A CONCISE AND COMPREHENSIVE DICTIONARY
OF GENERAL KNOWLEDGE
OVER 16,000 TERSE AND ORIGINAL ARTICLES ON NEARLY ALL SUBJECTS DISCUSSED IN LARGER ENCYCLOPÆDIAS, AND SPECIALLY DEALING WITH SUCH AS COME UNDER THE CATEGORIES OF HISTORY, BIOGRAPHY, GEOGRAPHY, LITERATURE, PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, SCIENCE, AND ART
EDITED BY THE
REV. JAMES WOOD
EDITOR OF "NUTTALL'S STANDARD DICTIONARY" AND COMPILER OF THE "DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS"
THE SIXTY-FIRST THOUSAND
"The NUTTALL ENCYCLOPÆDIA" is the fruit of a project to provide, in a concise and condensed form, and at a cheap rate, an epitome of the kind of information given in the larger Encyclopædias, such as may prove sufficient for the ordinary requirements, in that particular, of the generality of people, and especially of such as have not the means for purchasing or the leisure for studying the larger.
An Encyclopædia is now recognised to be as indispensable a book of reference as a dictionary; for while the latter explains and defines the vehicle of thought, the former seeks to define the subject-matter. Now the rapid increase in the vocabulary of a nation, which makes the possession of an up-to-date dictionary almost one of the necessaries of life, is evidently due to the vast increase in the number of facts which the language has to describe or interpret; and if it is difficult to keep pace with the growth in the language, it is obviously more difficult to attain even a working knowledge of the array of facts which in this age come before us for discussion. No man can now peruse even a daily newspaper without being brought face to face with details about questions of the deepest interest to him; and he is often unable to grasp the meaning of what he reads for want of additional knowledge or explanation. In short, it becomes more and more a necessity of modern life to know something of everything. A little knowledge is not dangerous to those who recognise it to be little, and it may be sufficient to enable those who possess it to understand and enjoy intelligently what would otherwise only weigh as a burdensome reflection upon their ignorance. Even a comparatively exhaustive treatment of the multitudinous subjects comprehended under the term universal knowledge would demand a library of large volumes, hence the extent and heavy cost of the great Encyclopædias.
But it is doubtful whether the mass of information contained in those admirable and bulky works does not either go beyond, or, more frequently than not, fall short of the requirements of those who refer to them. For the special student there is too little, for the general reader too much. Detailed knowledge of any subject in this age of specialisation can be acquired only by study of the works specifically devoted to it. What is wanted in a popular Encyclopædia is succinct information—the more succinct the better, so long as it gives what is required by the inquiry, leaving it to the authorities in each subject to supply the information desired by those intent on pursuing it further. The value of an Encyclopædia of such small scope must depend, therefore, upon the careful selection of its materials, and in this respect it is hoped the one now offered to the public will be found adequate to any reasonable demands made upon it. If the facts given here are the facts that the great majority are in search of when they refer to its pages, it may be claimed for "The Nuttall Encyclopædia" that, in one respect at all events it is more valuable for instant reference than the best Encyclopædia in many volumes; for "The Nuttall" can lie on the desk for ready-to-hand reference, and yields at a glance the information wanted.
Within the necessary limits of a single volume the Editor persuades himself he has succeeded in including a wide range of subjects, and he trusts that the information he has given on these will meet in some measure at least the wants of those for whom the book has been compiled. To the careful Newspaper Reader; to Heads of Families, with children at school, whose persistent questions have often to go without an answer; to the Schoolmaster and Tutor; to the student with a shallow purse; to the Busy Man and Man of Business, it is believed that this volume will prove a solid help.
The subjects, as hinted, are various, and these the Editor may be permitted to classify in a general way under something like the following rubrics:—
1. Noted people, their nationality, the time when they flourished, and what they are noted for.
2. Epochs, important movements, and events in history, with the dates and their historical significance.
3. Countries, provinces, and towns, with descriptions of them, their sizes, populations, etc., and what they are noted for.
4. Heavenly bodies, especially those connected with the solar system, their sizes, distances, and revolutions.
5. Races and tribes of mankind, with features that characterise them.
6. Mythologies, and the account they severally give of the divine and demonic powers, supreme and subordinate, that rule the world.
7. Religions of the world, with their respective credos and objects and forms of worship.
8. Schools of philosophy, with their theories of things and of the problems of life and human destiny.
9. Sects and parties, under the different systems of belief or polity, and the specialities of creed and policy that divide them.
10. Books of the world, especially the sacred ones, and the spiritual import of them; in particular those of the Bible, on each of which a note or two is given.
11. Legends and fables, especially such as are more or less of world significance.
12. Characters in fiction and fable, both mediæval and modern.
13. Fraternities, religious and other, with their symbols and shibboleths.
14. Families of note, especially such as have developed into dynasties.
15. Institutions for behoof of some special interest, secular or sacred, including universities.
16. Holidays and festivals, with what they commemorate, and the rites and ceremonies connected with them.
17. Science, literature, and art in general, but these chiefly in connection with the names of those distinguished in the cultivation of them.
Such, in a general way, are some of the subjects contained in the book, while there is a number of others not reducible to the classification given, and among these the Editor has included certain subjects of which he was able to give only a brief definition, just as there are doubtless others which in so wide an area of research have escaped observation and are not included in the list. In the selection of subjects the Editor experienced not a little embarrassment, and he was not unfrequently at a loss to summarise particulars under several of the heads. Such as it is, the Editor offers the book to the public, and he hopes that with all its shortcomings it will not be unfavourably received.