On the Golden Book Encyclopedia

Fact-filled Volumes Dramatically Illustrated with More Than 6,000 Pictures. The Only Encyclopedia for Young Grade-school children. Accurate and Authoritative. Entertainingly written and illustrated to make learning an adventure!

Starting Terra Cognition (and writing the bio on the About page) has got me thinking recently about the books I read in childhood. I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first encountered the series of books that would set me on my lifelong quest for (not necessarily useful) knowledge and trivial information. One of my dad’s colleagues had an encyclopedia set- the Golden Book Encyclopedia– that he was giving away, and my dad took the set, thinking I might be interested in it.

He was right. Out of the cardboard box they came, slim volumes that had the old-book smell, that musty, time-worn smell you get at the good used bookshops. The set that I read was the same as the picture above, a rainbow of colours stacked along the shelf. I seem to remember that one of the volumes was missing, though I don’t remember which one. Anyway, I began to read them. Quite avidly.

A little background – the set, which was published by Golden Press, was a series of children’s encyclopedia volumes that covered everything from aardvarks to zoos in 16 volumes. The series had started publishing in the late 1940s and was updated periodically after that. Wikipedia says that the sets were published until at least 1988, though the set that I received was dated approximately in the mid-1960s.

Not that I noticed the dates at first. I remember reading the books, enjoying them as much for the detailed hand-drawn images as for the information they contained, never realizing it was information that was probably close to 30 years old by the time I read it. I just continued reading.

I did notice one annoying thing about the encyclopedia – the blatant America-centric information. In retrospect, I now understand that an American publishing company can be expected to dwell mostly on American geography and history, but at the time it seemed wholly unreasonable (how dare they overlook us!) I’m sure that every state (including Alaska and Hawaii, which would have recently achieved statehood) had its own article with detailed demographic description and everything, while Canada had, if I remember correctly, a two-page spread for the map and some accompanying text describing how rich in natural resources their mysterious neighbour to the north was. There were articles on the Yukon and Quebec, but strangely no article on Ontario. I would have to wait until I received the Canadian Encyclopedia on CD-ROM before learning more in-depth about Canadian history and geography.

In the end, I don’t remember what happened to the set. It likely ended up at Goodwill, though for all I know it could still be in storage at my parent’s place. The next time I’m at a used bookstore I’ll have to look for them – for the memories.

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  • Dorothy Maddy  On 11 March 2012 at 12:10 AM

    I have just dug out this set of encyclopedias I have had packed away for a while and came to try to find out how much these books are worth. I have the ones copyright 3rd addition 1060. I was 3 when they were printed and remember using them when I was little.

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