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Everything Explained That Is Explainable: On the Creation of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's Celebrated Eleventh Edition, 1910-1911

Category: Book
By (author): Boyles, Denis
Subject:  HISTORY / General
  HISTORY / Study & Teaching
  HISTORY / World
  REFERENCE / Encyclopedias
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Published: June 2016
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 464
Size: 9.25in x 6.25in
Our Price:
$ 40.00
Available to order

Additional Notes

From The Publisher*The audacious, improbable tale of how twentieth-century American hucksterism, outlandish daring, and vision resurrected a dying Encyclopædia Britannica and a floundering London Times. The Britannica's astonishing success changed newspaper and reference-book publishing and resulted in the Britannica's beloved eleventh edition, the most celebrated edition of all English-language encyclopedias, called "the last great work of the age of reason" by Hans Koening The New Yorker).

The 44-million-word, 29-volume eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica represents the high point of optimism and belief in human progress that dominated the Anglo-Saxon vision of the world since the Enlightenment, combining scholarship and readability in a way no previous encyclopedia had or ever has again.

In Everything Explained That is Explainable, Denis Boyles tells the story of the American, entrepreneur, Horace Everett Hooper-bold, brash, autodidact, natural-born salesman who stumbled into the book business at age sixteen selling "literary merchandise" by direct mail to isolated settlers across the American West, and who found an outdated set of reference books gathering dust in a warehouse, bought them for almost nothing, repackaged them, and sold them on credit as "one-shelf libraries" to aspiring 19th-century farmers, merchants, schoolteachers and parents. His Western Book and Stationary Co. became one of the largest publishers in the Midwest, selling books directly to readers, bypassing booksellers, and forging a business model that was forever after emulated .

Boyles explains how Hooper and his partner, William Montgomery Jackson, a New England bibliophile, along with Henry Haxton, a brilliant Chicago adman, took an outdated, unmarketable edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica to the then-struggling London Times and developed revolutionary-and shocking-new ways to increase the paper's readership, saving both publishing institutions from financial ruin.

We see how, in a frenzy of editorial effort and fanatical conviction, the eleventh edition was put together as staffers raced against the clock to compile the 40,000 entries by 1500 contributors, including many women, and the most admired writers, thinkers, and scientists of the day-John Muir, Lord Macaulay, G. K. Chesterton, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, and W. M. Rossetti, among many others.

And then we see how it all fell apart, wrecked by a new owner of the Times, and resulted in a disastrous courtroom fight between Jackson and Hooper-before it miraculously came together at the very last minute, saved by a desperate gamble on Hooper and his encyclopedia by the unlikeliest of rescuers - Cambridge University Press.
Review Quote*Acclaim for Denis Boyles
"How grit and determination created an encyclopedia for the modern world . . . Boyles traces the evolution of the Britannica and the fate of the Times through lawsuits, battles for ownership, and ongoing money woes involving colorful, earnest, sometimes eccentric characters . . . Illuminating . . . A well-researched, brightly told history of the men and women who saved a great compendium of knowledge."
-Kirkus Reviews
Biographical NoteDENIS BOYLES is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, travel, humor, essays and criticism. He is a veteran magazine editor, and currently the co-editor of The Fortnightly Review. Boyles teaches journalism and political science at l'Institut Catholique d'Études Supérieures in La Roche sur Yon, France.