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Recently I was lucky enough to stumble across a nearly complete set of the 1926 Book of Knowledge Children’s Encyclopedias. Because the set of Encyclopedias were published in 1926, they officially entered the public domain this year.
The books that I have from this set aren’t in particularly great shape. They are worn and you can definitely tell that they sat somewhere completely untouched for decades. While they aren’t mildewy or musty thank goodness, they definitely have that classic “old book smell”.
I really love Encyclopedias, but like a lot of old non-fiction books, the information quickly becomes outdated. While there are many evergreen topics that haven’t changed over the past 100 years (especially if we are talking about history!) – there are also a lot of articles that become depreciated, especially if they talk about anything scientific or medical.
While the information may not always be entirely accurate, there is still a lot to learn and a lot of value in these old encyclopedias.
Reasons Why You Might Want to Digitize a Set of Encyclopedias
I originally picked up this set of Encyclopedias to use in creative projects like junk journals, collage, and more, but as I flipped through them I knew that before I could dare cut them up I needed to digitize them first. As I wrote in my article about what to do with old damaged antiques, one of the best things you can do is digitally preserve them.
As an artist and junk journal and bookbinding enthusiast, digitizing the books has another benefit: I can enjoy reusing the graphics over and over again. I don’t have to worry about “ruining” the originals because at any time I can simply print out another copy.
Since these books are now in the public domain, another advantage to digitizing them for my creative projects is I can share them with other people. It might be a crazy, ambitious project to digitize an entire set of Encyclopedias and post all the interesting things I find on our website, but I want to do that because maybe it would be useful to someone else.
Just like I am able to share old recipes and old needlework patterns, these things can become accessible to other people to use and enjoy, rather than be forever lost and destroyed.
Beyond just the creative reuse aspect, there are also a lot of benefits to doing this for anyone who might be interested in history or even researching their ancestry. If you need to know what things were like in a certain time period, reading an Encyclopedia from them is a good way to do it!
Lastly, the biggest reason I want to digitize these books is because they were written for children. I always tell my own kids, if you want to really learn how to do something or all about something – whether it’s a hobby and skill or just to better understand a topic – you should always start with the books that were written for kids. They explain things in simple terms and make it a lot easier to learn!
It will likely take me a good long time to digitize, OCR and post every page from the encyclopedias, but I will definitely be working hard to get all of those up here.
One of my biggest challenges of course in posting these online is figuring out the intricacies of organizing and displaying them on our website. Because it’s a project that will likely contain THOUSANDS of pages, and I want to give you the ability to download the original scanned images for whatever creative pursuits you may enjoy – there were a lot of things that make it challenging, even for me as someone with 15 years web development and server management experience.
The first book we digitized is Volume 8 of the set. Why not start with Volume 1? Well, Volume 8 was on top of the pile, and like digging a ditch, scanning an entire set of encyclopedias makes a whole lot of sense to start from the top down. 🙂
I will certainly write more about the history of the Encyclopedias and what’s inside each individual book because there’s so much to say – but first I need to get to work on getting them digitized and posted! 🙂
What do you think? Am I crazy for taking on such a monumental task? Are you excited to be able to easily read + view all the things from each Enclopedia? Will you use the images and printables for creative projects or will you use the articles to research history? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!