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Sunday, June 18, 2006

American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia

C'mon, what did you expect?

Something like this? :-)

In all seriousness, the article in the NY Times is worth reading. I spent 8 years at Encyclopaedia Britannica, and questions of who and what merited entry were always frustrating. Speaking about the brief coverage of contemporary figures like Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley says:

"Newt came and went rather fast but didn't leave hard fingerprints," Mr. Buckley said. "The quote, unquote conservative politicians have a pretty short lifetime in encyclopedia usage.

"It seems to me that if one were looking for orientation in such a world that the encyclopedia tries to serve that you would be more interested in Burckhardt," he said, a reference to Jacob Burckhardt, a 19th-century Swiss historian of the Renaissance, "than in any of more than 100 conservative senators in the past 50 years."

Statement of the obvious: that's what makes print encyclopedias so difficult to produce -- your editorial prejudice, um, policy gets trapped forever, or at least until you publish a new edition. Buckley's comments also steer us toward a huge issue in reference publishing: what is knowledge, and what is information, and what's the difference? Discuss. :-)


Anonymous said...

I am not sure there is too much "just the facts." Everything is distilled through a lens- even when people are trying to be objective.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like another 'there is no absolutes thing' which gets on my nerves sometimes.

How about if it were simplier:

Information is facts that are not debatable.

e.g. A square has four equal sides.

Knowledge is learned facts... so i suppose, facts comes first.