The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Preface
TO impartial critics and scholars, no less than to the thousands of its possessors among the general public, the first edition of The Americana commended itself as a useful work of reference. In many ways, both in its emphasis and in its treatments, it was a departure from the beaten track of earlier works, and experience has shown the wisdom of this departure. The characterization of the work in The Encyclopedia of Education: “Notable for its fullness in articles dealing with technical subjects, as mathematics, engineering, and the trades,” is true, even if it fails to state the whole truth. In History, Political Economy, Religion, Philosophy, Astronomy, Education, Literature, as well as in topics of general interest, the first edition was not surpassed by any contemporary American work.
In view of the tremendous changes that the great world conflict has brought about in every department of human thought and activity, and the vital necessity for a new and up-to-date restatement of the world's knowledge, the publishers determined to issue this new edition, and ordered the work planned upon a scale to make it of still greater utility, retaining whatever features the experience of the past had shown to be excellent, and enlarging and improving wherever necessary to meet present conditions. New departments and thousands of new articles have therefore been added, and the whole work has been revised and reset and is printed from new plates. The maps have been prepared especially for this Encyclopedia by the Rand McNally Company of Chicago, and are late and accurate. The illustrations have been carefully selected and are far superior and more numerous than in the former edition. We are confident therefore that the new Americana will be recognized as the greatest repository of practical universal knowledge in one set of books that has ever appeared in the English language.
In the new edition, the Editor has endeavored to limit the work to its legitimate purpose — the presentation of knowledge with faithfulness and with scholarly impartiality, avoiding the promotion of theories and such discussions and defenses as are entirely foreign to the character and nature of an encyclopedia. Every effort has been made to secure not only accuracy of statement but also fairness and correctness of view.
The “Americana idea” is not simply a reference “book of facts” — too brief to be of any special value to the intelligent reader; nor yet a series of “learned and splendid essays,” showing an utter misconception of the idea which justifies the existence of a general work of reference. It is rather an endeavor to present, in an intelligent and informing way,the history and nature of the civilization, institutions, systems, activities and achievements of mankind with sufficient fullness to furnish the general reader a fair and adequate understanding of the development of man and his social life. In dealing with “the dead past and the living present” this Encyclopedia does not seek to dogmatize beyond the established facts. It is content to tell what is known so far as we know it, and leave it there. It knows no north or south — no national boundaries; it has no political, governmental, religious, or social proclivities or antipathies; it is neither pro nor anti; it is neither a maker nor an ultimate interpreter of history; it does not preach sermons, or inculcate morals, or prophesy future events; it neither eulogizes good men nor abuses the bad; but seeks to maintain in all things the spirit of fairness, and aims to avoid pedantry and intellectual cocksuredness.
The prime object has been to give a clear, concrete, definite, truthful and up-to-date statement of every subject, without prejudice or bias of any kind; to present in the most intelligent, authoritative, impersonal and impartial manner the actual facts of knowledge so far as it is humanly possible to do so. True, analysis must be made; opinion must be offered; judgment must be passed; perhaps criticism and even condemnation may occasionally be necessary, but it must all be done in the spirit of true scholarship and high service.
The thousands of contributors are representative of the highest scholarship and authority in the United States and other countries, and the editorial staff is composed of men and women of wide knowledge and experience, possessing special encyclopedia training.
The Editor-in-Chief and his staff of co-workers are solely responsible for the literary development of this work. Appreciative acknowledgment, however, is due and is here made, to all the friends of this enterprise who have encouraged its production, and especially to those who by their practical advice and scholarly assistance, as well as by their personal contributions, have rendered invaluable service, among whom may be mentioned:
Professor James E. Creighton, Ph.D.
Professor George T. Ladd, D.D., LL.D.
Professor Albert B. Hart, Ph.D., LL.D., Litt.D.
Professor Eric Doolittle, C.E.
Professor Charles L. Dake, Ph.D.
Lewis F. Pilcher, Ph.B., LL.D.
Professor William Benjamin Smith, Ph.D.
William P. Trent, LL.D., D.C.L.
George F. Kunz, Ph.D., Sc.D.
Thomas E. Finegan, Pd.D., LL.D.
Professor Cassius J. Keyser, Ph.D.
Smith Ely Jelliffe, M.D., Ph.D.
James A. Sullivan, Ph.D.
James M. Walsh, M.D., LL.D., Litt.D., Sc.D.
Professor Marion Tucker, Ph.D.
Professor Thomas N. Carver, Ph.D., LL.D.
William Elliot Griffis, D.D., LL.D.
Professor Alfred G. Panaroni, B.S.
Professor Jacob W. Hartmann, Ph.D.
Professor William F. Hauhart, Ph.D.
Professor Abram S. Isaacs, Ph.D.
Professor Patrick A. Halpin, Ph.D.
Charles F. Beach, LL.B.
Professor James M. Callahan, Ph.D.
Allan D. Risteen, Ph.D.
Professor James W. Garner, Ph.D.
Norbert Wiener, Ph.D.
Paul C. Standley
Elmer C. Youngman
Nelson H. Darton
Professor Eugene Davenport, LL.D.
Professor Richard F. Deimel, B.S., M.A.
Oscar P. Austin, A.M.
Professor Frederick H. Newell, B.S., D.Eng.
Henry K. Carroll, LL.D.
Marrion Wilcox, A.M., LL.B.
Professor John Herbert Cornyn, B.A., LL.B.
Samuel G. Ayres, B.D.
Clement W. Coumbe
To give an adequate statement of the civilization of the world to date, even thirty volumes have proved few enough, but it is the hope and belief of the Editor that the new edition of The Americana will prove an efficient aid to the educational and intellectual forces of America, and of especial value at this time to the general public of the whole English-speaking race.