Page:EB1922 - Volume 30.djvu/10

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acquisitions, in the shape of these New Volumes. They are designed as having behind or beside them the main body of the work—the earlier Volumes of the Eleventh Edition which were constructed in the closing years of the Pre-War World.

It may be pardonable for the present writer, at the end of the twenty-first year of his occupancy of the position of Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica, to emphasize in retrospect one specially valuable characteristic of the Eleventh Edition, in supplying to-day an authoritative digest of world history and the progress of knowledge up to the last few months before it was originally published in 1911. Its value does not merely depend on the benefit secured to the reader of these New Volumes by its having also been produced as a whole at one date, so that its accounts of every subject, organically distributed under appropriate headings, represent uniformly a single editorial policy (identical with that of to-day), a common terminus of time in the facts dealt with, and a common standard of criticism in the viewpoints of its contributors—so far as expert opinion at any one moment is ever in agreement. This in itself is, no doubt, a great convenience in the linking up of the later information provided in the New Volumes.[1] But there is a still more important quality attaching to the Eleventh Edition, of which indeed its Editor was not himself fully aware during the critical years of its preparation. It required the experience obtained during the gestation of these New Volumes to teach the Editor how much simpler a matter it is to create such a "Library of Education" when the world is at peace and is progressing normally, as it was in the years preceding 1911, than when, as recently, it is everywhere in convulsion, nobody being able to tell from week to week what he would be doing next, or where some new complication or even revolution, political, economic, industrial or scientific, might break out, to the upsetting of any attempt at orderly statement of the progress of events and the crystallization of opinion. Though it was not so realized at the time, it is now evident that the maximum service which the Encyclopædia Britannica could have performed for the public of to-day was the production of the Eleventh Edition in 1911, before the war of 1914–9 cut a Grand Canyon gash in the whole intellectual structure of the world. For what would have happened if the complete new edition which would follow the Tenth Edition had not been undertaken until several years later—say, after the Armistice? In that case it would still have been necessary, in, some way, to keep what may roughly be divided as the Pre-War and Post-War Worlds distinct. The account of the Post-War World would then substantially be what appears in the present New Volumes; for this must, in any case, start at a convenient point before the war, in order to make the break intelligible, and it must differ in scope and perspective from the part devoted to the Pre-War World, in proportion as its new problems require a different sort of discussion according to their bearing on the future rather than as continuations of past history. But so far as the Pre-War World is concerned—everything, that is to say, except the contemporary developments of the decade preceding 1921—it may be asserted, without fear of contradiction from anyone who can appreciate the responsibilities of an Editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica, that, if the task had not been undertaken till after 1914, it would have been absolutely impossible to produce to-day anything so comprehensively authoritative or critically complete as is actually available in the shape of the Eleventh Edition owing to its having been produced just before the war.

  1. Reference by volume and page (e.g. "see 2.493") is accordingly made, as a rule immediately after the headings of articles in the New Volumes (but also elsewhere in their course, as seemed useful), to places in the earlier volumes where accounts of the same subjects, leading up to the point where the account is now resumed, may be found.