They were followed by several lists (in 6 pt. font– I measured!) recommending books for a small home library, and the children’s library (by age group). I skimmed through and of course, one thing led to another and now I have two more books in my library! This is what happens when one has books of the sort that The Standard Dictionary of Facts is. One simply cannot help oneself.
What initially caught my attention was A Talk About Books by J.N. Larned (The Peter Paul Book Company, 1897– though none of this was included in The Dictionary). Never heard of the guy, couldn’t find the hard copy book anywhere. Found a PDF at Archive. From pages 4-5:
For all the Knowledge now in the possession of mankind has been a slow accumulation, going on through not less than forty centuries. Each succeeding generation has learned just a little that was new to add to what it received from the generations before, and has passed the inheritance on with a trivial increase. We are apt to look rather scornfully at any Science which is dated before 1897. But where would our brand-new discoveries have been without the older ones which led up · to them by painful steps? In nine cases out of ten it was an eye of genius that caught the early glimpses of things which dull eyes can see plainly enough now.
Most of the Science, then, which we value so in these days, has come to us, in the train of all History, out of the Past; and Poetry, too has come with them, and Music, and the great laws of righteousness, without which we could be little better than the beasts. How vast an estate it is that we come into as the intellectual heirs of all the watchers and searchers and thinkers and singers of the generations that are dead! What a Heritage of stored wealth! What perishing poverty of mind we should be left in without it!
Now, Books are the carriers of all this accumulating heritage from generation to generation; and that, I am sure you will agree with me, is their most impressive function. It will bear thinking of a little further.(my emphases)
There’s a nice little 19th century discussion / screed at the end about the novel, “if we choose that which is pure art from that which is spurious and base” (page 33).
I discovered two other Jarned books in which I was interested while searching for A Talk and information on him. One, Books, Culture and Character (1906) is a collection of talk, lectures, and addresses to various universities and societies. The second, the edited volume The Literature of American History: A Bibliographical Guide, “in which the scope, character, and comparative worth of books in selected lists are set forth in brief notes by critics of authority” is a treasure. Originally published in 1902, it was republished in the American Classics series (1966).
For those who write longish posts about books about books, the republication in ’66 is mildly interesting. I’d looked in both Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature (1942, 1956) and the Supplement (1955, 1963) and there’s no mention of Jarned, who continued to publish well into the 20th cnetury. Lyman Abbott is mentioned, so it’s not like the Biographical Dictionary excluded writers and editors of this sort. But in 1966 The Literature of American History is a classic. Interesting.
Josephus Nelson Larned…
A search for ‘Larned’ in The Encyclopedia Americana (1952):
Larned, Josephus Nelson, American author and librarian… editor of Buffalo Express, 1869-1872; … in 1877 became librarian of Buffalo Library, a position he held for 20 years. Edited… . His other works include [11 other books from 1877-1911].
Really? No Wiki page? A DuckDuckGo search for J.N. Larned:
He did good work. I’m glad he’s remembered at least a little bit.