I am interested in acquiring a complete encyclopedia set for various reasons, one being the removal of history as some sort of social justice. I’m sure everyone has heard the stories, but textbooks and written history have been under attack for many years as well. An acquaintance of mine fights tooth and nail every year to keep subjects within textbooks without a political spin.
The Internet is a vast resource, however it is ever changing and it would be great to have a vast amount of information that can’t be changed or turned off at the flip of a switch. Please advise as to the publisher, year, or any other relevant information.
Thanks for the blog, – R.T.
SurvivalBlog’s standard answer is the 32-volume, 15th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, preferable one printed after 2005. While any hard copy encyclopedia this comprehensive is going to be horribly out of date on many subjects, it is still the best resource that I have found and we used our set regularly in homeschooling. I see sets advertised for $1,000 to $15,000 on eBay, but we picked ours up for free from a friend who was trying to make room in her bookshelves. Keep your eyes and ears open and you can generally find a good deal on them, though it is getting more difficult.
As a retired teacher, I agree with your choice. The EB always excelled on scholarship. I would suggest, however, an older edition might be more useful post-TEOTWAKI since it covers earlier technologies in more detail. One of each would be ideal, and would work just as well when the lights went out!
I agree that the older the encyclopedia set, the better.
If money is an issue, I’d start out by asking some older folks you know if anyone has a set tucked away that they would be willing to give you. I got an entire Worldbook (minus letter C which I need to find) set for free that way. It’s older, late 70s I think, but that’s ok for me as im storing them for emergency homeschooling.
The 11th edition of EB is considered the scholars edition, and while it has a few eyebrow raising articles it’s very well written. It’s also out of copyright so you can get a digital copy for a very low price on ebay. You can also find the books for sale as well but it will cost a lot.
I have three copies of EB, all 15th editions, look for one that includes the great books of the western world, or find them and add them into your collection as well. Also, see if you can get the year books as well.
You can buy the 1st editions as well, but I don’t recommend them. I do own them.
My suggestion is to start going to estate sales. In most cases the families just want to get rid of stuff and encyclopedia sets are not popular sellers. Typically you will only see them in some of the more affluent areas and they are generally older versions.
Garage sales, Craigslist etc. I’ve kept my set for years and will until I pass then hopefully one of the children will see the value. The EB is the best IMO.
Unfortunately I’ve discovered older is not always better. We bought a gorgeous set of Encyclopedia Brittanica’s from 1898 thinking they would encompass a more conservative, traditional viewpoint (and because the science and math sections were so detailed). Boy, were we wrong 🙁 After reading through the section regarding taxation we discovered the set focused on what apparently was popular at the time (or the agenda the encyclopedias wanted to push), which was the Marxist way of thinking. Sure enough, after skimming some other topics such as socialism and slavery it was obvious to us this set is NOT what we had wanted. (Socialism was touted as the best and only way a society should function and American/British slavery was the bain of existence while Arab slave-owners treated slaves as members of their family)
Buyer beware: when searching for old encyclopedias read sections that deal with potential agendas first to make sure you are buying what you want!
my my, from 1898 even! that’s a real eye-opener! here i was saying beware of anything after the 70s, but the basic idea is important even going much further back! yes, i can only enthusiastically second your warning to make sure you check whats actually written in those volumes!
I found a set of “global encyclopedia ” from 1988. It was at the yearly library book sale for $2.00. Not per book – that was the set.
Even with flaws – it has more information in a small area than any other book set I have.
We also have a high school level us history and government book that is very comprehensive and has deceleration of independence and constitution printed in the book.
I am still hunting a world history text that is comprehensive. As well as a collection of classic books ( the kind students dont read in school anymore).
We got our pieces of three sets of World Book for free from various places, including friends who were clearing out sets. I grabbed them up because they are a good source of information. They aren’t my only source, however. I know that anything written can be slanted, so I supplement with other books. I shop at thrift stores for books of various kinds. Books are going out of vogue, so they can be acquired cheaply. I look for original works of founding fathers and classic literature. I also look for how to books on homesteading topics, such as woodworking, furniture repair, butchering animals, sewing, etc. Just about any how to book on topics covered in Back to Basics is a good book. I have several copies of Back to Basics. To me, even if encyclopedias are socialist/communist in their slant, they are still valuable, as long as you go into it knowing that they are slanted. Any written media won’t be completely unbiased. It can’t be. If you have a well rounded library, you can have resources available that show a different view. In this culture, even a sheltered child needs to know that the world holds the socialist worldview, in order to be a force to combat it. A good homeschool parent will prepare them for that job by slowly educating them about it.
Another place to look would be used book stores. Even if they don”t have them they may be able to get them for you.
A few years ago I purchased a full 54 volume set of “The Great Books of the Western World” for $12.50 at a library fundraising sell. They had been priced at $25 on the first day but I waited until they were discounted 50% on the second day.
The writings of some of our greatest minds in history — in high quality paper and binding — going for the price of used Britanny Spears CDs.
To the list of threats to our survival add the $1 Trillion per year K12 educational system.
The McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. I had a late-60s edition of this at home as a kid and it was one of the most brilliant things to have around. Many years later i found a late-70s edition cheap and worth every penny.
Some other sets of books worth the money and the trouble to find them are, if you manage the money, a complete set of Toynbee’s Study of History (the unabridged if you can, the abridged version can be found easily and cheap), Will Durant’s series on history, for the wealthy folks who want to round out a ‘base’ collection in a solid library, the Cambridge ancient history and medieval history (as well as basically the entire cambridge history of XYZ series) , and for those who truly have the cash and the space to spare, a complete Loeb Classical Library.
Another thing not to be without in a library is a good Atlas or two. I personally really like the older (up to the early 90s) Times Atlas. Litho maps of unimpeachable quality, not yet invaded by cheap and trashy looking computer-aided desktop publishing
cut&paste rubbish.. a really good atlas. The older national geographics are good as well but the Times has a geographical topo map scheme whereas the NG atlas doesnt show nearly as good information on elevations and terrain.
For a generic encyclopedia the original poster asked about.. i dont know if i’d really prefer one. an older (70s) brittannica perhaps. A lot of those kind of books in the 90s and later got cheapened significantly and especially in the post-2000 era a lot of editorial liberties have been taking rewriting things to make them politically correct (and factually dangerous or useless)..
one more thought.. i’d also highly recommend finding a copy of the new testament _in the original greek_ and for those who don’t read greek, a few books to help get the hang of the language. Not that many people would go all the way and learn to read it straight through but as a final authority reference book it would be good to have. Here, one should be very picky about what text one seeks- Either the ‘byzantine text’ or the ‘textus receptus’. The byzantine text is what is used as the official text in the greek orthodox church (and thus there are many current printings), and the TR is _almost_ identical. TR is what the KJ english translation was taken from.
While I strongly endorse both the idea of getting the Encyclopedia Britannica and of printed works vice computer media I would note several things:
a) When newspapers were printed, they were more careful with their deceit –because they could not retrieve all the printed copies they had disseminated.
In contrast, internet web sites can be covertly modified and changed with no one the wiser. I noticed this with some web sites who had beat the drums for the invasion of Iraq and who did some “maintenance” after the discovery that Saddam had no nukes.
Our history has always been somewhat misleading but it is now becoming something much worse — mallable as clay.
b) Mortimer Adler noted that while the Great Books had much Truth they also had much Error and even Falsity. Education is the process of critical analysis to discover where each lies.
Strangely enough, if you try it you will discover that the minds of ancient men from other worlds expose the deceits of today’s world pretty effectively.
c) However, the Great Books are not the final word — modern scholars are pretty good at exposing the deceits of the ancient world as well. There has also been massive progress in science. The value in reading Galileo and Kepler lies not in their scientific models but in seeing how they thought and why/when/where science advances and why/when/where it does not. A question that since Adler has become an entire discipline in itself: History of Science.
d) History shuffles papers — original documents known as primary sources. But advances in physics and other areas of science has allowed archaelogists to greatly amplify and even refute much of what we thought we knew about history.
e) Science, engineering and medicine tend to hew closely to the truth — its hard to con the real world. In contrast , much of the humanities and social sciences seem to be in the process of becoming a vast collection of politically correct fiction — also known as lies. Its graduates include many of the liars who have dumped such misery, poverty and death upon this nation — for the benefit of their rich masters.
People who read Socrates — and then became the kind of sellout prostitutes that Socrates so deeply despised. Of course Socrates was an unemployed military veteran who was forced to drink poison by a kangaroo court –which may be another lesson for us.
Don Williams :
Well done sir!
I enjoy everything you add to the blog you truly help educate me on a lot different subjects, thank you very
much and keep up the good work!
God Bless you and yours in all your endeavors.
When we began homeschooling, the suggested resource was high school level Texts from Christian publishers. I was able to buy them used from Christian school book sales (parents preferred new books!). We then had a Christian perspective of history, science, government, geography and literature (literature is usually abridged or just excerpts, so you have to hunt for the originals). We also constantly checked thrift stores, used book and antique stores for quality books, or reprints of older texts and writings from the founding fathers.
I grew up reading the Golden Book Encyclopedia for kids, the 1961 edition. The graphics are amazing and drew me to want to read them. I gained a surprising amount of knowledge from them that stayed with me for life and all of the text was written before political correctness had changed the information now given to children. I gave a set to all of my nephews and nieces. I think they are a great family resource and you can get a used set on eBay for $20.
What is the best $20 gift you can buy a kid?
What we did was save our home school books from Abeka Books. The history books and geography, economics, etc. Good information and truth. Saved our dvd’s of the classes we took. Priceless information, Christian based.
About 10-15 years ago, I bought a complete set of the (new/most up to date) World Book Encyclopedia, It has some more recent history and science, but gave up a lot of the information that I had found in my Grandparents Mid 50s WBE. A couple years back, I went searching online for the mid 50s version, I found a complete set for ~$40 at a site that was selling it “by the foot” for decorators whom wanted books of certain colors/etc to fill bookshelves. Hard to believe something like that exists, but its another place to look for old books if they were originally part of a large matched set…
Can you share the site the decorators used? Sounds wonderful. Thanks.
Encyclopedias from 1968 on back, either Encyclopedia Britannica or Encyclopedia Americana, would be good choices. Yes, to some extent both will reflect to some extent the popular beliefs of that era. Yet, they will have good information overall. The Encyclopedia Britannica that is considered the “classic” is the 1911 edition, and it will cost you several pretty pennies.
I suppose it also depends on what kind of information you want the Encyclopedias to have that is important.
If you are looking for more technical information, it might be better to look for compilations of Popular Mechanics and Popular Electronics, as those two sources may provide you with better practical information for use in any kind of situation.
If you are wanting something that covers history, some of the classics might be best, such as, Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization, The Story of Philosophy, The Lessons of History, etc.
Also, Arnold J. Toynbee’s 12 volume A Study of History provides a good world history to have access to and to get a good basic understanding of world history.
I remember when my mom first started homeschooling me there was this computer encyclopedia called encarta. I loved using it for assignments and it even had some games that helped teach history and science. Does anyone know if they are still making it? We want some sort of encyclopedia set for our kids but are limited on space
I went looking for this myself, and did not find any sources for new. But, on ebay I bought an old CD ROM with the complete Encarta encyclopedia on it for very cheap. This went into our laptop that we keep in a faraday box.
I’ve eschewed the KJV of the Bible since understanding some of the twists that English king made in it. I now use the 1599 Geneva Bible, Patriots Edition printed in July 2016.
When Jimmy read his translator’s original version where common people placed the emphasis of putting God’s authority above earthly kings, he made them modify it in his version and mandated Bible burning of all Geneva Bibles.
For those of us burdened with English as our primary language, the GB was the version originally brought to this continent by the earliest settlers, and it was of especial inspiration to all whom were fleeing earthly regent Servitude.
While not an encyclopedia reference, the Geneva Bible footnotes are providing me wonderful refreshed insights into Gods daily plans for living, which is truly what He desires of us…..to be His living companions in the image of Adam and Eve.
I agree about the encyclopedia ideas given here. I would also suggest a couple of other ideas for knowledge. The fox fire books. I own the complete printing of Mother Earth News from volume #1 to the current issue. There is a lot of information there too.
There’s a popular and often misattributed statement that says, more or less, history is always written by the winners. (This in itself is at least an exaggeration – take a look at everything from the losing Greeks account of The Fall of Constantinople to the American Civil War to Vietnam.) But history is written with a motive.
I grew up on the late 50s / early 60s versions of World Book Encyclopedia and Childcraft How and Why Library, which presented a clear and rosy view of the world from a technological superpower taking its victory laps over the Japs and the Krauts (did you get a twinge at the unPC-ness of those words?) Of course, I’m still waiting for my flying car…
Whatever “authority” has compiled the historic, social and technical information for an encyclopedia, it will have produced it from a point of view and with an agenda.
Unless you’re studying absolutes like the atomic weight of hydrogen or the speed of light in a vacuum (and those will probably change as we learn ever more how much we don’t know), there can be no “truth,” only what has been collected or hidden, analyzed, distilled, reconfigured and disseminated to serve the ends of whatever world view decides such things at a given time.
I have my dads complete collection of National Geographic magazine from Alexander Graham Bell’s first issue to the 90s, when its liberal agenda became too much to stomach. Also collections of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Science and Mechanics, Popular Electronics, Popular Electronic Mechanical Science…well you get the idea.
I learned more about the social, political, financial and practical world views from the advertisements than from any history book – follow the money to know whats important and valued by a society.
My kids and now grand kids and I study these and all kinds of history, philosophy, science and literature mostly for their usefulness to stimulate critical thinking, animate robust dinner table conversation and promulgate skepticism for any power or authority. We question everyone and everything. And the more alphabet soup or attestations and credentials follow the name, the more we ask The Core Question: “Who has what to gain by causing me to believe and act in such and such a way?”
Bottom line, any modern encyclopedia will have enough information to get started, but it is up to the parents to use them and the questions they stimulate to guide researchers away from agendae and to a more rounded “truth.”
Does anyone know anything about the Encyclopedia Judaica? I inherited a set from my Dad. He was a Saturday-sabbath fundamentalist Christian minister, and a true biblical scholar. I learned much that I did not know, with many surprises, but surely not enough. So much to learn, so little time.
Encyclopedia Judaica is about Jews, not a world encyclopedia.
Wikipedia can be downloaded for offline use if desired.
Forgot the link for the portable self contained wikipedia:
I used a set from the mid 50’s in the 80’s when I was in high school. My history teacher was a little astounded at the things I wrote about VS what the newer history books taught. He became interested and would lend them to him now and then.
He was young, and a Briton…teaching US history..odd combo. They are still at my dad’s house and will most likely pass them on to my kids if they want them.
Another good source for reference material is the complete 24 year anthology DVD of Backwoods Home Magazine at backwoodshome.com
archive.org has millions of texts, but you have to use your noggin to figure out the best search word to get what you want.
Almost any topic you can think of has a documentary about it on YouTube that you can download with appropriate add-on apps.
Did anybody mention survivalblog.com archive?
Early (prior to 1900) quality encyclopedias are valuable for their maps and illustrations. Leather volumes for decorative purposes. There is little interest in other sets. I would call on local booksellers or estate dealers as they may have one setting around. Sadly I have dumped sets as they were not worth keeping.
I can’t advice which encyclopedia sets a best,but I can say the best ones I have found were a library discard sales.I have picked up various sets for less then five dollars.The best find was a rare set on encyclopedias about World War One for three doallars.Waht is bad about these sale, is that whatever they don’t sell usually gets thrown away.
I inherited that set from my grandfather a WW1 vet.
I bought a set of encyclopedias from an older neighbor who was having a garage sale. I remember my own parents purchasing a set when I was a child, and even then, I knew they were very expensive and valuable.
I realize that many people, myself included, like to have a hard-bound copy. However, it’s important to note that you can get an electronic version for free. The EB 11th edition is out of copyright, so it’s now in the public domain. Amazon has the set available for Kindle. You will need to download each volume separately. You do not need an actual Kindle to do so, although I really like my Paperwhite device. There are free Kindle apps for smartphones, tablets, and computers.
You can also go to the Project Gutenberg website (www.Gutenberg.org) and download the EB 11 set there, to save on your laptop or flash drive. You would be able to print out any pages that you want, although printing out the whole set would certainly be a bit much.
World Book is good for younger readers. It is organized so that the most basic and easy-to-read information is at the beginning of each article. Later in the article, there is more specific information at a higher reading level.