April 25, 2006
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The World Encyclopedia

From a lecture by H. G. Wells on The World Encyclopedia to the Royal Institution of Great Britain, November 20, 1936

The day when an energetic journalist could gather together a few star contributors and a miscellany of compilers of very uneven quality to scribble him special articles, often tainted with propaganda and advertisement....is past. The modern World Encyclopedia should consist of selections, extracts, quotations, very carefully assembled with the approval of outstanding authorities in each subject, carefully collated and edited and critically presented.

[The World Encyclopedia] would give the specialist just that contact with the world at large which at present is merely caricatured by more or less elementary class-teaching, amateurish examination work and college administration. In my dream of a World Encyclopedia, I have a feeling that part of the scheme would be the replacement of the latter group of professional activities, the college business, tutoring, normal lecturing work and so on, by a new set of activities.... the watching brief to prevent the corruption of the popular mind. He will be redeemed from oddity, from shy preciousness and practical futility.

Our job may rather be to secure the use of copyrights, and induce leading exponents of this or that field of science or criticism to cooperate in the selection, condensation, expansion, or simplification of what they have already said so well.