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Everything Explained That Is Explainable : On the Creation of the Encyclopaedia Britannica's Celebrated
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The audacious, improbable tale of twentieth-century American hucksterism, outlandish daring, and vision that resurrected a dyingEncyclopædia Britannica in collaboration with a floundering London Times, its astonishing success that changed publishing and that produced theBritannica's eleventh edition, the most revered edition (all 44 million words) of English-language encyclopedias, considered by many to be "the last great work of the age of reason" (Hans Koening,The New Yorker). The eleventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica represents the high point of optimism and belief in human progress that dominated Anglo-Saxon vision 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 tycoon 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sixteen selling "literary merchandise" by direct mail to isolated settlers across the American West, and who found an outdated set of reference books gathering dust in a warehouse, bought them for almost nothing, repackaged them, and sold them on credit as "one-shelf libraries" to farmers . . . 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 model that was forever after emulated . . .The author writes how Hooper and his partner, Henry Haxton, a brilliant Chicago adman, found theEncyclopædia Britannica, went to the then-struggling London Times in search of new ways to increase its readership, and produced and sold theEncyclopædia Britannica through the then unheard of notion of the Times Book Club . . .We see how, in a frenzy of effort and fanatical conviction, the eleventh edition was put together (40,000 entries by 1,500-odd contributors--200 of them women) . . . contributions by the most admired writers, thinkers, and scientists of the day, including John Muir, Lord Macaulay, G. K. Chesterton, Edmund Husserl, Bertrand Russell, W. M. Rossetti, among others.And we see how it all fell apart--the arrangement with the Times, the eleventh's editorial policy (it caused a scandal), a courtroom battle--before it came together again and continued on with Cambridge University Press . . .