The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Golden Books Encyclopedias

A blast from my past.

This morning I had to go see my psychiatrist in downtown Northampton. This is the poster in his waiting room.

When I got out I headed towards the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting affectionately known as The Looney Nooner. On my way I spotted something in the window of Essentials (next to CVS) that really surprised me - Golden Book Encyclopedias of Natural History!

I remember that when I was a boy they used to give them out at supermarkets, but I don't remember specifically what market my parents got them at. Here's what has to say about this classic children's education series:

The Golden Book Encyclopedia is a set of children's encyclopedias published by Western Printing and Lithographing Company under the name Golden Press. Advertised as circulars in newspapers, the encyclopedias were sent out in weekly or bi-weekly installments. Supermarket chains, such as Acme Markets, used these encyclopedias as a promotional hook to lure shoppers.

The front page of every volume describes the books as, "Fact-filled Volumes Dramatically Illustrated with More Than 6,000 Pictures. The Only Encyclopedia for Young Grade-school children. Accurate and Authoritative. Entertainingly written and illustrated to make learning an adventure." Subjects included in the Golden Book Encyclopedia series were related to nature and science, history, geography, literature, and the arts.

The first edition of the encyclopedia was published in a joint venture between Simon and Schuster and Western Printing and Lithographing Company in 1946. The author of the edition was Dorothy A. Bennett and the illustrator was Cornelius De Witt. A 16-volume hardcover encyclopedia set was published in 1959 and in 1969, and was written by Bertha Morris Parker, formerly of the Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago and research associate at the Chicago Natural History Museum.

The books in the window were obvious originals, not copies, so I went inside Essentials and asked the clerk about them. She said the owner (who was not present) had got them in an auction and thought they would be good to display for back to school sales as well as a treat for baby boomers.

My favorite edition was the one below with a lizard on the cover called a Gila Monster. The Wikipedia has this to say about the Gila Monster.

The Gila monster (pronounced /ˈhiːlə/, HEE-la), Heloderma suspectum, is a species of venomous lizard native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. A heavy, slow moving lizard, up to 60 centimetres (2.0 ft) long, the Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States, and one of only two known species of venomous lizard in North America, the other being its close relative the Beaded Lizard (H. horridum). Though the Gila monster is venomous, its sluggish nature means that it represents little threat to humans. However, it has earned a fearsome reputation, and is often killed by hikers and homeowners, despite the fact that it is protected by state law in Arizona and Nevada.

I don't know why I was so into the Gila Monster. I guess as a kid I was just plain into monsters in general. Some people will tell you that in some ways I grew up to become one.

Scrawled outside the Looney Nooner were these words of wisdom.

No comments: