded.
Part of the family
About four feet of my study shelves are occupied by 24 leather-bound volumes of my Encyclopaedia Britannica. They have traveled from Asia to Boston and Maine, and across the American continent with the various moves I have made. They are sort of part of the family.
My practical wife explained that if I abandoned them I could move a pile of other, unshelved books, into their space, tidying things up somewhat.
Aghast at the very thought, I exclaimed: “But I need them!”
Gently, she asked: “When did you last use them?” I had to reply that it had been some time, perhaps even years. With a cunning thrust, she reminded me that we actually have a complete encyclopedia, given to us by a friend, on our computers.
Then, moving in for the denouement, she trumped her argument with a reminder that I routinely use all kinds of search engines to extract all kinds of needed information on my keyboard without turning a leaf of the printed encyclopedia.
In good company
But my Encyclopaedia Britannica has long kept neighborly company with my shelf of Reagan books and my shelf of Churchill books. I have a shelf of Bill Safire books and Bob Woodward books, and a shelf of books by Joe Harsch and Elizabeth Pond and David Willis and other Monitor colleagues, past