86 THE SATURDAY EVENING POST July 28, 1945 ing the Eliot War in Europe article, the editors put in an article on War Organizations, written by Henry A. Wallace, Donald Nelson, Edward Stettinius, Leon Henderson, George W. Cronyn and C. A. Dykstra. When the war is over, there will be a complete revision of the World War II article. When the peace is agreed upon, there will be another complete revision. This will probably be carried for several years, and will then be dropped to make way for what the editors hope will be a definitive revision. Not even the wisest editor can tell, in the midst of such rapidly eruptive events, what will have permanent significance. What of the German massacre of the citizens of Lidice, for example? Will that have significance for the future? Lidice, in the shadow of such earth-shaking battles, was a small-scale, however brutal, tragedy. As a symbol, however, Lidice may rise like a spire in history. The story of Lidice was put into the Britannicaon sufferance. If, after the war, it is a descriptive mosaic of history, it will complaint was that the Britannica discriminated against women in its biographies. Yust, after a count showed that of the 13,000 biographies printed, only 600 were of women, asked Mrs. Beard to take charge of preparing the biographies of outstanding women. Since 1936, every Britannica purchaser receives, when he buys his set, a book somewhat similar to a ration book, in which there are fifty stamps. Each of these stamps entitles him to enlist the services of the Britannica's Library Research Service to report on any subject he requests within ten years from the date of his purchase. Last year, the Research Service made 10,000 reports to Britannica owners, many of them papers running twenty to thirty pages of singlespaced typing, with complete bibliographies. Subjects on which reports are requested run the gamut from history of price control, rubber die presses and sheet-metal extrusion, history of railroad braking and installation, and functions of voice tubing on ships to sex education for children and how to butcher a hog. ter from you and my rough notes for the article." As a result of the sweeping continuousrevision program, thousands of errors that probably would have run for another quarter of a century were discovered and corrected. No work of the Britannica's scope can ever be errorless. During the printing of one revision, former Attorney General Frank Murphy became an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. In articles appearing in volumes already run off the presses, Mr. Justice Murphy was referred to as Attorney General. In volumes still to be printed, he was given his new title. The Britannica received complaints about this, but its editor's contention is that it is better to be inconsistent and 50 per cent right than consistent and 100 per cent wrong. Only those who must pursue facts for a living know how elusive and deceptive they can be. Walter Yust regards facts with the gravest suspicion and with reason. " Facts are among the most difficult things in the world to catch," he says. "Some time ago, a correspondent wrote in to say that the length of an artificial river of the Ozarks was incorrectly given in the Britannica. I wrote to five different authorities, local, state and national, and each authority gave me a different length for the river. I had to shut my eyes, choose one of them and stick to it." A revised printing of the Britannica appears about every eight months. Since, under war conditions, it requires fourteen months to prepare, edit and print an edition, the staff usually is working on three different printings simultaneously. This in addition to working on the Year Book and the other publications. The Britannica printings are denominated by letters of the alphabet. Whether you work on a newspaper, magazine or encyclopedia, the biggest current story in the world is, of course, the war. How does the Encyclopaedia handle such a story? To a layman, it might appear relatively simple. You want an article on the war in the Encyclopedia? All right, just put it in. But "putting it in" is a vastly complex business. First you have to get your authority, a man equipped with the mentality, training and experience to write on such a difficult subject and do it a measure of justice. When the war broke out, the Britannica had to get somebody in a terrific hurry to write pieces for the Year Book as well as for the E. B. It made a quick grab and came up with Maj. George Fielding Eliot. The M printing of the Encyclopedia was in the works at the time. It was impossible to get into it an article entitled European War, because there was nothing in the E volume which could be eliminated to make space for it. Eliot's article, therefore, was put into the W volume under the title War in Europe (1939). To make a place for it, • the editors killed the article on War Guilt—of the First World War—and reduced the article entitled War Graves— also referring to the 1914-18 World War. This still did not give sufficient space, and it was necessary to add to the volume what are known as A and B pages, a frequently used device. For example, suppose you are replacing an old article with a new and longer article and the old article ends on Page 397. When you have used as much space for your new article as the deleted article required, you then start numbering pages 397-A, 397-B, and so on. To plug holes which may result, there is a vast file of carefully prepared filler pieces. The M printing appeared in July, 1940; for the N printing, which appeared the following April, Eliot revised his article. For the 0 printing the Eliot article was killed and an entirely new one, titled World War II was written by Gen. Hugh A. Drum, of the United States Army. To plug the hole left by eliminat- become a permanent part of the pattern of human knowledge which is bound in the Britannica to stay. The Britannica, like every publication which has readers, has its troubles and its critics. The matter of biographies— those which are included and those which are not—produces many howls of anguish from E. B. customers. If a reader's particular hero is not included among the Britannica's biographies, the editors are very likely to receive a letter from Mr. Reader asking where they think they get off. The Florida legislature several years ago drew up a document in the form of a legal petition for a writ of mandamus to have a biography of John Gorrie, inventor of a process for artificial production of ice, printed in the Encyclopedia. The editors smilingly granted the writ. Obviously, though, the number of biographies which can be printed is limited unless the book is doubled in size. The best friend, on the basis of being its severest critic, that the Britannica ever had was the late Willard Huntingdon Wright—S. S. Van Dine—who in 1917 wrote a book of blistering criticism of the Britannica called Misinforming a Nation. Most of the things of which he complained have long since been rectified. Another critic was Mary Beard, wife of the historian, Charles A. Beard, whose Questions which cannot be answered are those which would involve invasion of professional fields. The Research Service, for example, will not provide, as it is not infrequently requested to do, plans and specifications "for a nice six-room house." That's a job for architects. But it can and does tell how to raise rabbits or goats. A few years ago, a small city, largely dependent upon a single manufactory, faced ruin when the estate of a factory employee sued the industry for a large sum, alleging that a chemical used at the plant caused the man's death. If the suit was lost, the factory would be compelled to shut down. The lawyer for the defendant obtained a report from the Research Service showing the chemical was harmless. On the basis of this the suit was thrown out of court. Many such things occur. Not only lawyers but businessmen and industrialists, governors and congressmen, writers and cartoonists, policemen, students and clubwomen desirous of making non-Hokinson speeches appeal to the bureau. Recently a Britannica salesman sold a set to a man in New York State, promising delivery shortly. In due time the customer received his copy of the Year Book and his Research Service stamps. Weeks went by, however, and for some reason or other, his set of the Britannica did not arrive. The Research Service had a real problem on its hands when it got a letter from the gentleman, enclosing his first stamp, and asking: " Where the hell is my Encyclopedia?" Not infrequently, the problems laid in the bureau's lap are intensely human ones, as was that of a young Southern boy. "My dad and I," he wrote, "bought a set of your Encyclopaedia and I want to know all I can about jujetso. Like the wressling holds, throws, defence from a gun and etc. So if you send me a booklet on jujetso I will be pleased. If I need to send any money for it, I will gladly send it. Theres some boys biger than I am and bully me around and I don't like it. I'm a Boy Scout from Troop 70 of Old 'Hickory, Tennessee." He got a full report on "jujetso," and the bullies of Old Hickory have probably had their eyes opened—or perhaps closed. At least we may hope so. Heading the service since it was started has been Aimee C. Buchanan, whom no question, however abstruse, appears to faze. Not that she knows all the answers herself or pretends to. But she knows where to send her staff to find the answers. Mrs. Buchanan is a native of Denver and a graduate of Denver University. Upon the insistence of her mother, who believed that schoolteaching was the only fit occupation for a young woman, she started her career as a schoolmarm. It probably wasn't just as her mother had pictured it though. Mrs. Buchanan's first school was in a copper-mining camp in Nevada. Extracurricularly she coached high-school plays in a deserted saloon. She doesn't remember just what caused the saloon to be deserted. Her next teaching stop was a coalmining town in Montana. "There wasn't a bathtub in the town," she says. " We got one bucket of hot water and one bucket of cold water from the mine mouth each day. That was the water ration. I would go to Great Falls every Friday and stay at a hotel in order to get a bath." The remainder of Mrs. Buchanan's seven years of teaching was put in at Clarkston, Washington, across the Snake River from Lewiston, Idaho—which was the metropolis—and in Kentucky, where she, like the immortalized Mr. Scopes, was also fired for teaching evolution. After a stint at Macy's, "putting Size 52 ladies into Size 16 dresses," she went to the Britannica, with which she has worked for seventeen years. Deeply interested in the position of women in business and industry, she has devoted considerable study to the question and recently published a book on the subject, The Lady Means Business—Simon & Schuster. There is a chapter in the book on Men Executives which the Britannica's men executives regard in about the same light as they would the Communist Manifesto—for different reasons, of course. Mrs. Buchanan has a staff of college graduates who work in Chicago, New York and at the Congressional Library in Washington. The history of the Britannica since it was founded in Edinburgh 177 years ago by the little "society of gentlemen" has virtually paralleled in many respects the history of the English-speaking world. Sets of it have followed these people into all parts of the world, in war and in peace. And today, the Britannica can be frequently found within reach of the men who plan the United Nations strategy. The Nazi radio spoke a measure of truth for once, when it said that "the encyclopaedia forms the mind of a people." But it also reflects a people's philosophy and ideals. It might have been well if the war lords of the world, plotting global conquest, had taken the time to consult the Britannica. Editors' Note—This is the second of two articles by Mr. Olivier.
1945_07_21--009-160 Miles of Words
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