while they were in the making. The generous reader may pardon some incidental defects or omissions, in consideration of his having the use, practically at once, of the full Supplement, as complete as it could reasonably be made, and not having to wait several years for a succession of volumes with long intervals between them. In the latter case each volume would be apt to exasperate him by cross-references from its articles to others in a volume still inaccessible; each earlier one, furthermore, would become relatively out-of-date as soon as the next one appeared; and the whole must lack organic unity, because the subject-matter, as distributed in one volume or another, must necessarily have been dealt with at different dates from dissimilar viewpoints.
These New Volumes, systematically arranged, in accordance with the traditional standards of the Encyclopædia Britannica, so that the articles may be adapted either for continuous reading or for occasional reference, have been planned as a guide to an appreciative understanding of contemporary affairs. The reader has before him what may be described as an international stock-taking, by carefully selected authorities, of the march of events all over the world from 1909–10 to 1920–1, and of the nature and critical value of such advances as were made in the principal branches of knowledge during that period. In this respect the New Volumes aim at giving a key to the problems of to-day, so far as these contemporary problems are bound up—as indeed they are to an unprecedented extent—with the new social and economic issues which only began to emerge in their present magnitude, or to impress themselves on the public, as the result of the tremendous upheaval caused by the World War. Yet it is necessary, in the interests of a publication which is essentially educational, to add one proviso. It remains as true as ever that contemporary human life and interests are organically related not only to the immediate developments of one preceding decade but to those of a succession of earlier decades and epochs, back to the abysses of time. The great Drama is of the Ages, and can only be appreciated with all its Acts on record. The eye which looks only at the passing scene is too often colour-blind. The roots of the Post-War World go down into the Pre-War World. Its proper interpretation can be found only in the light of all that earlier history on which we can look back—as we cannot do on contemporary affairs—with assurance that it is seen in perspective and in ordered values, as the result of an accumulation of disinterested criticism. The Post-War World is the residuary legatee of the Pre-War World, from which it inherits the whole basis of its intellectual equipment. The present survey of recent happenings, indispensable though it may be as an account of the Post-War World, can only therefore be utilized perfectly when it is regarded as an integral part of the unitary library of education represented in all the thirty-two volumes now forming the complete Twelfth Edition. The structure of that great edifice, with its contents, is not substantially affected by the fact that it has been built with an Annexe for housing more recent
- It may be noted here that, though bibliographical references, representing a selection of the most authoritative books or documents published since 1910, are plentifully made in the New Volumes, it was impossible, merely by way of supplement to the bibliographies attached to articles in the Eleventh Edition, to include them systematically, except in appropriate cases where this course was demanded by the nature of the supplementary articles. No attempt has been made, when otherwise there was no substantial reason for adding a supplementary article at all to the account given of a subject in the Eleventh Edition, to add a list of later books published about it. Nor, indeed, in the Editor’s judgment, would it have been in accordance with the objects of the Britannica to give the cachet of “authority” in this way to many contemporary publications which can hardly be said to have earned that title. The bibliographical references in the Britannica are especially valuable as critically directing the reader to the best sources, outside its own articles, for more detailed information; but the very nature of many of the articles in the New Volumes, as being the latest (or even the only available) authoritative accounts of purely contemporary developments, made it unnecessary—if indeed it would not be misleading—to direct the reader to comparatively ephemeral publications by less responsible writers.