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THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 71 THE SAT 1.-ELIAT EVENING POST "Just a minute—he gets to answer some of the questions too!' to the Britannica. But already the Britannica had lived a couple of men's lifetimes and it had soaked up the diverse talents of many brilliant men who had sweated and sometimes alcoholized their ..... brains to write and edit it. Yust, when he becomes philosophical about the E. B., says he likes to think of it as an instrument which has been important in the development of democracy. He points out that, when the Britannica was launched in 1768, people were stirring restlessly and beginning to do something about democracy. The eccentric George III was on the throne of England, Louis XV ruled France, Frederick the War Lord held sway in Prussia; Catharine in Russia and Maria Theresa in Austria. In America, the Stamp Act had been fomenting revolution, and invitations to the Boston Tea Party were all but in the mail. The forgotten man of his day was beginning vigorously to call himself to mind. His heart was troubled, and wherever he looked he found things to trouble it the more. It was against such a global background that the Britannica was launched when three men—Colin Macfarquhar, a printer; Andrew Bell, an engraver; and William Smellie—met in Edinburgh, formed "a society of gentlemen" and planned publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica to bring information to English-speaking people—hence the name Britannica—of whom there were then some 14,000,000 in the world. "Utility ought to be the principal intention of every publication," the founders wrote in the preface to their first edition. "Wherever this intention does not plainly appear, neither the books nor their authors have the slightest claim to the approbation of mankind." The Convivial Scholar That statement in itself was revolutionary. Learning at that time was not for the masses, and the young Britannica was leading with its chin. Though Edinburgh was by way of being an eighteenth century Athens, with a renowned university and a group of scholars respected throughout the limited world of scholarship, of the three Britannica founders, only Smellie, the editor, had any claim to scholarship. He had written a number of books, was a Fellow of the Royal Society and officer of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. In the polite language of his day, Mr. Smellie was a gentleman "of convivial habits," a fellow member of Bobby Burns in a club called the Crochallen Fencibles. Burns wrote of his friend in premature Timestyle: Shrewd Willie Smellie to Crochallen came, The old cock'd hat, the gray surtout, the same; His bristling beard just rising to its might, 'Twas four long nights and days to shaving night; His uncomb'd grizzly locks, wild staring, thatch'd A head for thought profound and clear unmatch'd ; Yet though his caustic wit was biting, rude, His heart was warm, benevolent, and good. Not much is known of Macfarquhar, except that he was a printer and bookseller in Edinburgh. He was sued in 1770 by His Majesty's printer for issuing a Bible, and five years later he had to pay some $6000 to two rival booksellers for pirating an edition of Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son. Bell began his career humbly enough as an engraver of names and crests on dog collars, and rose to become Edinburgh's leading engraver. For the first edition of the Britannica he engraved 160 full-page copperplate illustrations, and for the second edition 340. They have been called superb examples of the art. Bell was notable for the smallness of his stature, an immense nose and a deformity of the legs. He alone of the partners made any real money from their venture. The plates reverted to him in the end, possibly because Macfarquhar was unable to pay him for the illustrations he made, and he died, at the age of eighty-three, a wealthy man. Poor Willie Smellie received the customary editorial pittance-200 pounds for his three years' work on the three volumes which comprised the first edition. Smellie did all the work himself, reading books from which he drew his material and writing the Encyclopaedia— some 2,000,000 words. The first edition was completed in 1771 and sold 3000 sets. James Tytler, the editor of the second edition, was also a "convivial" man and a friend of Burns, whose lasting affection Tytler won by writing a defense of Mary Queen of Scots. Burns, deeply moved, dashed off a Poetical Address to Mr. James Tytler, one stanza of which read: I send you a trifle, a head of a bard, A trifle scarce worthy your care; But accept it, good sir, as a mark of regard, Sincere as a saint's dying prayer. An M.A. who began his life's work as a druggist, Tytler became a free-lance writer and pamphleteer, and was known for his scientific interests. For more than seven years he labored at seventeen shillings a week to bring out the second edition of the Britannica in ten volumes. He kept his editorial awareness warm in various ways, once by making a balloon ascent—the first person in Great Britain to do so. He constructed a fire balloon— one in which the air was heated, to lighten it, by a bucket of burning coals— and succeeded in soaring to the incredible height of 350 feet over Edinburgh. Tytler was a warm-hearted crusader, a sort of eighteenth-century Pearl Buck, and he was finally forced to flee the country to escape the government's ire over pamphlets which he had written to expose current abuses. He came to America and edited a newspaper in Salem, Massachusetts, where, like many a good newspaperman before and since, he cooled his boiling anger at stuffed shirts of his day in taprooms, until one night he fell into a pit in Salem and died. Of all his predecessors, Yust confesses to a peculiar fondness for Tytler, possibly the attraction of near opposites. It is true that contemporary poets also like Yust—Carl Sandburg has been his friend for years—but Bobby Burns would have found him too objective for boon companionship. His crusades are sotto voce and the stars in his eyes are well charted. He is, for example, a definitely gentle Republican and an outspoken nonadmirer of New Deal philosophy. He rationalizes that on the ground that he doesn't consider it necessary to subsidize democracy, a wholly tenable stand, but also he was born and reared in Philadelphia at a time when a young Philadelphian became a Republican as naturally as a young Roman becomes a Christian. Yust takes his job seriously, but not himself. A tall, slim, quiet-spoken, youngish man, with an inner excitement which rarely bubbles over into anything overt, he has prematurely gray hair, which gives him a distinction fitting to a comparatively young man whom the Britannica's promotion brochures describe as an "eminent encyclopedist." Yust laughs that off with the iconoclastic observation that encyclopedists are so darned rare that " eminence" is an occupational adjunct, if not disease. He was too long a newspaperman to accept "eminence" at its type-face value or to refrain from picking at a pedestal with a jackknife. It was his critical picking at the Britannica's pedestal which got him his present job. As a staff member and literary editor of the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, he reviewed the fourteenth edition of the Britannica when it first came off the presses. It was a frank review, uninhibited by any false sense of sacrilege to ancient and established authority. Franklin H. Hooper, the Britannica's editor for that edition, read the review, and on the occasion of his next visit to Philadelphia invited Critic Yust to lunch. The eventual result of this was that Yust became Hooper's associate editor and succeeded him when he retired in 1938—a refreshing example of the rise of a no-man to eminence. Yust's patience and tact are unquestionably eminent because he successfully handles more prima donnas than any other editor in the world. The words "prima donnas" are not used inadvisedly. The nearly 4000 contributors to the Britannica are, by selection, the leading specialists in their fields. There is probably no severer critic in the world than one specialist about an article written by another in the same field. If Anthropologist A writes a piece on anthropology, it automatically has two strikes on it in the eyes of Anthropologist B. That goes for every special field. The Britannica editors were not greatly surprised, therefore, when they sent a historical article which had been in the book for a good many years, to the head of the history department of a Western university for scrutiny and possible revision, to get it back from the history man with the caustic comment that it was " badly disorganized, inaccurate and full of errors of both omission and commission." The professor added helpfully that he would be glad to undertake the job of writing a substitute piece. That was all right with the editors, but they were curious to see who had written such a " disorganized" and " inaccurate" article for them originally, and checked with their files. They were amusedly flabbergasted to find out that the article had been written by the professor himself— so many years before that he had forgotten it. He wrote another piece on the same subject—not noticeably better, either, in the editorial view. Bargain Wisdom None of the contributors writes for the E. B. with the primary object of increasing his worldly wealth. Its monetary pay is the same as that of some of the pulp magazines—two cents a word— whether the contributor is George Bernard Shaw, who got $68.50 for his article on Socialism, or Albert Einstein, paid $86.40 for his article on Space-Time. The pay in prestige, of course, is enormous, and the Britannica has little trouble commanding the services of the most eminent scientists, scholars and writers. Well-known contributors, living and dead, are numerous—Orville Wright, Gene Tunney, Leon Trotsky, Henry Ford, Charles Evans Hughes, Bernard M. Baruch, Gen. Archibald Wavell, T. E. Lawrence and hundreds of others equally familiar. Still carried in the Britannica are articles, originally written for it, which have become classics of the language: Lord Macaulay's famous Essay on Samuel Johnson; Julian Huxley's article on the Courtship of Animals; G. K. Chesterton's article on Charles Dickens; articles by James Mill, Malthus, Hazlitt, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many other famed writers. These include pieces by Sir Walter Scott written to help pay off the heavy indebtedness he assumed because of the failure of a publishing house in which he was interested. Yust knows relatively few of his contributors personally, and his contacts with them are largely by mail. Despite the fact that every contributor is told, before he accepts an assignment, that the pay is two cents a word, one of them occasionally beefs after the job is done and writes to Yust that he could have got far more money had he sold the article elsewhere. Yust asks him what he feels the work was worth, pays the sum named and blacklists him as a future contributor. Though the blacklist is slim, it also includes those who make themselves habitual nuisances to the editors (Continued on Page 73) 160 MILES OF WORDS (Continued from Page 10)


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